Loma Linda University

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Shanalee Tamares, MLIS
Instructor, University Libraries

Near strangers often ask what it is librarians do that requires a Masters Degree.  As librarianship is most commonly associated with books, a common question follows, "don't they just lend books to people?" Most new LIS student introductions include that they "love books," or "love reading."  My short answer to the question is: we connect people with information.  This short statement is misleadingly simple, but contains deep meaning which informs my philosophy of Library and Information Science.  Information and its access may serve purposes as noncritical as entertainment or as essential in lifesaving.  Therefore, connecting people with information carries with it the utmost concern for their well being and survival.  The "people" portion of this statement is the crucial core of my professional philosophy.  In fact, the broad core of librarianship focuses on preserving and providing access to the human record and upholding the rights surrounding the existence of that record.  To be skillful in all of the core competencies, a focus on people is crucial.  Though this element might not be explicitly stated in all of the core competencies, people are at the heart of what we do.  It is my professional goal to keep people the focus as I strive for excellence in growing my specialized skills and knowledge in Library and Information Science. 

The focus in most academic libraries lays somewhere between the extremes of providing access to information for purposes of mere entertainment for the purpose of saving lives.  The mission of any academic institution revolves around learning.  Academic libraries support this mission with a focus on providing access to material which supports the curriculum.  Beyond providing access and supporting the curriculum, librarians in the academic library setting concern themselves with the information literacy of their users.  Information literacy is essential if people are to participate intelligently within an information-centered world on many levels--socially, politically, philosophically, economically etc.  In supporting a health sciences academic institution which produces future health care providers--doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, etc.--ensuring that students are information literate may indeed lead to lives being saved.  Supporting the broader institution supports medical research which may also save lives.

No matter what the library environment or setting, relationships with people are of foremost importance.  In an academic library setting, the selection, collection, organizing, storing, and retrieval of information depends on the different departments which work on specific aspects of these tasks.  Synergism of these core activities helps create a high functioning, effective library.  Libraries do not only serve users, the different library departments also serve each other.  Interdependence extends beyond the walls of a particular library as libraries share catalog records, and even resources through cooperatives.  This dependence runs more smoothly and effectively when working relationships are highly regarded.  Creation of effective learning programs requires collaboration with other librarians and teaching faculty.  So much of academic librarianship involves having strong people skills in order to be effective; serving on committees, discussions in meetings, group decision-making situations, assessment of users, managing departments, negotiating with vendors, conducting classes, networking and presenting in professional organization, assisting researchers and students with research.

Ethical values and foundational principles of librarianship in the academic setting often focus on the sometimes conflicting ideals of ensuring the free flow of information and guarding intellectual property rights.  The free flow of information is highly essential in the pursuit of education and lifelong learning, another core value shared by academic institutions and librarianship.  Regard for intellectual property rights represents another side of this care for people in that it ensures creators rights are not infringed upon through access to their works.  These and other library values are concerned with the betterment of the human condition.  The mission of academic health sciences institutions is generally to expand knowledge in the areas of the health sciences and apply that knowledge such that health can be maintained and diseases may be prevented or treated.  It is my goal to apply LIS skills, knowledge, and values to this learning environment.  I support learning and research by working with other library professionals to provide appropriate resources, information literacy and research education, timely information retrieval, and other information services which support the institution.     

As in the field of medicine, where the focus should be on the patient and not merely the disease, my LIS philosophy focuses on people and not merely information.  If asked why I am attracted to librarianship, my answer will undoubtedly be that I have a genuine interest and passion for helping people...and I love books and reading.