More Than Shelving Books

“In order to be really good as a librarian, everything counts towards your work, every play you go see, every concert you hear, every trip you take, everything you read, everything you know. I don’t know of another occupation like that. The more you know, the better you’re going to be.”  -Allen Smith

When people find out that I am a grad student, they first inquire about the program – What are you going to grad school for? And when they hear that it’s library science and my end goal is to become a librarian, it usually isn’t long before someone asks me if I have been taught how to put books back on the shelf yet. This is both funny to me, as well as super frustrating at times. It seems that, regardless of the specialty or location, too many people seem to misunderstand what librarians actually do. But I don’t think this is anything new.

There are a number of well-known stereotypes of course, no need to talk about cats and shushing here, but the fact that people don’t often known what kinds of things librarians do or what kinds of roles they play seems tragic to me and is somewhat of a problem in that it means that librarians and information professionals alike are an underutilized source. What I thought was so interesting about the readings were the ways they address different key values and roles that librarianship consists of.

I have to admit that I was initially a little discouraged by Meredith Farkas article Skills for the 21st Century Librarian, for she began by talking about what she didn’t learn in “Library School” and how many library school’s today are failing to prepare their students. As a graduate student in an MLIS program, I couldn’t help but think of my current time in school and what the future would hold. Of course there will be things that I will only be able to fully understand while on the job, but I began to wonder what sorts of things that I am not being taught in the program and was a little fearful embracing such skepticism.

However, my fears quickly dissipated as I realized that the things that Farkas addressed were not only important but also do a good job of emphasizing what I think is are key aspects of this field and that is both adaptability and flexibility. She addresses the use of technology, listing the following Basic Tech Competencies:

  • Ability to embrace change
  • Comfort in the online medium
  • Ability to troubleshoot new technologies
  • Ability to easily learn new technologies
  • Ability to keep up with new ideas in technology and librarianship (enthusiasm for learning)

What I thought was helpful and applicable from her article was seeing the simple fact that libraries are changing as technology changes. Sometimes this happens in less than desirable ways or ways in which we are unprepared for, and yet, the ability to remain flexible and adaptable in this field is something that each of us can control and cultivate ourselves. I really appreciated the fact that Farkas highlighted the need to be in times with the technology. The content of our searches will continue to grow and we all embrace life-long learning, but the having the ability to retain access, to know how to navigate through the content, through the information at hand is important. I think it is what will, ultimately, equip us to help those who later come to us for help with their information needs.

And as technology changes the ways in which we express, build, create, and share information, I hope that less people will be uncertain about the role of librarians but will be able to understand the unique position we have in connection to information and technology.

One thought on “More Than Shelving Books

  1. Great Post! Meredeth’s post is definitely provocative (and was even more so five years ago!), but I think you get to the heart of it well: that the ability to develop and change as a professional (and to think about what it means to be a professional) isn’t easily teachable.

    That said, one of the reasons why I re-designed this course the way I did was so that students could identify areas that they wanted to experience and learn in and then go do just that. I think you’re certainly on that path!

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