Monday, 18 April 2011

We get no respect, no respect at all.

"Without effective communication, some institutions will just see the library as a repository for books or as a supermarket: they think if you put self-checkout machines that's an automatic librarian which, of course, it's not. Further down the line when the collections gone to pot and the machine can do nothing about it, the institution recognises that the librarian's job is more than just stamping books."
Age old problem. But how to other professionals and/or academics handle it? Well, usually they don't care. Everyone knows what doctors do. We don't know how but we do know what. Same with lawyers and nurses and teachers and professors. Why not librarians? Well, mostly because people don't really understand the THING that our profession revolves around: Information. Nothing's really changed about our bodies, the law, learning, research, etc. But information, or rather the information containers, which are the things that most people think about when they think about information, have changed. Drastically.

Books are still books but not when they are ebooks. And books don't play the role they used to play in learning and entertainment. And newcomers to the post-secondary environment are shocked to learn about all the new info containers there are.

These changes are what librarianship is responsible for managing but it's hard to explain the changes and their effects on users when it's hard to understand them yourself. It would be as if the human body started evolving inside at an incredible rate into something most people don't recognize as what it was before. The difficulties doctors and nurses would have to deal with would be just as difficult to explain as to deal with. Increased failure rate would translate, in the user's mind, as incompetence on the professional's part. Anything new promising success would be very appealing even if it didn't deliver.

What do you think? How do librarians convince everyone else of our worth? Does the analogy work? How do you see the predicament librarians face?

[ Inspired by "Behind the job title: university librarian" from ]

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Just stumbled across your blog, and I think you're right on. The university librarians at my school are amazing human beings; I never understood all librarians do until I encountered them! It's a much-needed profession, for sure.