Defining Authentic Librarianship – Rick Anderson

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So here’s how I propose to use the idea in this column: to me, authentic librarianship is motivated primarily by concern for those we serve as librarians, rather than by concern for our own agendas or preferences. To be more specific, “authentic” would describe professional practice that is motivated by all of the following:

  • Concern for the success of the library’s patrons in their particular tasks
  • Concern for the long-term intellectual welfare of the library’s patrons
  • Desire to further the goals of the library’s sponsoring institution

How can you know whether a librarian is acting in an authentic manner? Well, there’s the trick: you can’t, unless the librarian is yourself (and even then, it may not always be easy). In my first column I suggested, in passing, that in many cases inauthentic librarianship may look an awful lot like authentic librarianship—by which I meant that two librarians might carry out their tasks in exactly the same way, one of them motivated by selfishness or laziness or pedantry, and the other by a genuine desire to do what will serve the patron and institution best. Sometimes (OK, often) we have suspicions about what motivates our colleagues, but rarely (OK, maybe never) can we know for certain what their motivations really are. And it’s motivation that lies at the heart of authenticity: authentic librarianship does not consist in a set of specific strategies or practices, but in a set of desires and motivations.

Anderson also ties his thinking to professionalism which has been on my mind of late. What are your professional motivations? How do Anderson’s definitions fit with your own?