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Archive for January, 2014

The “Aboutness” of the Information Profession

January 26th, 2014 by Erin McAfee

In May of 2008, at the Library Association of Singapore Conference, Cheong Fatt Choy delivered the keynote address, “Librarianship: What is it about Now?” Choy presented a current definition of librarianship which is “being concerned with the principle and practice of selecting, acquiring, organizing, disseminating and providing access to information in accordance with the specific needs of a group of people or an individual” (p. 2).  Choy provides another definition, given to him by a colleague which begins with, “Librarianship is a bridge between 2 entities; people and information” (p. 2). Choy believes both these definitions no longer apply to the information profession, because communication technologies have replaced the need for librarians to connect the users to information.  Until recently users needed librarians to get past all of the physical, administrative, and bureaucratic obstacles to get to the desired information (p. 3).

Based on an informal survey conducted with LIS professionals, Choy asked participants to define librarianship.  Choy said that an undeniable “aboutness” regarding the information profession was found in all the definitions sent to him; the descriptions were very specific and unique to librarianship as a discipline; he found that the responsibility of helping users had moved into a more prominent place on the professional radar.  In his survey, he also asked participants to describe the most important responsibilities in their profession.  He reported that the number one responsibility given by respondents was the responsibility of assisting users.  Choy was not surprised that assisting users was number one on the list given all of the radical transformations happening in libraries.  He stated that assisting users has not always been the primary focus for information professionals, even though it has always been the underlying goal.  The more centralized focus on the user is central to all the LIS literature discussing the changing roles for librarians (Choy, 2008).

Choy, F. C., (2008). Librarianship: What is it about Now? In Library Association of Singapore, (Ed.), Innovate to Serve. Keynote address presented at the Library Association of Singapore Conference, 8-9 May2008, Singapore. Retrieved from http://www.las.org.sg/pa_cf.pdf