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Duality

September 15, 2011

Marcel Proust, who is making a reappearance in my life.

As the time has come to once again return to the proverbial grindstone, shoving my nose into the books that now largely exist in PDF form, I can’t help but notice what my course list is telling me about necessary skills and knowledge in the information profession.  Of my four archives-oriented courses, two are distinctly about social theory, while two are practical computer and programming courses.  Half my work is theory, half is computer-based.  I’m sure that 50-50 split is not exact regarding the demands of the profession, and there are many other skills that are also crucial (I still long for the days of my physical preservation class last year), but theory and practice are both crucial to performing an accurate, thorough, complex job that, hyperbolically speaking, can impact all of society.

This is why going to library school is important.  Much as teachers must also take psychology courses in order to understand their students, librarians and archivists, at least the good ones, should understand the theories of the profession and know how to understand their users and their needs.  Learning how to code XML means nothing if I don’t know how the XML will be used.  Meanwhile, knowing what is important for users in a cultural framework is irrelevant if I don’t know how give them an accurate finding aid.

As information professionals, we must remember that we are here to help to create access to what people need, and there are multiple facets of both users and information that we must understand in order to do so.  Perhaps jolly old fellows like Proust and Derrida are always lurking below the surface, telling us what we need to think about before touching a line of code or a single subject guide.

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