Professional Identity is the shared identity that doesn’t change from person to person in a profession.  (Yilmaz, 2017)

Central to Identity Inquiry is the Question: who am I as a person working in a Library?

Identity forms as we make meaning from our consideration of ourselves as Library Staff


Your stance and position in life is what makes you similar to what differentiates you.


Components of Identity include:

Perception of Efficacy

Ideas about knowledge and role of libraries (Yilmaz, 2017)

Exploring our Professional Values

In choosing to work in Libraries, engaging in development and learning and being members of Library Professional Bodies, we are also exposed to Values.  Later in the tools below you will have an opportunity to look more closely at these.

The Librarian Michael Gorman wrote extensively on values and here are some of his thoughts:

  • Standards we can use to assess what we do.
  • Ways to see how near or far we are from an objective.
  • Compare on ways of acting to the idea.

Gorman identified the following as Core Library Values

  • Stewardship
  • Service
  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Privacy
  • Rationalism
  • Commitment to literacy and learning
  • Equity of access
  • Democracy

Source: Michael Gorman, Our Enduring Values


Tool 1:

Exercise: Write a Reflection on your understanding of these Values. Include experiences and evidence from your work as a member of library staff as to how these values impact on you. 

Tool 2:

Exercise: Map the values articulated in the PDF to the values of a Library Association, such as, the LAI, CILIP, ACRL. Where are the gaps? What type of identity and assumptions are inherent in the different values schemes? Explore your learning and reaction to what you find in your reflective diary.

Construction of Identity

The PDF is addressed to “all staff who teach” in higher education.

Exercise 1: What do you understand by the word ‘teach’?
Create a short Blog piece on how you feel as a member of Library Staff about the word ‘teach’, and whether you see yourself as a teacher.

Exercise 2: In your organization, discover what broad descriptors are used for Library Staff (are you Library Staff? Academic Staff? Professional Services Staff? Non-Academic Staff?)
How do the different descriptors impact on you?
How do they impact on your sense of what your work is?
How do they impact on how you are seen?
How do they impact on the value ascribed to your work and the Library’s work?
Do any of the descriptors make you feel more or less confident?
Discuss with peers.

Exercise 3: Imposter Syndrome. Do you ever feel like an Imposter? Do you ever feel like you will be found out? Research and reflect on Imposter Syndrome.
Write a short piece on how you feel this resonates with you.

Exercise 4: Am I the Only One?

Arrange to meet and interview an academic or a researcher or someone in a cross-disciplinary role. Ask them do they ever feel like an Imposter. Find out if the ever feel they are in unchartered territory because they try new things or because their work do not fit into the descriptors above. Ask if they feel like and Academic, Researcher, Non-Academic, Practitioner etc.
Ask them what their perception is of Library Staff/ your role in the Institution.
Ask them if they have CPD opportunities that directly support their role.
Ask them how they keep up with standards and best practices.
Ask them how about how they gather feedback and what they do with it.

*Before you meet them, do some research on “Third-Space Professionals”. Consult the interview below (Celia Whitchurch Interview).
With your interviewee, discuss the concept of Third Space Professionals and if you think you fit into that category, discuss your roles as Third Space Professionals.
Do the notion of Third Space Professionals resonate?

Exercise 5: Write a short reflective piece on Library Staff as Third Space Professionals.

Exercise 6: Watch the interviews here (Identity Exploration interviews).
With a colleague, explore the impact of these interviews and testimonies. Are you noticing any change in your sense of identity? Capture your experience in your reflective diary.

Professional Association Values

Library Staff as Teachers!

Look at the work and activity of the library you work in through the lens of teaching. Explore how cataloguing may be linked to teaching.
How might the curation of your space be linked to teaching?
How might the way we help people be related to teaching?
List all the ways in which the Library supports formal and informal learning.
Is there a difference in how formal and informal learning is recognized? How might this impact on our work?
Am I involved in informal teaching?
Consider your involvement in teaching Information Literacy. How do you assess the success of these classes?
Are you keeping up with higher education teaching practices?
How student-centred are these classes?
Are the learning outcomes for these classes S.M.A.R.T? (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound?)
Are you applying Constructive Alignment to your classes and their learning outcomes?
Check out your Institute’s Centre for Learning and Teaching – Do they run any classes about teaching in Higher Education?

Considering the engagement you have had with values, identity and the idea of teaching, position what you are learning in the context of your current role in the Library.
Ask how the culture of your organization pigeon-holes you (or not).
Consider the impact of Imposter Syndrome on your sense of value, worth and confidence as a member of Library Staff who teaches.
Are there any advantages to being in the ‘Third Space’?
How have these things impacted on my approach to teaching, formally and informally?
Taking on board what I have reflected on, what are the CPD and skills needs I require now?
Reflect on the trainings and learning’s you have availed of from the last year. Look at this through the lens of Library Staff as teacher. Identify what was and was not helpful. Consider if formal ‘Library-type’ training can give you what you need.
Talk to a peer about your self-assessment.
Consider options for development.
Identify ways on gathering evidence on your self-assessment of your current situation and needs. Pursue whatever approach you take and bring the evidence you gather back to your identification of the development you need.
Identify how you will identity for yourself the impact of learning you may take in the future.


Prompts to help you think further about identity

How do I resonate with the phrase ‘learning facilitator’?
How do I resonate with the term ‘Third Space’ Professional?
How is my role described by my organisation?
For me, learning occurs best when…
What keywords characterise my teaching as a member of Library Staff?
What are my goals in teaching for learners learning?
As a Library Staff member who teaches, I prefer to be…
I see the relationship with the learner I engage with as…
The methods I use to support and assess learning are…
What learning strategies/practices do I like to use and why?
What is the value of these to my students?
What key experiences have I had in my career to date?
What activities do I use to help students learn and find the information they need?
How do I assess students learning? Why do I do this?
How has Library Information Science (LIS) literature affected my practice?
How do I link research with my practice?
What are my frustrations with my practice and impact?
What motivates me to keep going?
What do I see as the need of learners?
What changes do I see in the teaching and learning practices of my organisation?

Developing a Teaching Philosophy and associated Resources

Look at the following headings from the LAI/CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (Professional Knowledge and Skills Base)

Professional Expertise

  • Organising knowledge and information.
  • Knowledge and information management.
  • Using and exploiting knowledge and information.
  • Research skills.
  • Information governance and compliance.
  • Records management and archiving.
  • Collection management and development.
  • Literacies and learning.
  • Leadership and advocacy.
  • Strategy, planning and management.
  • Customer focus, service design and marketing.
  • IT and communication.

Explore these through the lens of ‘teaching and learning’. For example:

How does my role as a Library Staff Member who teaches influence collection development and management?
How does it influence how we demonstrate value?
How does in influence social media and collaborative tools?
How does it influence access to collections?
How does it influence our expectation of how our catalogue and retrieval sytems work?
Ask ourselves, is there any difference with and without the lens of teaching and how we perceive these roles with or without the lens of teaching.
How does it influence the way we manage knowledge assets?
How does it influence the information architecture we use?