Internet Wrangling Meets Professional Image

Article excerpt

For an occupation to be considered a "profession," it must have (1) a substantive body of knowledge that is acquired through systematic training, (2) a professional association that certifies practitioners, (3) societal recognition of the profession's authority, and (4) a service orientation articulated by a code of ethics (Carr-Saunders & Wilson, 1933; Foote, 1953; Greenwood, 1957).

--H.C. Vough, M. Teresa

Cardador, J.S. Bednar, E. Dane, and M.G. Pratt (2013). "What Clients Don't Get About My Profession: A

Model of Perceived Role-Based Image Discrepancies." Academy of Management Journal, 56(4), 1050-1080. doi:10.5465/amj.2011.0490

In 1990, a person searching for the contact information of their state legislators would, most likely, approach a librarian--a member of an occupation whose identity rested, in large part, upon organizing, searching for and retrieving information. Less than two decades later, however, "information search" would come to be synonymous with the Internet search engine. That same person, rather than approaching a librarian, would most likely search Google for an answer--and, just as important, the librarian would no longer claim such a search as integral to her identity anyway.

--A. Nelson and J. Irwin (2013). "'Defining What We Do--All Over Again': Occupational Identity, Technological Change, and the Librarian/Internet-Search Relationship." Academy of Management Journal, amj-2012. doi:10.5465/amj.2012.0201

The article from which the first quote was taken came to my attention in an alert from ScienceDaily ("Your source for the latest research news")--"Performance and Pay Suffer When Clients Don't Understand What Professionals Do."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

And I immediately thought to myself, "OK, now that is the library profession in a nutshell." I just had to retrieve the full text of the article. Eerily, in the process of doing just that, I stumbled across the article from which the second quote was taken ... in the exact same journal.

If you've followed this column for any length of time, you know that I've had more than one good rant about the navel-gazing aspects of the library profession. So it was especially intriguing to me to stumble upon a journal article about the library profession in a non-LIS journal, written by two business school professors. (Andrew Nelson is an assistant professor of management at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business; Jennifer Irwin is an assistant professor in the management department of Louisiana State University.)

Mirabile dictu! Here are folks gazing at our collective navel besides ourselves. How could I not write about this?

The authors analyzed "22 years of articles about the Internet in journals written by and for librarians, capturing the emergence of Internet search through the present." (The bibliography lists them all.) Essentially, they found that librarians (in the aggregate) initially downplayed internet search due to their "deep knowledge of non-Internet search"--essentially regarding it as a "niche" technology that certainly could not supplant their specialized skills. The authors refer to this as a "paradox of expertise."

As time went on, however, the article discusses how librarians came to embrace internet search and to basically incorporate it into mainstream library practices, "redefining their occupational identity by leveraging the same technology that had threatened to displace them in the first place."

Table 3, toward the end of the article, is particularly interesting. …