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Monday, July 16, 2012

Non-Loner Librarian

My Twitter account {which started out as focused on library-related stuff} boasts that I've been breaking down librarian stereotypes since 2005 {when I got my MLS}. The idea kind of started as a joke when I told a friend I was going to library school, and she said, "You wear fishnets. Can you be a librarian?"

Even though I no longer wear fishnets, I am all about doing away with those crazy librarian stereotypes like putting your hair in a bun, wearing orthopedic shoes, and shushing!

And I think most of my professional colleagues feel the same way. {A few examples: Maggie, Librarian in Black, and Hack Library School}.

Yes, we {often} love to read, but we no longer regard ourselves as "keepers of the book." We're information professionals--teaching the best practices of research, advocating for communities, helping patrons navigate new technology, and, yes, recommending good reads.

What we are not is loners. At least not on the job.

So you can imagine my chagrin when I saw this article. Even if we're to overlook the myth that introverts "simply don't have what it takes to be a people person" and lack "the ability to be sociable" {grr}, Daniel Bukszpan's take on librarians is not only outdated, it's also just plain wrong. {Makes me wonder how accurate his descriptions are of zoologists, biochemists, and software developers as well.}

"If you’re in love with books, and you like shushing people more than you like meeting them, then a job as a librarian may be for you. A librarian’s duties include cataloguing, classifying and maintaining such materials as books and periodicals."

Let's start with the duties. Yes, cataloguing, classifying, and maintaining books and periodicals are the duties of some librarians. Generally, cataloging librarians. They represent a small percentage of all librarians {one in seven if we're basing it on the library where I work}.

And even they don't work alone! Our cataloging librarian, for instance, manages a team of workers. That she must work with. On a daily basis.

But guess what? The cataloging department doesn't even get to work alone. They have to interact with other departments, and those departments are made up guessed it...people.

So much for those loner duties.

The part that really really bugged me, though, is the idea that librarianship is a good fit if "you like shushing people more than you like meeting them."


Librarians must be OK with the idea that the days of quiet libraries are virtually over. Sure, we make quiet spaces for people who want to study or read, but most libraries now resemble coffee shops more than antique stores. That means no shushing!

And if you don't like meeting people, you're in the wrong business, despite what the article claims.

Patrons, my student workers, and other librarians file in and out of my office, get in touch with me via phone or email, and even send me messages on Twitter and Facebook. All day every day. But {this is coming from a proud introvert, mind you} being able to help them is the best thing I do.

Being a librarian can be a calling. I consider it my ministry. It's often challenging, stimulating, and fun. But it's not for loners.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7/17/2012

    Oh, some people just like to button hole everything. To my mind, the only things that belong in button holes are buttons...and an occasional posy.
    Happy Days, Tiffany.

    Snarky P.S.
    (Sometimes, when you meet somebody like this, don't you wonder if he took his own Finals?)


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