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Vision Statement

The basis of my professional philosophy as an information specialist really starts in my management philosophy, as developed in Dr. Pat Feehan’s management class. Since that is all explained in detail in Sample 3 of my portfolio I am going to assume that as a foundation and only expand upon a few other areas I feel are key to my profession and to my individual practice.

My Professional Values

The values I identified in my management philosophy are creativity, teamwork, personal ownership, clear expectations, shared goal-setting, flexibility, respect, integrity, and fearlessness. My motto is “be human.” Here are a few more notes on what is really important to me in the information profession.

Human-Centrism

My motto “be human” already speaks to this but it is important enough to emphasize again. Service is an absolute core value of our profession - Whether patrons, users, or clients, the people we serve and their success and satisfaction are the endgame, the “key performance indicator” of our success as information professionals. Empathy is everything, and we must always keep that empathy in mind especially when deeply buried in complex systems that work a certain way or policies and processes we rely on to make our own jobs easier. The discipline of user experience (UX) design helps us view and test everything we design through the lens of the user by not only putting ourselves in their shoes but involving their feedback and integrating them into the design process.

There are times when the information specialist, the librarian, archivist, or database manager has to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work that our users don’t and may not ever understand, or even get why it’s necessary. That is when a belief in how our work impacts the wellbeing of humanity at large has to kick in, and we must have both the fortitude to keep going when misunderstood, and the patience, willingness, and articulateness to advocate for the value of our work in terms that will gain the buy-in of the people we are benefiting as well as those who can aid us.

Diversity & Understanding

There are many spectra of diversity beyond what is usually celebrated and recognized. Cultures and subcultures, generational identification, diverse abilities, level of comfort with technology, motivations and interests, learning styles, and communication styles are all factors going into how we interact with and design for the people we serve. Universal design is a key principle that invites the broadest possible function of any given product or space for the broadest spectrum of abilities in the users. This is the kind of one-size-fits-all that makes sense because truly, most of what differently able people cannot manage and normal people can, is made easier for all people when it is made accessible to the differently able.

The reference interview (as it is classically called in library land) or the discovery meeting (as those of us in the web industry tend to refer to it) is a critical moment in our work because it helps us go deeper than the initial request brought by our users, and brings both parties to a true understanding of what they want and need, even if it is not what was initially asked for. We must NEVER make assumptions but must strive through thorough, respectful communication and careful observation to reach the best understanding of a user’s expressed desire, their tacit need, as well as the contextual and personal factors that can help us better serve them.

Freedom to Information

Foundational to the information professional’s creed is the belief that more access to more information is generally better, and that restrictions upon access can restrict personal development, creative and professional achievement, and the ability to propel society forward. That is why censorship is our common enemy, and why we advocate for copyright law that respects original content creators and second-generation content “remixers” while limiting the power of large-industry copyright holders for whom restricting access boils down to getting the most money for themselves. This belief is also why I am a passionate participant in the open source culture and creative commons movement.

Our Charge to “Facilitate Knowledge Creation”

Dr. R. David Lankes’ book, Expect More, and the one phrase “the goal of the library is to facilitate knowledge creation” planted in my brain the single most influential idea of my entire MLIS education. While I don’t think our whole professional community has embraced this notion and its implications, and I join Dr. Lankes in what is possibly still the minority opinion, I believe this idea promises our best future. While it may call for constant re-evaluation and reinvention, it aligns libraries and information professionals past, present and future upon a trajectory that positions us to offer never-ending relevance and value to society.

To unpack the concept, knowledge creation is an occurrence in the minds of human beings that may manifest in tangible expressions such as creative artifacts, scholarly works, physical products, or new ways of doing and thinking. It is the human act that causes us to move forward, to grow both individually and collectively. It is often best preceded by consumption of previous knowledge which forms the jumping off point for the new. Libraries and information professionals support that occurrence and its predecessor through the provision of information, tools and services which we have carefully curated with our professional expertise and well-designed systems to be useful to that particular human being or group in the task at hand, at those stages of knowledge creation and in those domains which align with our individual organizations’ missions and equipment to support. We as information professionals may rarely witness the fruits of this knowledge creation; still it is our duty to respect and facilitate that core act.

This idea shapes the way we think about ALL library and information service work. Collections development and access systems are designed with a view to application: books, videos, databases and everything else are collected and organized in a manner which best showcases them as TOOLs for the important work which is going on in the minds of our patrons. This can be contrasted with views of collections development and access that emphasize objectively logical, even industry-commended but sometimes less contextually useful methods of organization and principles of selection. What we keep and what we weed, the formats we provide information in, how much attention we pay to the physical environments we offer our patrons, the type of staff support we invest in, our willingness to provide access to tools more creational than informational in nature, our vision for community outreach and partnerships...ALL of it is touched by this idea, this vision, this goal to facilitate humanity’s vital work of knowledge creation. And that is the mission I am signing up for.

My Five-Year Professional Growth Plans

The next five years for me are filled with uncertainty. It’s hard to be specific about how I plan to grow as a professional when I still see several viable options of what kind of professional I will become, and each requires growth in different areas. So I will discuss my growth plans in light of the three most likely avenues I see myself traveling in the next five years.

Web Content Manager

Two courses into my SLIS education I was invited to provide temporary web content management support for my undergraduate alma mater, Converse College. Six courses in I was hired as the full-time Web Content Manager and I have been a full-time professional, part-time student for nearly 5 years. My SLIS education has been instrumental in developing skills, values and aptitudes which have made me a better professional in the web industry. Just about every course offered applicable nuggets, but some of the most helpful courses included Info Organization and Retrieval, Intro to Information Technologies, Organizing and Managing Web Resources, Online Marketing, Assessment, and Management. In addition, SLIS was influential in my decision and ability to attend InfoCampSC 2011, the Information Architecture Summit 2012, and Edward Tufte’s informational design workshop, as well as joining the Information Architecture Institute (IAI) and the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA), and earning a certification in Higher Ed Analytics - all of which brought great value into my practice as Web Content Manager.

Continued growth in this position will involve strengthening my management and leadership skills, particularly in the areas of time management and stakeholder relations. I also want to grow in my assessment abilities by streamlining the time spent in acts of assessment while increasing the value and application of what is learned through assessment.

Educational Technology Librarian

If/when I get into an actual library, it will most likely be in the position of educational technology librarian, technology trainer, digital studio coordinator, or in some instructional design-related capacity. I’ve applied to the position of Education Technology Librarian at Johnson C. Smith University. I feel that I have been well prepared for this position by my SLIS education, particularly by the independent research I conducted about digital creation spaces in academic libraries in my Academic Libraries class, the course development experience I gained in the Educational Services class, and the Libguide and instructional video development experience gained in the Reference class.

If I do get an interview for this position, or continue to apply into and ultimately work in one of these related fields, the areas I will need to grow in as a professional include: my knowledge of methods and curricula in information literacy, my acquaintance with the resources provided by library websites, keeping abreast of best practices in online library-student relations, increasing my experience and credentials in designing and delivering course content, and honing my technical skills with the various softwares and hardwares involved in graphic arts, video and audio production.

Research-Based, Self-Marketing Author

When initially considering post-graduate education, I evaluated the things I would likely do in my life and the skills I needed to develop in order to do those things. Being a writer, I figured there was a strong possibility I would want to author one or more books. I am interested most in historical and non-fiction writing and both genres require a great deal of research. Factoring largely in my decision to attend library school was the promise of gaining that knowledge of the tools and methods of research. Thanks to Intro to Research, Intro to Information Sources and Services, and many other experiences, I now feel very confident in my research skills. I feel I know how to find out about anything I could ever need to write about. In fact, while in library school the idea for my first book came to me and following graduation I will be putting my research skills to good use both in developing, and in ultimately selling, my book.

Earning my master’s degree really helped me develop time management skills, appreciation for diversity, commitment, and perseverance. These are also the areas in which I will need to continue to grow in order to be successful as an author.