I am an African American Man.
I am a Librarian.
According to the American Librarian Association (ALA) about 572 of 110,000 credentialed librarians share those demographics (Davis & Hall, 2007 p. 9). Credentialed librarians have earned a masters degree in library and information science from an ALA accredited program. A credentialed part-time reference and instruction librarian at a suburban Michigan university, I am proud to be in an information profession.
Notice that I do not say “service profession”. I think those are redundant terms. Most professions have a service element. Doctors and nurses serve or facilitate the medical needs of their patients. Lawyers and paralegals serve or facilitate the legal needs of their clients. Usually these professionals are not paid just to practice a profession; they are paid to perform a service.
Librarianship seems the rare profession that defines itself mainly in the context of service. The Latin motto of Beta Phi Mu , the honor society for library and information science students, illustrates this focus: Aliis inserviendo consumer:Consumed in the service of others. If only those other professions would remember that they serve the needs of their clients.
But many librarians are often not perceived to be consumed in serving the information needs of others; they are considered “servile and self-effacing” (Einsenhower & Smith, 2010). A black man in a largely white and female profession, I cannot be servile and self-effacing. I cannot erase who I am, just to satisfy a stereotype. I am consumed, not in the service of others, but in the creation of an information culture that promotes critical thinking and agency. I am consumed by helping my patrons create new definitions of knowledge and build more effective relationships with information, which I consider socially constructed and politically informed. I want patrons to critique, confirm, or complicate authority as they construct their own knowledge. To me, this culture is the essence of what is commonly called information literacy.
I am consumed by that.