Advice vs Access: What is the Librarian’s Role?
I was shocked a while ago when someone suggested that librarians are dishing out medical advice.
Really, are you kidding?
There is a vast difference between providing advice like medical practitioners or lawyers vs providing access to medical or legal information, which is what librarians do.
Advice is defined as a written or oral statement that interprets or recommends a specific course of action. To provide medical advice you need to be a Doctor of Medicine, to provide legal advice you need to be a lawyer.
Access on the other hand is defined as opening the door or, providing the right to enter or make use of something. Access provides options not opinion. Access has both a public and a private component however; there is no reference to interpreting situations or information or making personal recommendations.
Freedom of information laws (FOI) allow the public access to data held by governments and defines the process by which requests may be made for government-held information. In Canada, the 1983 Access to Information Act empowers citizens to request records from federal agencies. There is also a complementary 1983 Privacy Act that is designed to protect the privacy of individuals while providing individuals with a right of access information. Plus, in many provinces and territories there is also public sector privacy legislation like the Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and complimentary municipal legislation.
Doctors and lawyers offer advice and opinions. Librarians on the other hand, are in the business of providing access, which means laying out the variety of resources that may answer a customer’s specific question. It is the customer’s responsibility to decide what information they will use.
In library land, there is a huge difference between advice and access.
Stay warm and have a great week.
Kitty Pope #1 January 2014