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Professional identity and the MLIS – How to make a librarian by Dr. Claire McGuinness


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Dr. Claire Mc Guinness takes us through professional identity in a library setting and how the MLIS in UCD promotes the creation of a professional identity both generally and specifically through the example of the capstone project.

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Professional identity and the MLIS – How to make a librarian by Dr. Claire McGuinness

  1. 1. PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY AND THE MLIS – HOW TO MAKE A LIBRARIAN Claire McGuinness School of Information & Communication Studies, UCD
  2. 2. Was there ever a moment when you first felt that you were truly a librarian?  MLIS graduation day?  First day in first library job?  When you first described yourself as a librarian to someone else?  When you put “librarian” next to occupation on a form?  Another moment?
  3. 3. What makes you a librarian?  What if you don’t have a professional MLIS qualification, but have worked in a library for most of your working life? Are you a librarian then?  What if you are an MLIS graduate, but find yourself working in a para-professional role, or in a different industry or sector entirely? Are you a librarian then?  What if someone asks you what you do for a living, and you say, “I’m qualified as a librarian, but currently working as a secondary school teacher”? Are you a librarian then?  What if you are filling out a form, and in the space for occupation you are obliged to write down your current job, not what you are qualified in? Are you a librarian then?
  4. 4. How and when do you become a librarian? What is the role of LIS educators in “making” librarians?
  5. 5. My presentation today ■ How is professional identity conceptualised ■ What makes a “profession” ■ Importance and power of professional identity ■ The construction of professional identity ■ Professional identity and the MLIS ■ The Capstone project in the School of Information & Communication Studies
  6. 6. Defining Professional Identity “Identity is the core of who we are as individuals. It shapes how we present ourselves, our expectations of how we interact with others and their treatment of us, and forms the basis of what we believe are our capabilities and potential […] professional identity is also a dynamic concept that shifts in response to institutional and social changes” (Hussey & Campbell-Meier, 2016) “A professional identity is an individual’s image of who they are as a professional […] the constellation of attributes, beliefs, values, motives and experiences that people use to define themselves in their professional capacity” (Caza & Creary, 2016).
  7. 7. Who we are and what we do Personal identity & professional identity are fully intertwined “Individuals draw from personal attributes, social group membership and work roles to assign meaning to who they are and what they do in the workplace” (Caza & Creary, 2016) “Professional identification cannot happen without consideration of individual identity […] Once properly educated and prepared to enter the profession, our individual identity remains an essential contributor to our professional identity. We become more aware of our own individual identity as we are trying to shape our professional identity” (Hussey & Campbell-Meier, 2016) Highly fluid and changing over time, based on personal experiences as well as external feedback.
  8. 8. What makes a profession?  Specialised training  Unique & specialised knowledge, skills and practices  An established process of growing new knowledge from the context of practice  An oversight mechanism developed by the community of education & practice  The “right to control its own work” – high degree of autonomy  Professional ethics/standards  Work for the interest of clients “A profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards. This group positions itself as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and is recognised by the public as such. A profession is also prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others” (Professional Standards Council, Australia). Architecture, clergy, engineering, law & medicine Recently, criteria for defining a profession are becoming more relaxed – occupation should be skill- or education-based (Caza & Creary, 2016) Also, work roles are becoming more complex and overlapping- workers take on multiple roles, and sometimes multiple professions in their lives
  9. 9. Is librarianship a profession?  Professional qualification following intensive training – MLIS, MSc Information Management, etc  Professional representative body (e.g., LAI, CILIP, ALA)  ALA Core Values of Librarianship  Library Association of Ireland “Code of Professional Practice” (guidelines)  Body of professional literature – books, journals, etc  But professional status cannot be removed from a graduate – can’t be “struck off”  No standard “board” or “bar” exam to pass to gain admittance to the profession  Librarians typically don’t work for “clients”
  10. 10. IS LIBRARIANSHIP A PROFESSION? Research Assistant Temporary Clerical Officer Taxonomist Call Service Representative Customer Service Associate Rights and Permissions Assistant Pension Administrator Archives Assistant Office Administrator Retention Agent Analyst Social Media Specialist DRI Data Curator Archivist Postgraduate Medical Education Centre Team Member Project Management Engineer Leisure Attendant Insurance Advisor Knowledge and Information Role Transactional Specialist Claims Assessor Receptionist Data Clerical Administrator HR Assistant (Jobs reported by UCD MLIS graduates) MLIS graduates qualified to work in wide range of “non-traditional” jobs – not just libraries “Do you need a library to be a librarian?” (Martin, 2013)
  11. 11. Importance of professional identity  Professional identity is a key way that individuals assign meaning to themselves: “Through the construction of professional identity, individuals are able to claim purpose and meaning for themselves, and explicate how they contribute to society” (Caza & Creary, 2016)  Influences work attitudes, affect and behaviour in the workplace  It “shape(s) the way the members of a profession interact with their clients and society” (Hicks, 2014)  Important for psychological well-being – linked to self-efficacy, self-esteem and job satisfaction  Enables practitioners to articulate and clearly communicate what they do to others “If librarians’ identity salience is unclear, especially if they are juggling multiple roles (such as the more traditional roles of reference service provider or collection developer) with more recent expectations for teaching, significant stress may result” (Julien & Genuis, 2009)
  12. 12. Power of Professional Identity “Librarians face a future thick with both uncertainty and possibility; they must come to grips with their identity as librarians to successfully propel their discipline through the information age […] a well-formed sense of purpose and responsibility can permeate librarians’ actions and help realize the discipline’s objectives” (Sare, Bales & Neville, 2012)
  13. 13. Power of professional identity “Individuals who are highly identified with their profession will see their own beliefs about the profession as self- defining, and will perceive “oneness” with their profession” (Caza & Creary, 2016) Possible to identify too closely? “Vocational awe” “When the rhetoric surrounding librarianship borders on vocational and sacred language rather than acknowledging that librarianship is a profession or a discipline, and as an institution, historically and contemporarily flawed, we do ourselves a disservice […] Because the sacred duties of freedom, information, and service are so momentous, the library worker is easily paralyzed” (Forbazi Ettarh, 2018)
  14. 14. Teacher identity & librarians “Lack of a consistent teacher identity among academic librarians may hinder their effectiveness in meeting these expanding instructional responsibilities in a changing organisational environment” (Walter, 2008, p.65) “The acceptance of our role in teaching and learning also comes with a price. If we are to be teachers, then we need to be fully engaged in training for, and maintaining competence in, this aspect of our professional identity” (Powis, 2008) A clear role conception instils confidence, reduces stress, increases motivation, enables clearer communication with others, and enhances the potential for collaboration
  15. 15. Construction of professional identity Imposed or individually constructed?  Pre-conceptions about profession before entry – influenced by media, associates already in the profession, careers guidance, personal experience of libraries  Intensive period of professional training  Short-term work experience pre- or during professional training  Exposure to theoretical and professional body of knowledge – professional values  Exposure to core competency frameworks  Interactions with peers during professional training (social and through team work)  Experiences in employment post graduation – “apprenticeship”  Participation in professional networks (in-person and online)  Involvement in professional committee work or community outreach  Contribution to scholarship of the profession Professional identity construction is not passive. People take an active role in constructing their professional identity - a constant process of negotiation Doing, Acting, Interacting
  16. 16. Preconceptions matter “Prior to employment when I was considering librarianship and when studying it was similar. But I do remember when I was in still in school and heard of someone who was working in a public library after her arts degree, I did have the view that many people have - why would you need a degree to work in a library?” “Librarians' work is constantly changing to meet the demands, not only of the user population, but also the political demands of the wider organisation population.” “the image I had was of the librarian not being able to add as much value – i.e., more as a back office operation. Obviously this is not the case and librarians play a central & strategic role in the whole educational process” “I think that my work involves a wider range of diverse activities than I expected.” Survey of 38 Irish academic librarians, 2010 (McGuinness, 2011)
  17. 17. Core Competencies Examples  CILIP’s Professional Knowledge & Skills Base (PKSB)  ALA’s Core Competencies of Librarianship  ALA’s Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators  SLA’s Competencies for Information Professionals
  18. 18. Importance of Socialisation The social learning processes by which individuals acquire specific knowledge and skills required in a professional role “Socialization is the key period within which individuals begin to form identification with their profession as they internalize the norms, values, behaviours and attitudes expected of their new roles […] From a social identity perspective, socialization provides a basis for attachment to one’s new professional group and reinforces this with social ties among group members” (Caza & Creary, 2016) “people’s identities are constructed according to the social environments in which they work and live, and to the role expectations arising therein” (Julien & Genuis, 2009)
  19. 19. Importance of Socialisation “Professional identity develops as students or new professionals are socialized into the values and behaviours of the profession, as they are able to learn about and enact or “try on” new roles, as they start to embody the practice of their profession and take on specific associated activities, and as they develop relationships with professionals who can serve as role models, give feedback, and be part of a support network” (Hoffman & Berg, 2014)
  20. 20. Professional identity in the MLIS “promoting students’ development of identities as library and information science professionals is an important component of MLIS degree programs” (Croxton, 2015) “As LIS educators, we need to be more aware of our impact on identity formation and consider how the content we teach fits into the LIS professions holistically rather than focusing on specific roles or positions” (Hussey & Campbell-Meier, 2016) “The short duration of the library-school program does not allow enough time for the development of a professional identity, peer interaction, especially with library school faculty who can serve as role models, or specialization” (Black & Leysen, 2002) “Opportunities to gain and demonstrate professional competencies should be a part of the educational programme. An awareness of professional concerns should permeate the programme” (IFLA Professional Committee, 2012)
  21. 21. The MLIS in UCD  One year intensive programme (or two-years part- time) – LAI accredited  Between 25-40 students each year  90 credits (modules typically 5 or 10 credits)  Core modules (40 credits)  Foundations of Information Studies  Information & Reference Services  Organisation of Information, Cataloguing & Metadata  Research Methods  Management for Information Professional  Optional modules to focus on areas of specialisation  Capstone or Thesis (25 credits)
  22. 22. Supporting professional identity in the MLIS  Teaching the core competencies of professional librarianship – LAI accreditation requires programme mapping to the competencies outlined in the PKSB  Strong peer collaboration and teamwork element– in-class discussions, team projects, presentations, blogs, wikis, scavenger hunts, problem-solving, peer assessment, etc. – learning community  Guest lecturers from the profession in several modules; some modules taught fully by practitioners  Encouragement to attend or volunteer at professional seminars, conferences, and workshops during the programme  Strong emphasis on obtaining LAI student membership (free during MLIS)  Field trips in some modules  Service learning module for selected students  Reflective components in a number of modules
  23. 23. New Capstone module 2016-2017 “to help students develop and hone the research, reflective and writing skills that are critical to most, if not all, careers in the 21st Century, to encourage a practical and reflective approach to personal and professional development, and to provide an opportunity for each student to take ownership of their emerging career and professional identity in the specialisation of their choice”  Professional Issues Paper  Professional Development Portfolio  Professional Development Plan  CV  Letter of application for currently advertised job  Work samples from other modules  Reflective Essay on learning experience in the MLIS  Annotated bibliography (added 2017-2018)
  24. 24. Sample Capstone papers from 2017  The Trend of Librarian as Teacher in Public Libraries  Finding Meaning in Service: Investigating Customer Service in Public Libraries  The Lack of Education for Special Collection Librarians in the Republic of Ireland and its Impact on the Area and Research  Modern Librarians: How They Have Adapted Their Role To The Digital Age  Open Access and the Academic Library  Integrating Digital Resources in Dublin City Public Libraries  The Future of Sound Recordings in Music Libraries  The use of Twitter in academic and public libraries
  25. 25. What was the students’ experience?
  26. 26. Student survey  Survey carried out in September 2017  11 respondents out of 23 in Capstone class – 48%  13 questions (closed & open-ended) to explore: – Views on MLIS as preparation for the workplace – Views on effectiveness of new Capstone module in facilitating personal and professional development to prepare for LIS career – General views on the perceived challenges of establishing a professional LIS career in Ireland
  27. 27. Professional Status of students Challenge of creating an appropriate learning experience for students at different career points Entry-level professionals have different needs to early-, mid-, or late- career professionals
  28. 28. Motivation for enrolling in UCD’s MLIS “During the last year of my course, I became interested in working in a library, which intensified when I did work experience in a school library. I have always loved books.” “I had wanted to work in librarianship for a long time. I always enjoyed finding and organising information. This course was recommended to me by some librarians I knew and the careers office in [place].” “I want to be a librarian, and sought a professional qualification in this field, so as to do the best job possible.” “Having worked in an academic library setting for several years, I asked where the two other librarians I work with studied. Both said they had studied in UCD and they highly recommended the masters programme there.” “Return back to LIS profession in a different country, seeking graduate level professional qualification” Fulfilling long-held ambitions, upskilling, desire to travel, specifically seeking a professional qualification
  29. 29. Career preparation “Module wise, the MLIS at UCD covers a vast amount, which is needed for today's information professional. There is also an element of information literacy indoctrination and transferable skills acquisition.” “It made me aware of the many different responsibilities involved in librarianship and taught me many of the important steps involved in curation and metadata creation” “It has given me a few extra skills such as a taste of RDA cataloguing and also an insight into digital curation. The final capstone paper also made me think about library and information issues in depth which is going to be the scenario in work.” “Not enough skills in the area of interest and too little traditional LIS skills” I think it needs to focus on more practical aspects of librarianship such as more practical study opportunities in relation to cataloguing, coding and customer service. Also having more information sessions on specific kinds of librarianship such as medical would be beneficial. I think the course gave me a good introduction to librarianship but not enough to make me skilled for a lot of currently advertised positions.
  30. 30. Capstone & Professional Development
  31. 31. Capstone & Professional Development “Yes, the Capstone module has successfully encouraged me to reflect on my professional development. It has helped me to identify gaps in my knowledge and how I might remedy this. It has also prompted me to scrutinize my professional interests and personal preferences for my career as an LIS professional” “I particularly enjoyed working on my professional development template and found Dority's book very useful. Midway through my career it was lovely to take the time to reflect on successes and gaps in my knowledge and expertise” “It was useful to reflect on possible careers and to think of our own strengths, weaknesses and interests. After doing the course, there are still many avenues I would like to pursue” “The reflective paper allowed me to look back on all of my modules and really assess all that I have learned over the year.”
  32. 32. How did Capstone most contribute to development as LIS professional?  Self-awareness – strengths, weaknesses, preferences, skill gaps  Practical steps for career planning  Incentives to engage with professional networks  Awareness of current issues in professional areas of interest  Preparation for transition to working life – job applications  Supported development of research and writing skills “It provided incentives to attend conferences which was useful. The professional issues paper was useful as well, making us look at factors impacting our chosen career path” “(a) The Professional Issues Paper, in terms of research, academic writing, and gaining knowledge of a particular field of librarianship; (b) The Curriculum Vitae/Cover Letter, in terms of preparing for the transition to one's working life and (c) The Reflection on Learning, in terms of reflecting on one's personal journey, and how reflection factors into the information literacy process” “I think just reading papers on professional subjects helped a lot of being more aware of the current scope of things”
  33. 33. How could Capstone be improved?  Lack of peer support during Summer months – loss of learning community  More opportunities to convene as a class during the year (only 3 meetings currently)  Skewed more towards entry-level professionals and less useful to those in mid- or late-career stages  Need for greater consistency among academic supervisors regarding Capstone requirements  E-portfolio platform used in 2016- 2017 (Mahara) deemed ineffective “Perhaps something could be put in place to keep students connected over the summer period. In some ways I felt cast adrift once lectures finished. Although my supervisor was excellent at keeping in touch and providing encouragement I found the lack of collegiate support difficult. Perhaps building in deadlines throughout the summer would have helped me spread the workload evenly throughout the summer too” “Having more frequent meetings to share more of the progress made on different projects. Having the meetings being time to share reflection in smaller groups, as reflections can benefit from others' experiences” The capstone was not as useful to those who are already working where they want to or have their career decided on”
  34. 34. Challenges in developing LIS career in Ireland ■ The experience conundrum – how to gain experience to be competitive for jobs. Unpaid internships? ■ Competing with more highly qualified/experienced candidates for entry-level positions – many professionally qualified librarians working at non- professional grades ■ Challenge of building a professional network ■ Frequency of temporary and part-time contracts ■ “Getting your foot in the door”
  35. 35. What can LIS community do to help new graduates? Student suggestions:  Mentoring programme – match new graduates with established librarians  Paid, structured internships or work placements for new graduates  Free or subsidised conference places for new graduates (e.g. one year post- graduation)  More CPD in the evenings or at weekends
  36. 36. Takeaways from Capstone  Overall, the students expressed satisfaction with the format, especially the Professional Development Portfolio  Giving students the space and opportunity for reflection and deep immersion in an area of professional interest allowed them to focus on planning the type of LIS career they might enjoy from a variety of important perspectives (practical, affective, aligned with values, etc). It also enabled them to identify strengths, areas for improvement, skills gaps, preferences, etc.  Practical outputs (i.e., CV, letter of application) placed students in a good position in terms of applying for jobs  A major benefit of the Capstone was the incentives and opportunities it provided for students to engage with the LIS community, through attending, volunteering and presenting at conferences and seminars, obtaining LAI membership, engaging with future colleagues online, and generally developing a strong awareness of professional activities.  The Professional Issues Paper allowed students to hone research and writing skills – the annotated bibliography adds a further research skill in 2017-2018.
  37. 37. Thank you!
  38. 38. References Black, W.K., & Leysen, J.M. (2002). Fostering success: The socialization of entry-level librarians in ARL libraries, Journal of Library Administration, 36(4): 3-27. Caza, B. B., & Creary, S. J. (2016). The construction of professional identity [Electronic version]. Available at Cornell University, SHA School site: Croxton, R.A. (2015). Professional identity development among graduate library and information studies online learners: A mixed methods study. Community & Junior College Libraries, 21(3-4):125-141. Ettarh, F. (2018, Jan 10th). Vocational awe and librarianship: The lies we tell ourselves [Blog post]. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Available at: Fraser-Arnott, M. (2017, May 17). Personalizing professionalism: The professional identity experiences of LIS graduates in non-library roles. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. Goodsett, M., & Koziura, A. (2016). Are library science programs preparing new librarians? creating a sustainable and vibrant librarian community. Journal of Library Administration, 56(6), 697-721. doi:10.1080/01930826.2015.1134246 Hoffmann, K. & Berg, S. (2014). You can’t learn it in school: Field experiences and their contributions to education and professional identity. Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science, 38(3): 220-238. Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2016). Developing professional identity in LIS? Education for Information, 32(4), 343-357. doi:10.3233/EFI-160981
  39. 39. IFLA Professional Committee (2012). Guidelines for Professional Library/Information Educational Programs. [PDF]. Available at: publications/guidelines/guidelines- for-professional-library-information-educationalprograms.pdf Julien, H., & Genuis, S.K. (2009). Emotional labour in librarians' instructional work. Journal of Documentation, 65(6), pp. 926-937 Martin, E. R. (2013). Re-thinking our professional identity in light of new responsibilities. .Journal of eScience Librarianship, 2(2), 1-2. doi:10.7191/jeslib.2013.1052 McGuinness, C. Becoming Confident Teachers: A Guide for Academic Librarians. Oxford: Chandos, 2011. McGuinness, C. & Shankar, K. (2018). From MLIS students to LIS Professionals: combining research with professional development and career planning in graduate education. An Leabharlann, 27(1), pp. 9-15. Powis, C. (2008). Towards the professionalisation of practice in teaching. Relay: The Journal of the University College and Research Group (CILIP), 58, 6-9. Professional Standards Councils (n.d.) What is a profession? Available at: a-profession Sare, L., Bales, S. E., & Neville, B. (2012). New academic librarians and their perceptions of the profession. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 12(2), 179-203. doi:10.1353/pla.2012.0017 Walter, S. (2008). Librarians as teachers: A qualitative inquiry into professional identity. College & Research Libraries, 69(1), 51-71. References