While studying History in undergrad, I was assailed all too frequently with “So, what are you going to do with that degree?” And now, when I tell folks that I am pursuing librarianship I receive a modified reaction: “You need a Master’s degree to check out books to people?” Well-meaning, but misguided, individuals feel the need to inform me that the library, an institution that goes at least as far back as the third century, is quickly becoming obsolete. In the era of Google and rapid technological innovation, librarians are having to defend the value of their profession more than ever. Conversely, in the age of fake news, librarians are needed more than ever.
Indeed, there is often a disconnect between the perceived simplistic duties of a librarian and the actuality of the work that librarians undertake. In many ways, librarianship is beyond books. Librarians are not just cat-ladies, cardigan-and-specs-adorning, bun-wearing folks. We are many and more. In addition to fostering basic literacy, librarians also cultivate information literacy. Librarians defend the rights of all to access information. Librarians build community. Librarians develop and provide programs and instruction, advancing the needs for both the exclusive circle of scholars as well as the larger general public.
Even polite people who clearly love libraries and librarians sometimes do not realize the more complex need for information professionals. Admittedly, I was one of those people. Even though I worked at a public library through high school and college, it was not until a few years into the position that I saw my “part-time student job,” as something more: a career.
There was a short, but daunting amount of time between finishing up my undergraduate studies and applying for graduate school that I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Perhaps had I cared to know more about the deeper ins and outs of librarianship, I would have known much earlier on where I was headed. But once I did take the leap (despite economic considerations), I was amazed by the slow but also sudden realization that librarianship was perfect for me. It is so comforting to having found my niche.
Within the whirlwind first few weeks of my graduate studies and graduate work I gained new experiences and new insights. As outlined by the American Library Association’s “Core Values of Librarianship,” I was incredibly pleased and proud to learn the following from first-hand experience in regards to our profession:
- Access to and preservation of information: A core and foundational tenet of librarianship, it encompasses democratic ideals that seek to ensure a well-informed and egalitarian society.
- Advocacy: In demonstrating their care and responsibility for the public good, librarians have increasingly and actively taken on political stances to safe-guard the interests of their patrons. Not only is information promoted and preserved, it is also processed. Librarians are often at the forefront of relevant discussions.
- Diversity and Inclusion: Libraries not only seek to create welcoming spaces for their patrons, especially for those who are often neglected, but librarians and library students feel empowered to claim their identities. Perhaps more than other professions, librarians are willing to discuss intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.
- Technological savvy: Dispelling the myth of being only book people, information professionals use a host of various cutting-edge technologies in their work and aim to help patrons utilize these tools to their advantages. An ancient institution, the library continues to evolve with the times and retool itself to fit the needs of its society.
I could go on. My perception of librarianship continues to grow and broaden.
As other HLS writers have mentioned, taking the time to regularly reflect helps in evaluating our growth and re-positioning to propel ourselves forward. This post is not only for me, but for those are still unsure and are on the fence in regards to pursuing librarianship. Librarianship is important. This post is for those who may be feeling discouraged or lacking motivation. Take advantage of the opportunities at your program. Take comfort in how great our profession is. Unleash your passions.
Listen: Do not allow others to take away from what you love about our profession. As a shy undergrad, I lacked the determination to explain my reasoning for my studies. Now, I am more than comfortable, but also eager to share my passions regarding librarianship.Be vocal, be unafraid. We have to continue to believe in our work in order for others to do the same. Understanding the values of librarianship ourselves promotes the value of librarianship to the rest of society.
Stay Tuned: I am particularly fascinated by matters regarding diversity, social justice, library instruction, and the evolving role of libraries. You can look forward to me exploring these topics in future posts.
“Value Scale” image courtesy of Flickr user Ujwala Prabhu