December 1, 2010

Librarians with "Issues"

I found that by looking at the white spaces on the organization chart--the gaps between jobs, where no else had responsibility--that there were new job opportunities, like building an intranet, starting a corporate university, creating a daily business intelligence report, that needed to be done. As it turned out, sometimes I was promoted into a job and sometimes I was promoted because I created the job that needed doing. ~Susan Fifer Canby

Two posts over at Gypsy Librarian have gotten me thinking about librarians, neutrality, and advancing issues beyond information organization and literacy. The specific issues Angel addresses (LGBT suicide, for example) are ones that arise in his context, not mine, but the topic is a good one for embedded librarians. The closest I have come in this forum to advancing any "issues" was when I wrote that modeling good reading habits should not be outside the domain of the special librarian, even in a corporate setting. Let's start there.

Information literacy in our specialty is certainly within our scope. This is without question, and general information literacy or search strategy is a natural offshoot of that topic. These are all "safe" issues for us to get behind. Taking on web accessibility can be a bit risky, and very difficult, but it falls very naturally within a librarian's scope of responsibility and influence. What about other issues? The farther into the white spaces we move, the more complicated it becomes, and the more opportunities there are for advancing important issues.

I found myself being the cheerleader for Census 2010 in our office--both in terms of encouraging our stakeholders to be counted and in terms of what the results will mean for our work--and I did a lot of good by sticking with it. I recently took on a voluntary research project about Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and what it has to do with transit agencies' outreach, and this has been productive and praised as well. There are also the innocuous issues that I take on, like partnerships between libraries and transit agencies, that may or may not bear fruit and probably won't offend anyone along the way.

Whatever the topic may be, we are sure to do more good, create better job security, and get greater satisfaction from our work, by following the issues rather than hiding from them.

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