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t h r e a d s 137 Librarians We cannot have good libraries until we first have good librarians —properly educated, professionally recognized, and fairly rewarded. —Herbert S. White the Mission oF Librarians is to iMprove society through FaciLitating KnowLedge creation in their coMMunities So why in an Atlas about librarianship do I tackle the Librarians Thread last? The answer is most likely obvious: Until we know what we are doing and why, we can’t talk about the skills and preparation we need to do them. There are many professions that share an interest in knowledge creation. Likewise there are many (most) professions that feel they are at least part of improving society. How do concepts of knowledge, communities, facilitation, and improvement come together to make a librarian? We have already talked about some of this in terms of values and mission, but the details of preparation, and the relation of you as a librarian to other professionals, hasn’t been addressed square on… until now. core sKiLLs Values endure, whereas skills come and go. If Ranganathan had lived in ancient Greece, we would all be talking about every scroll its reader and every reader his or her scroll. The concept of collection for use would still be the same. The point is that talking about core skills is not like talking about core values. “Core” in the case of skills is core for the moment. While we should fight for and hold dear our values, we should look at our skills as a means to an end. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should ignore skills—particularly in the preparation of new librarians. What we do, we must do well. When we build or find a tool, we should be committed to mastery. However, if we find another party who is simply better suited to those tools, we should partner with them. The dilemma in writing this Thread is this: At what level do you discuss skills? Too specific and the writing is out of date by the time you read it; too broad and it provides little more direction than “know stuff.” For the purposes of this chapter, let me present three broad categories of skills: • Competencies: broad and durable approaches to fulfilling our mission. • Skills: less broad, and less durable means of fulfilling competencies . • Technologies and techniques: specific means and processes employed in the skills. These change often. The competencies in this case are our means of facilitation: access, knowledge, environment, and motivation. Skills, as is explored in greater depth throughout this Thread, are familiar to most librarians —for example, information organization as part of facilitating through access. Technologies and techniques are specific ways of implementing the skills, such as the MARC record for information organization or the use of information-retrieval techniques to search a collection. It should be noted that these levels do not form a strict hierarchy . In other words, a skill does not exclusively nest within a competency . As an example, information seeking applies to all four means of facilitation. We revisit the relationships between the skills and the techniques discussed in the following agreements. So let us start the discussion of skills by looking at the existing skill set of librarians and how they must evolve in light of new librarianship. transition oF traditionaL sKiLLs I begin with a reminder. You are not an accumulation of skills. Librarianship is not defined by how we do things—a functional view—but why we do things—a worldview. That said, librarians do some pretty cool things that have been successful for centuries. New librarianship does not refute skills such as information organization or information seeking. Instead it puts a different emphasis on the importance of these skills and the focus within the skill. inForMation organization So God calls a meeting, and to this meeting he invites Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern classification (he’s the guy who gave out all the Latin names we had to memorize in biology), Melvil Dewey, and Penny , a rural library director who had just passed away the week before. God says, “Well I’ve done it. I’ve called the rapture and brought up all the souls from Earth for judgment. In fact they’re all behind that door over there. The problem is, when I came up with this plan, 138 t h r e a d s there were a lot fewer people on Earth—like two—and you folks have been...


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