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Aug 10 / Philip Zupon

The Long Hard Path To Becoming A Librarian – Introduction

The library and information science profession is truly a diverse profession. Men and women of every single race and ethnic group serve as librarians and other kinds of information professionals in many different ways around the world. Another group of people within the library and information science profession that contribute to the diversity of the profession as a whole are people with disabilities. Within this group of library professionals are individuals with “visible disabilities” such as physical handicaps and individuals with “invisible disabilities” such as learning disabilities and emotional and non-physical health disorders.

A smaller group of disabilities exists within the sub-group of “invisible disabilities” known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on their “Facts About ASD” webpage defines Autism Spectrum Disorder as a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges within individuals. It also states that each individual who has ASD is affected by their disorder differently ranging from mildly to severe. Currently, the CDC divides Autism Spectrum Disorder into three different separate categories of disabilities: Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified or PDD – NOS. There are no statistics numbers as to the exact number of individuals with ASD that are library professionals. It is traditionally not uncommon for libraries to hire individuals with more severe forms of ASD to do basic library work such as shelving books. However, usually only individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, less severe forms of PDD – NOS, and the least severe form of Autistic Disorder traditionally known as “High-Functioning Autism” are likely to become full-fledged library professionals. In fact, some library professionals with ASD may be un-diagnosed because it is only recently that some less-severe forms of ASD—particularly Asperger’s Syndrome—have been recognized by the medical community and subsequently society.

I am an aspiring librarian and an individual with ASD. When I say that I am an aspiring librarian, I mean that I am not quite a number in the percentage of individuals with ASD who are library professionals. Two springs ago, in May of 2012, I graduated from Wayne State University with my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) and my Graduate Certificate in Information Management. Currently, I am still looking for a full-time librarian position or a part-time librarian position to supplement my current job as a part-time library technician at the library for the Wayne State University School of Law, also known as the Arthur Neef Law Library. Anyone in the library profession who has completed their MLIS knows that the road to graduating with your Master’s Degree in Library Science and then establishing your career as a librarian or information professional within the library profession is by no means easy. However, individuals with ASD like myself face our own unique difficulties that sometimes make the path to success within the library profession even more challenging.

In the next three blogs, I would like to tell you my story about how I decided to become a librarian and some of the many challenges that I have faced as I have sought to pursue what I truly believe is my calling. The purpose of me telling my story is three-fold. First, I would like to raise awareness for individuals with ASD that are part of the library and information science profession and for individuals like myself who are currently trying to become part of the profession. I want librarians and others within the library profession to understand that while individuals with ASD may appear to have certain shortcomings; with the proper guidance, we are more than capable of overcoming our challenges and becoming equally as productive as our neurotypical (non-ASD) colleagues within the library and information science profession. Second, I wish to help those who educate our future library and information science professionals to understand some of the unique challenges that individuals with ASD may face as they try to enter the profession. My hope is that my story will be able to help library and information science professors at colleges and universities with MLIS schools and programs to better identify the needs of their students with ASD. With this information, perhaps they can help these students overcome their difficulties so that that the students can have an easier time transitioning into the library profession. Finally and most importantly, I am writing my story to encourage other individuals who are affected by ASD and remind them that no dream or goal is truly beyond our reach as long as we are willing to work hard enough to attain it!
Please click on the links below to read Part I, II, and III of my blog!

Part I

Part II

Part III