Librarians

“Because simply collecting materials does not require a professional; making sense and use of those materials does.” Dave Lankes, 157

I recently talked to my friend on the phone the other day, and was so excited to tell her all about Syracuse and my program. The first question she asked was, “So, have you learned the Dewey Decimal system yet?” When I said no, she was shocked and asked, “What are you learning?”

To her, and most people, librarianship is about collecting materials. To the general public, we spend our days shelving books, salivating over the Dewey Decimal system, and on our lunch breaks, buy new cat sweaters online. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered such a view, but I think it’s the first time I’ve been able to articulate, at least to myself, that what I’ve been learning about librarianship goes far beyond the stereotype.

Well, my response to her probably wasn’t eloquent, and all she probably heard was me rambling about changing the world, having conversations with the community and creating programs that serve the interest of patrons, and using technology as a tool to facilitate knowledge.  When put on the spot, you want to make librarianship sound really cool (which it is) and tell them all the innovative things people are doing everyday. It turns out, it’s actually hard to describe these concepts to people in a thoughtful way that makes sense. They aren’t expecting to hear these things, so to them, it’s all just inspired ramblings that sound nice, but they don’t really understand, because it contradicts everything they know about the field.

At the end of my attempt to impart my new knowledge, she told me, “Well I’m glad you’re finding it exciting. I was worried it would be too dry.” At this point, I pretty much gave up, and decided no matter how supportive some people may be, they may never truly get what librarianship really is. A lot of people do have this collection centered view (not to mention, the idea that our jobs are boring). And not only as my friend she has this view, but as a library member in her own community, this is her expectation as well.

So now that I’ve read all of this, and am excited about new librarianship, what do I do now? (Besides practicing eloquent answers that makes Superman look like a pansy compared to librarians.) Professor Lankes gives some helpful tips at the end of the threads about some practical ways to make these changes. And I think that no matter what I say, the changes and stereotypes can only be changed through action.

I’m interested in School Media, so hopefully through my actions, kids can start to see librarianship as something different than the stereotypes in place now, starting at a young age. Until then, I think being involved in new projects at school, talking to current librarians, getting involved in the community sooner rather than later, and not only learning from my library observations/internships/practicum, but always finding ways to improve the things I observe and do.

The second part of the quote above, emphasizes making sense and the use of materials as a determining factor of being a librarian. I think if you use materials in thoughtful and meaningful ways to serve a patron, then new librarianship is taking place. Professor Lankes also mentions, that new librarianship doesn’t have to always be new ideas and programs. Through the everyday use of materials, it can be a determinable way to see if action is truly taking place within the community. And a motivating way to start action in small places, and then move to a larger scale.

So hopefully the next time I get asked this question what are you learning, I will have a lot of examples to show them, rather than just tell them.

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