Describe and compare the organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice

Component 1: Statement of Competency

At the general level, goal and purpose of librarianship is to understand how to access resources of information and to disseminate that information as needed. Underlining this general statement of librarianship is the diversity of the types of organizations librarians will serve in. There are four main types of library organizations public, academic, school and special. These organizations are tailored to fulfill specific missions and serving specific communities. We can distinguish these organizations from each other by looking at their resources and collection focus, the community they serve, their mission and where their funding comes from.

Public Libraries

There are roughly 17,000 public libraries just within the United States that serve our communities. Rubin states the mission of a public library is, “to meet the education, recreational, informational, and cultural needs of its community” (Rubin, 2010, p173). This mission is very broad and is taxing on the staff and administration of public libraries to fulfill it. Funding for public libraries comes from tax payers or public funds, because of this when there is economic distress public libraries suffer at a greater extent than privately funded libraries because budgets get cut and funding sources decrease.

A public library’s collection serves the largest and most diverse population of the library organizations. Their collection is built to serve patrons from infant to adult ages, multiple cognitive abilities and education levels, cultural interests and depending on the community language preferences. It is often understood that public librarians are the saints of the library world as the stresses they undergo working in public libraries is greater than those in academic or special libraries.

Academic Libraries

Academic libraries are libraries found at any institution providing postsecondary education including universities, four-year colleges, community and junior colleges. The academic library function and purpose is directly related to the institution with which the library is embedded, this means their mission is directly proportional to the mission of the parent institution. The primary purpose of an academic library is to serve students and faculty. Academic libraries may provide limited service to local community, however it is not uncommon for academic libraries to not offer the community circulation privileges.

An academic library’s collection is built primarily of research resources based upon the programs the institution it serves offers and is more focused than that of a public library. “The type and sophistication of materials in the collection reflect the mission of the particular institution, generally either teaching or research” (Rubin, 2010, p200). If the institution offers courses in computer programming the library is expected to provide resources to help these students succeed in the respected program.

School Libraries/ Multi-Media Centers

School libraries, often referred to as multi-media centers, are usually located within a school system that serves students from kindergarten thru twelfth grade. Similar to academic libraries, because school libraries are embedded within a school system the school board’s policies ultimately govern their activities. The Association of School Librarians (AASL) describes the mission of school libraries as:

To ensure that the students and staff are effective users of ideas and information. The school library media specialist (SLMS) empowers students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information. (AASL 2009a)

School libraries face many challenges including: achieving the mission of the school, keeping up with new technology as budgets shrink, increased vocal awareness of censorship, and a diminishing workforce. School libraries are likely children’s first interaction with a library independently, meaning without mom or dad providing personal one-on-one guidance.

Special Libraries

Special libraries encompass the libraries that do not fit into the academic or public realm including medial libraries, law libraries, media centers and any information organization “sponsored by private companies, governmental agencies, not-for-profit organizations or professional associations” (Mount 1995 cited within Rubin, 2010, p211). Special libraries exist for librarians to serve a client. In academic and public libraries librarians assist patrons in finding information however in special libraries it is expected that the librarian find the information and resources for the patron or client. The collections in special libraries are usually highly specialized and relatively small in size. Access to these collections are often restricted to a small set of users and are not open to the general public.

Component 2: Justification of Evidence and Evidence:

My first piece of evidence I have chosen to include for this competency is my [Resume]. I selected this piece to show my understanding and experience working in multiple library organizations. I selected my resume as evidence showing that I worked in multiple library settings but I will discuss in my justification here how I understand these organizations and what I have learned from them.

All organization work I discuss here takes place in the library setting only. I have worked for three academic organizations (Von Canon Library at Southern Virginia University, Learning Resource Center at West Coast Ultrasound Institute and University Libraries at the University of California, Riverside) and one public organization (Santa Clara County public library district). Each organization gave me different insight and perspective on how the priorities of these organizations differ.

My experience with a public library focused primarily on social media use where I gained a greater understanding of the general makeup of the patrons they served. One thing I found that was very different from the academic libraries was the stress that was put on handling sensitive posts on social media. The public library district I worked for had a strict policy with handling censorship issues, even if vulgar language was used. Under no circumstance was the post/comment to be hidden or removed. If it contained sensitive content it was to be reported to the Virtual Library manager who then would take it to the district library board to decide on how to handle the situation. Also, how the social media tools were used to connect with patrons and the focus that was engaged varied from the academic setting. In the public library, the library focused on patron leisure interests and advertising new programs and services. In my experience, the academic libraries focused also on programs and services but published more scholarly and research information for patrons.

While working at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), one thing that I noticed was the patron count was not as important. All current and registered students were automatically patrons so out reach to the community for upping the patron count was not a major priority like it is in public libraries. Public libraries used patron usage as backing to show their merit to the community. Instead the priority was collection usage and resource selection since this is primary to show backing for academic libraries. UCR however is a public institution so their resources were available to the public but certain privileges were denied them unless they became “friends of the library” and paid a fee.

One of the academic libraries I worked in was for a medical school that focused on digital imaging (ultrasounds, echocardiograms, and MRI) although this was an academic setting it mirrored many of the aspects of a special library such as specialized and small collection size and limited access to only faculty and students attending the school, it was not open to public access at all. Also, the development of this collection was primarily built on the requests of the faculty and less from budget allocations which meant any requests from faculty were fulfilled.

My second piece of evidence I have chosen to include for this competency is an [Interview with a Librarian] that I completed for Libr210. I interviewed a reference librarian in an academic institution. This interview provides information on collection development and maintenance in an academic library. I chose this piece to show the knowledge I gained about academic librarians and the types of tasks, issues and concerns they deal with in that environment. For example, specific to budgets and collection development, in an academic library they need to decide on the allotted budget for each department and specialty subjects based on university curriculum. This can be allocated equally across the board, but often core subjects will receive more funds than elective subjects.

My final piece of evidence I have chosen to include is a [SMS Reference_Final Proposal] I worked with my team on in Libr246. The proposal is to implement using Google Voice as a SMS reference service in a public library. I chose to include this because in our research for this project we studied other libraries and what they used for SMS reference, the community they served, what worked for them and why it worked, and roadblocks they encountered in the process. This research gave us insight on public libraries and the focus these types of organizations take when reaching out to their communities. I also learned how roadblocks were addressed or how the library decided on keeping or discontinuing a service similar to the one we were proposing on implementing.


Through my experience and evidence I have shown my understanding of the varying environments that I can work in as an information professional. It is important to know the patrons you are serving, the issues at large with the organization including funding concerns, the mission and focus of the library and collection development. Although there are some issues that affect all libraries such as funding, the tactics in addressing these issues will vary due to the type of library. The same goes with public access and community outreach. A special library will not put forth the same amount of effort and funds for community outreach as a public library because their mission and the patrons they serve often do not include public access. Understanding these environments will help prepare me should I work in any one of them.


American Association of School Librarians. Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs. Chicago: American Association of School Librarians, 2009.

Rubin, R. E. (2010). The Values and Ethics of Library and Information Science. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.



Interview with a Librarian

SMS Reference_Final Proposal


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