- The Professional Foundation of the Reference Librarian
- No.1, p.1-19
The social evaluation of the librarian can be taken as an index of the library as a social institution.
Librarianship in modern Japan is frequently associated with the traditional library which was considered as a place set apart to keep books. The image of the librarian is thereby distorted but such an image is still widely accepted by the public. The intellectual core of librarianship has been made obscure to the general public by the chores and technicalities of library work.
The reference librarian has distinguishing features which are the attributes of the professional librarian. The article attempts to measure professionalism in terms of the distinguishing features of the reference librarian.
Historical development of reference work, both in Japan and in the United States, is outlined to clarify the duties of the reference librarian. Although the very definition of the term “reference work” has undergone a great change, the fundamental task of it is to offer information sources as promptly as possible to those who need it. But reference work is not recognized in Japan as an integral function of the library.
If the reference librarian belongs to the professions, he must have a specialized knowledge, underlying skill and methods, as well as a clear understanding of the function of bibliography. At present it is difficult to obtain a number of such a qualified reference librarians in Japan.
A second feature of a profession is that it is based upon prolonged and specialized training which enables a particular service to be rendered. On this score, it is essential that the reference librarian of today have a sound training in principles and techniques to enable him to serve promptly and efficiently. Training for librarianship at the certificate level and a curriculum for a rapid short course is now available. But this is not professional training.
It is, therefore, necessary to establish a plan which will integrate studies of librarianship and bibliography at the university level, with a possible development toward a post graduate program.
Further, librarians must join together if they are to command respect and appropriate status. But in Japan there is not any professional group of librarians which maintains, by force of organization, high standards of achievement and responsibility.
An additional evidence of professional status is that their members are engaged in research and study to solve practical problems. This is not true at present of reference librarians. It is, moreover, imperative that the reference librarian should take time to keep up with the significant changes in related fields of educational, scientific and cultural development that have a bearing upon reference work.
The rendering of a public service is another distinguishing mark of the professions. But there are not any generally established standards of public service in reference work. Public service should be provided to meet the readers’ needs for information. The promotion of effective use of the library will overcome the low professional esteem presently accorded librarians by the general public.
(Japan Library School)
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