Are we a profession? Doctors Cameron M. Pierson & Elizabeth Tait answer

by | Sep 19, 2022 | AreWeAProfession | 0 comments

The question of ‘are we a profession?’ is something of a fixture for LIS. As an ‘interstitial’ profession (yes, profession), we see why this is a reoccurring topic (e.g., Raju, 2020). When our disciplinary boundaries span multiple domain areas, whilst also including those specific to our jurisdiction, we naturally ask ourselves questions related to identity and societal function.

Something we find interesting is the notion that the defining feature of ‘profession’ is its research activity (Howard, 2022). As members of the research and education-oriented side of the profession, we certainly agree that research is important. As was pointed out, however, there are other aspects which contribute to the composition and designation of a profession, such as ethics and engaging with disciplinary knowledge, of which a body of knowledge develop through research is but one form (Bell, 2022). We would suggest also for LIS, and the larger GLAMR sector, another key aspect naturally includes our societal function: co-constructed service to community rooted in information and cultural heritage.

We certainly agree that a part of what constitutes a profession is its willingness to seize opportunities to engage with new knowledge. Being a profession characterized by information and curiosity, we are undoubtedly in no shortage of such opportunities in the modern world. As our societies and world grow increasingly socio-technical, we have the dual task of remaining socially focused while being technologically adept. This task will only grow in importance, as we can offer a unique contribution to technological innovation, development, and its social navigation.

For example, we recently identified several professional opportunities in relation to artificial intelligence – for research, practice, and the meeting of the two (Tait & Pierson, 2022). We found ample opportunity to include more professional education around AI, as a technology that will very likely impact societal information interaction and information services. We similarly argue professional contribution can take the form of strengthened voices in information ethics grounded in LIS expertise. Of course, along with increased research and educational space, we also suggest Communities of Practice, and inter-institutional collaborative networks, such as for the development of open educational resources on AI and information ethics in LIS and the GLAMR sector.

The topics we discuss draw on the various aspects used to define ‘profession’, highlighting their interlocking nature. If a profession is characterised, amongst other things, by its research activity, it is also characterised by the opportunities it takes – in both research and practice, benefiting from a symbiotic relationship. Moreover, LIS occupies both unique and other disciplinary grounds, suggesting further benefit in the production of our forms of knowledge, both theoretical and practical. Perhaps this prompts us to consider our interstitial nature as being our strength, a defining feature of our profession’s adaptability.

Bell, E. (2022, September 1). Are we a profession? Emilia Bell answers. ALIA LARK.

Howard, K. (2022, August 28). Are we a profession? ALIA LARK.

Raju, J. (2020). Future LIS Education and Evolving Global Competency Requirements for the Digital Information Environment: An Epistemological Overview. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 61(3), 342+.

Tait, E. & Pierson, C. M. (2022) Artificial Intelligence and Robots in Libraries: Opportunities in LIS curriculum for preparing the librarians of tomorrow. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 71(3), 256-274.

Dr Cameron M. Pierson is a Senior Researcher and Project Manager at L3S Research Center in Hannover, Germany and a Research Fellow at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Dr Elizabeth Tait is a Senior Lecturer in Information Studies at Charles Sturt University where she is a Course Director.


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