- Introduction to the Library and Information Professions
This book is most definitely not a career guide as the title might suggest. Rather, it is a heavily theory-based approach to analyzing and assessing the roles and work of library and information professionals. At its most basic, the authors' purpose is to justify our continued existence in the age of the Internet.
Greer, Grover, and Fowler are either formerly or currently affiliated with the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University—Greer as a professor, Grover as professor and former dean, and Fowler as a student. Drawing heavily on their prior research, as well as on the work of others, most notably Carol Kuhlthau's Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004), they have written a work that, while it serves well as a textbook, can meet the [End Page 212] interests of a broader audience beyond the classroom. In their own words, the book may appeal to "professionals who are familiar with the field of information work but want to know the 'why' behind their professional practice." (p. 2)
The question of whether or not librarianship meets the sociological definition of a profession (for example, having a code of ethics, education, licensing, or other credential) is not a new one. I recall debates in library school on that subject over 25 years ago; and, at that time, we were looking at arguments that had been presented, pro and con, since the early part of the twentieth century. Greer, Grover, and Fowler have refreshed and reexamined this debate in the twenty-first century, broadening the definition beyond librarianship to encompass a wide range of information-related professions. In the end, they clearly come down on the side of confirming professional status and attempting to define roles that secure that status.
By using a mix of communications and sociological theories, the authors establish a conceptual framework—or, more accurately, frameworks—intended to give us a way to analyze and approach our work and the issues and opportunities we confront. After an introductory chapter that introduces their theory-based approach, the authors use the next several chapters to focus on the role of library and information professionals in the creation, diffusion, and utilization of information and knowledge, and as change agents. They then elaborate on the theoretical underpinnings of the profession, the life cycle of information management, and user needs assessment. These chapters build to a discussion of service, information infrastructure, and the work itself. The volume concludes with a briefly outlined set of trends and issues for the future.
I found the chapter on information infrastructure and organization systems to be of particular interest. The authors emphasize the expanding roles for information professionals as result of technological advancements. Although the delineation of these roles is nothing particularly new to practitioners, they use these emerging opportunities in areas such as metadata and electronic archiving as the foundation for assuring professional status now and into the foreseeable future. The authors urge us to move beyond roles and work traditionally associated with librarianship—particularly, the role of acquiring, organizing, and housing print resources—to embrace this new professional work. Fundamentally, their arguments are not much different from what I heard and read twenty-five years ago. If anything, in these intervening years, we have broadened our thinking about "library work" and the roles and responsibilities, professional or not, that we must fulfill in order to respond to the needs of our users. That thinking will likely continue to evolve as we peer around the corner to see what next awaits the library and information professions.
Ultimately, Introduction to the Library and Information Professions may meet more than the need for a current textbook for library and information science programs or a refresher for seasoned professionals. It may serve as a snapshot, in another twenty-five years, of the status of the profession in the early part of the twenty-first...