5 Oct 2015

Let's all learn from each other

I was really struck by a comment that Aoife Lawton made in her recent post on public libraries, about how we should try and share experience, ideas and expertise across all library and information sectors:
"As librarians we must continue to support each other, to network, to learn from our mistakes, to build on our successes and most of all to share all of our learning with each other. There needs to be cross-fertilization of ideas amongst the different sectors of librarianship, from special to academic, from public to school, from health to legal to corporate. Our combined experience will drive librarianship forward."
Based on data from Census 2011 (thanks to @usernameerror aka David Hughes for the reference), 1,807 individuals identified their profession as "librarians" (as an aside, there were significantly less registered members of the LAI in 2014 - thanks @farragher aka Louise Farragher for this one). That is an awful lot of people, and there are potentially others working in information and knowledge management (and indeed other areas) who may have identified themselves under other titles/areas.

I wonder how effectively do the wide-ranging and varied library and information sectors and professionals currently communicate with each other and work together? Certainly at a personal level, I am guilty of being overly-focused on academic and research libraries myself - my blog posts are probably indicative of that alone. Moreover, most of the LIS professionals I network with work in academic or research libraries. In fact, I don't really know many, if any, people who work in public libraries at all.

I am a member of the LAI, an organisation that represents all libraries, and in doing so opens up channels to communicate and network across sectors. However, I wonder if those working outside libraries who also work with information in other ways feel connected to the Association? There are also a lot of other "traditional library" professionals who are not members of the LAI (a topic for another post!). These are people we can learn a lot from too, but how can we connect? Individuals and sectors have strengths and weaknesses in different areas, and have faced successes, challenges and experiences that we can all learn from, and ultimately improve and develop as a profession. Whilst there are many great examples of collaboration across sectors, I do wonder if a lot of this potential expertise and learning still remains untapped?

Library, information and knowledge professionals are not all homogeneous, but we do share something: we are part of the same community, with the same core values around access, preservation and learning. This is something we should leverage and exploit. We should support and advocate for each other, and not just for our our own sectors or issues. It is much more difficult for an individual library, or even a sector, to achieve visibility and to get on the agenda at a national level. However, there are at least 1,807 of us. If we work together, and share our expertise and experience we will have a much better chance.


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