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Philosophy of Librarianship

I was asked to write one page about my personal philosophy of librarianship for a job application. Here is what I came up with:

Andy Burkhardt’s Philosophy of Librarianship
The maxim that guides me in my career as a librarian is “forward.” This is a philosophy of constant improvement. Librarianship is an ever changing field. As a librarian then, it is necessary to adapt and to quickly assimilate new ideas and information. I do not advocate forgetting the past. On the contrary, I believe the past is important to understand where we are going, and some things never go out of style. But as librarians we cannot be timid in embracing change. If we are we will become obsolete and rapidly replaced.

Improving yourself as a librarian means taking an active role. You must learn more about your field through reading relevant journals, blogs, and books. Improvement also comes through experience. Be aware of yourself. At the reference desk for example, pay attention to any difficulties that arise and evaluate the situation. What went wrong? How can I improve this next time? This means learning from your mistakes. Another great way to improve is by being involved. Joining committees or organizations can contribute a great deal to your knowledge and experience. Attending conferences allows you to interact with others in your profession and get exposed to new ideas. Trying new things are often very beneficial for improvement. For example, if you have never gone into a virtual world like Second Life before, give it a try. You may be surprised at what you learn. There is a multitude of ways to improve, but being guided by that maxim gives an excellent foundation to which you can return. How did I improve today?

This all sounds very personal and self-centered so far, but quite the opposite is true. “Forward” includes patrons and co-workers as well. You are bettering yourself so that your patrons can better themselves. You are improving yourself so your co-workers can also improve. Librarianship is unmistakably a career of public service. It is wonderful if you can constantly improve yourself, but the reason you are doing this is so you can better help others. No one will benefit from a mean, poorly informed librarian. Yet through constant improvement you will personally be more fulfilled and you will benefit both your patrons and co-workers. It is for that reason that I enthusiastically exclaim: “Forward!”

Andy Burkhardt

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