Welcome Geoff Johnson to the HackLibSchool blog. Geoff (on Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn) is a proto-librarian interested in academic librarianship and special libraries – especially news libraries* – attending the Simmons College GSLIS and living in Boston. He’ll finish up his coursework in May.
*But really, more than anything, he’s interested in being flexible, versatile, and employed.
I thought about lecturing (“You know, in the 21st century, librarianship is about a lot more than books…” or “While I do love books, they only represent a small portion of what my job will be. In fact…”). But I didn’t. I smiled and nodded. “Yep, it is pretty quiet,” I said. I paid for my amber ale and went to the gate. It got me thinking, though. My brain filed this encounter in with a few other situations, including one in which my friend’s father asked, “So, what, do you learn to check out books to people [in library school]?” and an ongoing joke with my dad that I’m spending two years and $40,000 learning the Dewey Decimal System.
The fact that the guy at the bar and my friend’s dad assume, through their jokes, that I love books because I’m becoming a librarian is not a problem in and of itself. I do love books. That was one way I rationalized library school myself (“Well, I do love books…”). Here’s the thing, though: I can’t speak to the experiences other people have at other libraries, but I spend much less than half my time working at the reference desk at the Simmons library and at my internship at the Monitor dealing with actual books. So if a love of books was my only reason for remaining in the field, then I wouldn’t be all that satisfied — but I am.
So the problem, actually, is that people don’t know that librarianship extends beyond books.
What I’ve heard, from my first semester on, is that it’s up to librarians to demonstrate their value within their organization. People forget or they just don’t know. Whether it’s my boss reminding her boss each hear all the things the news library does for the website and magazine, or a public library reminding its community about return on investment during times of high unemployment. Discussion of misconceptions usually occurs in class or at a conference (the common element between these two being that it’s a room full of librarians or future librarians discussing it), and it starts with a joke about stereotypes (it’s usually about shooshing people, and it’s usually pretty funny), and it ends with agreement that “Hey, we all know we’re much more dynamic than the stereotypes…” and everyone leaves feeling energized, but I’m not sure how often it involves discussion of action outside the company of other librarians.
I know I need to find a way that I’m comfortable with to have that conversation with people, and recently, I’ve been asking librarians and proto-librarians alike how they have that kind of conversation with people, and I’d be very interested to hear about how hacklibschool people and readers do this.