Why NOT librarian?

librarian information professional debate beyond the bun blogWe here at Beyond the Bun find the term information professional so woolly; most people have no idea what you actually do if you say you’re an information professional. Say librarian and people understand…sort of. ‘Oh, you stamp books all day.’ Not quite, but it’s a start. Information professional isn’t in most dictionaries, whereas the job description librarian has been around since the late 17th century.

Not all librarians work in libraries (and personally, I haven’t stamped a book in years). The School of Information Studies at Syracuse University have a list of 61 Non-Librarian Jobs for LIS Grads. LIS is the American equivalent of a UK Master’s degree in Information Science. But what IS an information professional? Is it a nebulous job description like sales?

BTB also think it’s a problem to try to define information professional as a progression of librarian. Information is a huge term and is more and more entwined with technology and digital information. CILIP (Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals) has accredited 16 university programmes in the UK (and one in Germany) that have courses relating to information studies. However, the Complete University Guide lists five other universities under Librarianship and Information Management (see the BTB Courses page). The non-CILIP accredited courses do seem to be more technology-focused and are probably very limited on the librarianship aspects. However, come accredited programmes like Loughborough seem to be headed that way.

Debates about the CILIP rebrand are discussed in the latest Update.

At Beyond the Bun we are librarians and proud of it. What do you think? Are you a librarian or an information professional?

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2 thoughts on “Why NOT librarian?

  1. In my opinion – Librarians often self identify as people who work in libraries. They are also information professionals at the same time, but may consider themselves more librarian due to their workplace. The term “Information Professional” can also include digital strategists, archivists, museum curators, technology journalists, and more depending on how each defines their work with “information.” Personally, I consider myself an information professional although I work in a library because I have interests across the spectrum of information professions (museums, digital culture, technology) and the work I do in the library is more related to creating, organizing and sharing digital information than “traditional” librarianship like reference and patron-focused work.

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  2. This is a hard one, because the answer depends partly on where you are; the answer may well be different if you’re in the US or the UK. It’s also down to opinion (in my opinion!), because there are no hard and fast rules – some people would use both terms interchangably, while others would see a particular distinction. It’s no wonder you’re asking the question because there’s no good answer I’m afraid. However, if you can add details on where you’re from, or the type of sector you work in, that would help us define and answer the question in more depth.

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