Looking back over the course of this semester, I can’t help but feel that I have learned much that I can take forward into my future career, and that my perceptions have developed in a number of important ways.
The lectures on ethical issues and the assignment in which I was made to evaluate the complexities of an ethical dilemma have provided me with a stronger sense of the mores and values that define our profession, and of how to evaluate conflicts between those ethics when there is no way to go forward without some compromise. The fact that there often will have to be compromise is, in itself, an important lesson.
My earlier journal entries on possible positions that I would be interested in holding have refined my understanding of the sorts of qualifications that I must seek and of the ones that I already hold. It has helped to reaffirm my belief in the value of my joint MA/MLIS degrees, and has also suggested the value of continuing improvements such as archival certification.
The blogs that I read lead me to a number of interesting new ideas and issues – from the need for reform in information agencies’ dealing with publishers, to new concepts of what collection development can mean. The idea that people can hold information that has never been written down, for example, and that asking these people to conduct programming and share their knowledge constitutes a form of collection development, is an exciting concept that ties to a more refined definition of information that I have developed in large part thanks to this course. It is important for all information professionals to remember that information is an intangible thing that comes in many, many forms – and that creativity in figuring out how to make use of all those forms is a professional necessity.
This course has helped to reinforce my understanding of how people seek information, and has shown me that our tendency as humans to always take the easiest route means that making information as accessible as possible is one of any information agencies’ most important goals. The greater availability of information that is only a click away will make it more and more likely that the quality of information that the average person finds will continue to decrease, unless information agencies and professionals continue to work to ensure that quality resources are accessible to all. My knowledge of the access problem in general has also benefited from a greater consciousness of the digital divide, which I have been lucky enough to never have a problem with but which is a real impediment to far too many users. At the same time, I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for the variety of technologies employed by information professionals, and for the need of keeping abreast of them as they continue to develop.
Finally, I have come to value the concepts of networking, mentorship, and practical experience. As valuable as this and other classes have been, I find that the idea of getting out into the world to meet people and to get hands-on experiences is an oft repeated one, and one of obvious value. Though I have only been volunteering in an archive for a month, now, I nevertheless feel that this will be an invaluable step in my education – and one that I may well not have taken, if this class had not directly led to my visiting that archive and meeting their staff.
It’s like I’ve said before – when I first decided that I wanted to be part of the information profession, I did it largely because of my personal love for history, and because I wanted to help share that passion with others. Now, however, I feel that there is more to it. It isn’t just about enjoyment – though that is valuable in itself – it’s also about helping people to connect with information that makes their lives easier, whether it be helping students to access material for school, the unemployed to connect with job-hunting resources, or tracking down records to make sure retirees get the pensions they’re entitled to. I have always believed that understanding history had a practical application in that it is the only way to understand the present, but I now feel that the practical assistance information professionals can provide goes even beyond that. Information agencies truly are providers of an essential service – and I continue to look forward to helping them do so.