Trusted Professionals

Friday, 1 February 2019

To be a trusted professional is not a responsibility that library staff undertake lightly, even when they don’t consciously realise that they’re doing it! From my experience as a library professional over the past 38 years, library staff have an overwhelming commitment to service provision, making it virtually impossible for them to resist applying the profession’s values and ethics to every challenge for the provision of accurate, timely and impartial information to every request for assistance. Tenacity is in their DNA! But library staff do so much more for the cohorts and communities they serve. They provide places for information, education, recreation and integration that enhance the liveability of their communities.

I asked some respected library colleagues for their perspective one what being a ‘trusted professional’ means to them, and I loved their responses!

Sarah Taylor, Library Services Manager, Shoalhaven City Council:

‘I think being a librarian is the best job in the world.

‘I love that libraries, in all their varieties, provide free access to quality information, and support this free flow of information through providing equipment, resources, training and assistance. I love being able to direct people to reliable, accurate and reviewed resources in multiple formats, and it’s great when people leave the library better informed and with a better understanding of how to evaluate all the information that is available to them.

‘The role of librarians in ensuring access to quality information and resources is one that we prioritise and promote in our library service, ensuring that in today’s world of mass media, social media and fake news we provide that unbiased trusted voice. We share this knowledge and these skills that we have with our communities so that they can live happier and healthier lives.’

Debbie Best, Manager, Sutherland Shire Libraries:

‘I entered the library profession over 40 years ago lured by a love of books, reading and research and the chance to help people. Understanding what a trusted profession I had entered became clear when I was first entrusted with the stories and confidences of my customers and found myself assisting people seeking jobs, negotiating legal problems, making decisions about postschool education and later life-stage decisions. It is a joy to come to work and know that our community entrust their children to our programs, see our library spaces as safe and allow us to visit their aged relatives in their homes.

‘I am so proud that, in this age of fake news and filter bubbles, we are providing balanced collections offering uncensored, factual information with a wide range of viewpoints and authorship and connecting people to information they can trust. I believe the impact of technology, the internet and social media has made the library profession even more crucial to our communities and society as we provide education, spaces and opportunities to support and foster the free flow of information and ideas.’

Paul Scully, Manager Library, Museum & Customer Services, Fairfield City:

‘To me to be a trusted professional is to make a difference in people’s lives by providing them with services that enable them to improve their lives. At the heart of this is to gain their trust by identifying their needs and responding to those needs in a way that makes them feel valued. How we make people feel is what they will remember us by; and how well we respond to their needs is what they will judge us by. What they experience with us is what will build their trust. Trust comes from how we act. So, acting ethically and responding impartially in a non-judgemental way is what drives me; with a passion to provide free services without any commercial pressures; and to improve people’s lives by providing them with services that they can trust based on what their experience has been with us.’

Vicki Edmunds, Manager, Libraries & Customer Services, Blue Mountains City Council:

‘The single thing I like most about being a librarian, or trusted professional, is the “moveable feast” aspect of the job. Being a trusted professional, in a trusted profession, has enabled me to work in academic, public and special libraries in Australia and London. I have worked in circulation, technical services, training, reference and helped students, academics, businessmen, lawyers, planners, researchers, children, homeless, housewives and retirees. I can guarantee that every single day, of working in a library – no matter what sort of library – is different and very rarely predictable. I also learn something new every day – whether it is a new piece of knowledge, new technologies, or how to find/access/research anything/something specific.

‘However, the biggest belief I have in my day-to-day job, is that I am doing something worthwhile – something that may just change a single person’s life. I have a love of knowledge, and if I can pass that passion on to just one person every day, I know that I have made a difference.

‘Libraries offer so much more than books. There's also music, movies, TV shows, ebooks, audio books and electronic databases that span a whole galaxy of scholarly and practical information unavailable to any level of googling. Additionally, libraries offer free internet access that is utterly vital to many individuals who are unable to connect due to any number of reasons. As government services migrate online, good citizenship requires an internet connection. Plus, the programs! author talks, book launces, children’s storytimes, rhyme times, school holiday activities and summer reading clubs, book groups and so on. Coordinating all of this are the humble bibrarians.

‘I support the democratic freedom to read. For my local community, I champion the right to access information for all society, regardless of race, creed, religion, or economic disposition.’

Philip Edney, Manager, Library and Community Services, City of Canada Bay:

‘In a world where opinion is emerging as being as valued, if not more valued, than verifiable facts (yes, facts are facts!), being part of a profession that distinguishes fact from fiction provides an excellent grounding to look critically at information. Having skills to analyse information sources in order to evaluate their credentials and worth is invaluable in a time of compressed news cycles and the expansion of social media as sources of information.

‘Knowing to ask the questions, “Who wrote this? Who published this? What is their reputation for credible information? What research or primary sources were used in formulating this news?” has become so important.

‘Understanding that there are frequently a number of viewpoints that a topic may be explored from, and having access to information from both, or many, sides of a discussion is not just helpful in forming an opinion but also may expand an individual’s understanding of other people and why they might think what they do.

‘At a time when these skills and habits are possibly even more important than they used to be I am proud to be able to continue building on the library services that have provided their communities with the balanced information sources that are able to inspire generations to look beyond the latest Twitter post that flicked past their smartphone.’

I hope you’ve enjoyed these great examples of how library staff demonstrate why librarianship is one of the most trusted professions in Australia!