Professionalism and Librarianship

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Dewey declared librarians should consider themselves professionals (Swigger 314). Librarians, despite this, suffer from status anxiety about the professional state of librarianship. Trait theory, the traditional sociological tool utilized to evaluate the professional status of occupations, has traditionally deemed librarianship to be lacking the attributes required for professional status, therefore, not a profession, only a semi-profession (Abbot 431). Trait theorists have criticized librarianship for a lack of theoretical knowledge and authoritative service orientation (Nelson 2030). Past librarians have adopted traits of higher professions in the anxious hope of achieving status (Harris 16). Contemporary librarians have rejected this mimicking of attributes, as it has not advanced the professional value of librarianship, suggesting the style of professionalism advanced by trait theory, is not one that librarians should emulate. Opposed to the core values of librarianship, this style of professionalism has distracted librarians from meaningful work and poses harm to library services, as its authoritative service orientation conflicts with the orientation of libraries (Page 103). Contemporary sociologists and librarians have abandoned trait theory for being outdated in its evaluation of professional status due to shortcomings inherent in the theory (Birdsall 146). With an anxious focus on status, contemporary librarians argue that librarianship desires public acknowledgment for the value of library work (Page 120). Sociological theory does not determine which occupations enjoy professional status; the public does (Nelson 2031). An alternative path to professional status, as Birdsall asserts, lies in rejecting trait theo... ... middle of paper ... ...st Industrial Era. 2nd ed. Greenwich: Ablex Publishing, 1998. Print. Nelson, Bonnie R. “The Chimera of Professionalism.” Library Journal 105.17 (1980):2029- 2033. EbscoHost. Web. 23 February 2011. Page, Jacquelin Marie. The Pursuit of Professional Identify for Librarianship within American Higher Education: A Study of Educational Programs and Work Requirements In Socialization for Academic Identity in the 1980’s. Ann Arbour: UMI Dissertation Services, 1990. Print. Swigger, Keith Boyd. The MLS Project: An Assessment after Sixty Years. Toronto: The Scarecrow Press, 2010. Print. White, Herbert S. Librarianship—Quo Vadis? Opportunities and Dangers As We Face the New Millennium. Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, 2000. Print. Wilson, Pauline. “Professionalism Under Attack.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 7.5 (1981): 283-290. EbscoHost. Web. 23 February 2011.

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