In my Introduction to Library Science class, we were told that a primary goal of the class was to start the process of professionalization. Wikipedia describes professionalization as,
“Professionalization is the social process by which any trade or occupation transforms itself into a true “profession of the highest integrity and competence.” This process tends to involve establishing acceptable qualifications, a professional body or association to oversee the conduct of members of the profession and some degree of demarcation of the qualified from unqualified amateurs.”
Obviously the class included a sketch of the history of libraries, a snapshot of the state for the profession, and a cursory exploration of issues and values with in the profession. But I left the class feeling particularly uninspired in large part because I felt like we had just skipped over the librarians. Even when we dealt with the history of libraries the librarians themselves were a largely absent. There were a few exceptions of course, a discussion of Dewey and the creation of a professional librarian class, but from my extra-circular readings I knew there were librarians behind the stories we were reading.
Part of any culture, including professional cultures are the myths we tell amongst ourselves. Central to these myths is the hero(ine). In many fields these take the place of those who change practices and publicize their accomplishments. Or practitioners who are exceptionally good (ie: Louis Brandice or Howard Zinn).
Librarians need heroes too. Not just Melville Dewey, but a whole host of library Allstars to look up to. Finding them can be difficult especially if you’re in a distance program, or the MLIS department at your school has weak roots in the community. Learning about people in the area who can serve as heroes or even role models can be difficult. Nonetheless, finding heroes within our profession is key to our cultural development. I have a few heroes and heroines myself. Some of them I know personally, others, like Sandford Berman, I learned about by reading books like Revolting Librarians Redux; you can find a plethora of good role models on the web. Regardless of where, and how we find them Heroes and Heroines should be instrumental in shaping our own practice of librarianship.
We should always be watching the librarians around us, finding those who represent the best in us, and copying their best practices. When the time comes ultimately we have to buckle down, or stand up for our patrons learning from the triumphs of others can be key to building character within ourselves. Having a good hero(ine) can make upholding such burdens a bit easier, even if the extent of those burdens is monotony.
Who is your library hero(ine)? Why? What are the qualities of a library hero(ine)?