Notes On Stock Knowledge

Another “stop-gap” post before I complete my “mission statement” piece.

I recently applied for a Librarian position within my current organisation. This is the first time I have done so and I was not completely surprised to find I had not been succesful at even getting an interview. While I will be seeking feedback (and hoping I don’t experience a crushing personal attack), the process has raised an issue in my mind regarding stock management – experience of which was one of the criteria for the aforementioned post.

Basically, my query revolves around the interaction between stock management and stock knowledge. I am assuming that a significant depth of the latter is a prerequisite for successfully practicing the former – but how, without a formal Librarian qualification, does one convincingly demonstrate enough stock knowledge that one is consequently given responsibility for that management? I am writing this from a perspective of a public library service – clearly specialist or academic Libraries would require formal qualifications in a specific subject. What I am interested in here is establishing how an individual employed at a Library Assistant level could convincingly demonstrate adequate stock knowledge that they would then be entrusted with the management of that stock.

This question has arisen in part because the department in which I currently work – a Reference/Research Library – is undergoing a process of stock weeding. While Library Assistants have been given some responsiblity for choosing which stock is to remain and which is to be removed, the final decisions have rested with a small team of Librarians (none of which, it must be said, are formally attached to the department).

Where does this ability to make those decisions come from? Can the necessary skills or knowledge be learnt? Is there a path that formalises this learning, outside of a prohibitively expensive Masters programme? Is it, in fact, simply a matter of experience of that organisation and its materials? If that is the case, is it filling the role of Librarian that essentially invests the individual with the authority to make those decisions – regardless of any pre-existing specific  subject/material qualifications?

In which case, if it is “being” a Librarian that in-and-of-itself proves you have the stock knowledge to make those decisions, how do you demonstrate the ability to manage stock if applying for such a role, when the knowledge that is a pre-requisite for that management is only (not)provable by your (non)status as a Librarian in the first instance? How do you acquire the demonstrative  knowledge while outside the strictures of the role that invests in you the authority to make those decisions and thus proves you had the knowledge in the first place? Is it enough to say “I have worked with this stock for ‘x’ years and have assisted existing Librarians with their management tasks”? I rather suspect it is, but feel any application for such a position can only be strengthend by being able to go beyond this statement through specific, formal, pieces of evidence.

This is all very circular – and I don’t think I have necessarily fully articulated the problem I want to pose. I think essentially what I am interested in is some way of formalising the stock knowledge that I  possess after seven years experience as a Library Assistant, in order to aid an application for a Librarian position. That formalisation may not even exist – it may not even be required – but it is something I would like to investigate.

EDIT: Having re-read this piece immediately after publishing it, I find I am more-than-likely over-thinking a very small part of a bigger jigsaw. I think that the main question here is thus: How do you train to become a Librarian when you’re not yet a Librarian?


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