The History Of The Library Profession

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John Ambrosio (2013), reflecting on the history of the library profession, invokes Antonio Gramsci, who said that a critical understanding of the self also requires the development of an ethical stance, a set of values, principles, and virtues to guide one’s moral conduct (Ambrosio, 2013, p. 328). Lacking such ethics or praxis, librarians are vulnerable to the dominant political ideology. “The way to overcome paralysis is the consciousness of what one really is and knowing oneself. It begins with taking an inventory of our historical formation with determining how we have been secretly imprinted by history; how our language, thoughts and identities have been informed by various currents of philosophical thought and cultural practices” (Gramsci in Ambrosio, 2013, p. 328). By examining the history of the library profession - a history that conflates neutrality with equality and democracy, staffed by a cadre of professionals who trace their beginnings to a theory of “library economy” - it is easy to imagine how neoliberal ideology found a home in the library. Many theorists recognize the fact that librarians have the potential to make progressive reforms to society (Raber, 2003, p. 47), if they would only break free of the “contradictory theoretical consciousness” and hegemonic norms that hold them back from doing so by suggesting that they should take no action (Bales & Engle, 2012, p. 22). Louis Althusser (2009), in particular felt that librarians had a “social and moral
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