Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's a Small World After All: Librarians Around the World

I'll admit it: I was considering slacking off this week. Between the stressed out atmosphere on campus (because of the way our semester works - a 12 week session and a 3 week session - this was finals week) and the US holiday on Thursday, I thought I had good reason not to post an update. Then I was kindly reminded of the fact that, "It's not Thanksgiving in Canada or most other places in the world."

That got me thinking about librarianship in general. I know that my readership isn't restricted to the US, or even to Anglophone countries. I also know that, in some ways, I have more in common with librarians on the other side of the globe than I do with a high school teacher who lives in the same city as I do. Sure, it's true that individual libraries are a reflection of the local culture, whether that's a municipality, a business, an educational institution, or whatever. It's also true that the differences in laws governing what happens inside a library can be vast from country to country (copyright issues, anyone?). But libraries are more than just the locale and the laws.

According to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA), "Culture is defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group." Sounds an awful lot like librarianship, doesn't it?

So what do you think? Is there a global culture of librarianship? Why do you feel the way you do?


  1. Granted I have only partial statistics but FeedBurner tells me the LISNews Podcast is most downloaded in the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand...yet I'm based in Ashtabula!

  2. To a certain degree, yes, there is a global culture (read: a standardized culture in the west) in librarianship. The fact that professional librarians in North America go through a programme accredited by a standardized body (read: ALA) speaks to a shared culture on this continent, at least.

    Granted, there any many, many different kinds of librarians. Some of us demand open access, while others demand closed content. Some of us are interested mostly in education, while others are concerned with database design, or repositories, or data as a commodity. But I'd venture a guess that if you stuff a bunch of us in the same room, we'd find shared experiences and values that come from our schooling.