Advocacy | Access | Impact | New Librarianship
Advocacy | Access | Impact | New Librarianship
“Who would want to become a librarian now?” asked an anonymous public servant on National Libraries Day, seeing before them a graveyard of dead libraries and old reference desks filled by volunteers. A valid question, and one to which I’ll reply: “You know what? I’ll have a go.”
I’m training to be a professional librarian, having just finished a lecture on “semantic web ontologies” and “linked data”, and sat dumbstruck in front of a “Dewey Decimal assembler” without a clue as to what I’m looking at. The course is challenging – it’s a three-year master’s degree that bites eye-watering chunks out of my wages. Why am I doing it to myself?
The fact is, I can’t not. It’s a sort of calling – like becoming a priest, only with warmer business premises. I can’t stand by and let public libraries sink. I won’t.
Forget all about reading as a pleasure, forget that children should have unlimited access to books, throw away arguments about libraries being lifelines for those less fortunate – they’re falling on deaf ears. You just have to look at the comments beneath pro-library articles to gather a general response: Kindles, the internet replacing information needs, and so on. And the one we wheel out about libraries being the centre of the community – there’ll be someone swatting that old classic aside with a “and yet the majority of the population doesn’t use them”. Read more…
Because today’s librarians must be experts in dealing with both physical and digital information, we have identified the Top 5 skills every librarian must have, or develop, in order to succeed now and into the future. I will touch on all five today and explore them individually in the weeks to come.
1. Information Curation
Since the primary role of any type of library is information curation, the need for that skill set will never go away. However it will evolve as volume and variety of information expands. As content creation becomes available to all, information curation becomes a more critical skill. Librarians are becoming increasingly vital in the process of evaluating and editing what is most valuable, as well as categorizing and classifying it for easy retrieval and use.
2. In-Depth, High Value Research
The digital information environment operates mostly on a ‘Find It Yourself’ paradigm, a model that has threatened the very existence of librarians. Yet finding what they need and want can be a significant challenge for consumers and users of information. Most people lack good research skills and all of us are dealing with a velocity and volume of information that is difficult to manage. As the proverbial haystack gets bigger, finding the needle gets tougher, making librarians a valuable go-to resource. Read more…
I come from a family that doesn’t have work email, retirement stocks, or salaries. My parents and siblings, my “people,” are name tag and hairnet people. Clock-out for your lunch break people. With four older siblings, I was the first to graduate high school and then the first in my family to go to college. Now, as I finish my last year of graduate school, I continue to reconcile the distance between my “working poor” upbringing with my professional future.
It’s a terrifying and privileged distance, to be a first-generation college student. The distance started long before college or grad school. In grade school, I was aware of all my selves: my school self, my home self, my true self. For me, the library was a refuge for that true self. It was the sweet spot, where I could admit to not knowing and begin to explore communities of ideas. I imagine leagues of first-generation librarians who hold this same kernel of an experience at the center of their professional story.
Two of my favorite librarians, Cecily Walker (@skeskali) and Sarah Crissinger (@SarahCrissinger), have done a better job discussing Bridging the Experience Gap for first-generation librarians, organizing a first gen #L1S Twitter conversation, and highlighting the importance of first gen discussions in the profession. You should go read those things. What I want to offer, are just a few notes for my fellow first-generation college students, as we navigate library school and prepare for the profession together. Read more…
The other day the Loon read a short article about applying to library jobs that scoffed at applicants who try to trade on the supposed prestige of their library school. Those library schools, they’re all the same; it doesn’t matter which one you went to, because no one you’re talking to will care.
Well. Yes. And also no. Read more…
In the two years since the onset of my career, I’ve learned that a little enthusiasm can go a long way. I owe my accomplishments largely to my immense enthusiasm for the librarian profession and my eagerness to be a part of its community. For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that an ordinary desk job would never be a good fit. Diagnosed as a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), school was a struggle, and my concentration wavered quickly. To succeed, I knew that I needed a profession that would impassion me, was challenging, and would keep me on my toes. It was not until my senior year of college that I discovered the growing field of librarianship. Immediately, I knew I had found the passion I had sought. Librarians’ days were never the same, and I could see no limit to the new things that I could learn. Passion for my work was important to me, but I never realized how far it would take me in my career. In many ways, my enthusiasm drove me to gather the experience, skills, and confidence that I needed to find my place in the job market. Read more…