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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why International Librarianship??

"Oh the places you'll go!" --Dr. Seuss

It is in human nature to explore.
It is trendy to visit places that intrigue us.
It is natural to want to meet others.
It is studious to seek further education about the global perspective.
It is being a librarian that will share the results of what is found with others.
--Tara Foor, from, well, this blog post.

I've always wanted to study abroad. In fact it is something that I regret not doing sooner in my lifetime. I have always lived with the belief that "everything happens for a reason", but still, I wish that I had travelled the World sooner. The adrenaline rush that comes with visiting a foreign place, unsure of your surroundings, getting the high of becoming more cultured, were all things that I wanted to become addicted to...and even though I'm a horrible packer, I would want to travel as much and as often as I could. As a former educator (former used loosely--after all, I still educate those who desire to learn), I have always wanted to learn more about anything and everything. I was THAT kid who looked forward to the first day of school, and whom everyone knew was going to become a teacher when she lined her stuffed toys up to play school. But, aside from all of the pretending, there was an unfed need to go around the World and see things in the flesh and satisfy my learning cravings.

So, now here's my chance!
As a Masters of Library Science student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, I have the option to pursue independent research into International Librarianship. The interest in this topic, well, arose from my yearning to live out of a suitcase and to learn more about how the World works, but moreover, how individuals learn from their libraries. Because I am an oddball and like to fit things into my own molds, I wanted to investigate how libraries worked in different countries and how the library as an information center helped increased knowledge gathering.... basically- how do libraries around the World help their serving populations? But there is so much more to International Librarianship than just hopping on a plane and visiting different countries and comparing libraries.

Peter Lor's Critical Reflections on International Librarianship
I owe much credit to Peter Lor, a scholarly researcher in the field of International Librarianship, and encourage any of my own readers to visit his website:, because his materials were some of the first that I began to research to gain more insight about this topic. Being an "international librarian" means that there must be certain criterion met and completed within this subject matter. As a student with no previous knowledge about International Librarianship, I found this both extremely helpful in providing a skeleton for guiding my own research, as well as insightful into what projects have occurred in the past, as well as issues with the research. The term "international librarianship" often limits search results to those synonymous with "foreign" and research that could occur in countries other than the United States and United Kingdom. This conflict arises due to the majority of Library Science research being completed in these countries, thereby making every other country appear under the "international" term.

NOTE: "Comparative Librarianship" and "International Librarianship" are misled as interchangeable terms.. Comparative relates to the comparison of library systems (2+), and can apply to multiple countries or within a singular one. International on the other hand, relates to relationships with multiple countries, thereby meaning multiple investigations and comparisons would need to be conducted.

How to Become an International Librarian According to Peter Lor
1.  Exoticism: This relates to curiosity. How are things done in different countries? Combine this with my love for traveling, adventure, and learning, and BINGO! To evaluate this, the researcher would need to take pictures (check), take notes (check), tour facilities (check) and just soak in the grand splendor of wherever they are (check, check, check).

2. Philanthropy: As defined by "the love of our fellow humans", the researcher would have to be personable and friendly, as well as seeking advice, assistance and/or input that could benefit both the researcher's and subject's countries. This is often achieved in third world country visits, so whereever I choose to go for my project would have to either provide or gain a benefit from my being there.

3. National Influence: Coinciding with philanthropy, how could the countries involved in the research project benefit from and to the researcher? This is also the element that influences which countries are chosen for research purposes. For example, if I am investigating roles of libraries in providing information to high risk health areas, I could visit African countries affected by AIDS, Ebola, or Malaria.

4. International Understanding: This one was the trickiest for me to figure out because it is divided into three subparts. Attitude, or the feelings of friendliness and willingness to cooperate; knowledge, understanding of behavior and strategic knowledge or the understanding of the intentions of others, are three things that a researcher would want to evaluate prior to their visit. Will the facilities you visit cooperate? Will they understand what you are looking for? What can be taken away from your research for all parties involved?

5. Internationalism: Lor says it best--"citizens of the world with a strong faith that what they are supporting is really worthwhile". Translation- I am a Librarian (albeit in training) that wants to make the World a better place. And I'm going to do it.... one baby step at a time.

6. Cooperation: The ability to work with others is a HUGE HUGE HUGE endeavor that cannot be taken lightly. Working with professors, advisors and peers here is daunting enough, but then there is a whole other set of individuals that I can only communicate with via phone and email in a different country that will need to work with me as well. This is where the most energy is concentrated, yet wields the most results.

7. Innovation: Adopt, adapt, apply. Learn new things, tailor them to your own needs, then apply what you learned to the needs of others.

8. Advancing Knowledge: This, my readers, is where you document your findings. Describe what you are doing, analyze it, classify and compare your research to previous studies and future theories to make it one of the pieces of art that exist in the field. Library Science is all about sharing and gaining knowledge, and what you've worked so hard to put together is something that can be further learned from.

And finally...

9. Self-Understanding: who, how, why and what barriers exist in relation to the libraries investigated... what are some obstacles that are still being faced within the system of information sharing?

SOOOOOO--how does this help me become a librarian that investigates global libraries? Well my friends, I will proceed to investigate the different elements of research and will report back to you here. Until then, bon (almost) voyage!

Works Cited
Lor, PJ 2008, ‘Critical reflections on international librarianship’, Mousaion, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 1-15.

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