The Generalist Librarian
I have decided that the public may not understand what librarians do because we do everything! We are generalists - even within a specific field of librarianship like law librarianship.
Rebecca Tischler at INALJ ("I need a library job.") notes that "[m]any people still have the stereotypical image of a librarian stuck in their head: an older kind of frumpy woman wearing glasses on a chain, her hair up in a bun, shushing people with one hand while stamping books with the other."
But librarians are much more than that. Tischler points out that librarians are:
1. Librarians are teachers. Many libraries have computer classes: which can include teaching a room full of people how to use Microsoft Office, how to use the internet safely, how to set up accounts and stay safe on social media, or how to use photo manipulation programs. Some libraries even teach computer programming classes.
2. Librarians are tech savvy. Whatever librarians are teaching, or when we have to help a patron troubleshoot their own technology, we have to be computer and technologically literate in order to help. We have to know the basics of computer technology, at the very least. Most times, however, we know more.
3. Librarians are advertisers. Libraries mostly manage their own public relations and advertise their own services and events. They write the press releases, network and make connections, as well as create their own logos and graphic design.
4. Librarians are event planners. Libraries have dozens of events every year, and the staff has to create a budgets and event plans, bring in volunteers or paid presenters. They plan the activities, the topic, the refreshments… everything. Sometimes, the librarian is also the presenter, if the librarian’s outside hobbies happen to be of use.
5. Librarians are researchers. Librarians not only know how to organize and find information. We know how to collate and analyze information. We see the patterns and can extract information from it. For example, have you ever gone to the library looking for the next book that you would love, and asked one of the librarians what they would recommend? If so, you were probably asked about what type of books you liked, if you have favorite authors, of those favorite books or authors, what was it that drew you in (location, characters, humor…), etc. These were all questions that help the librarian gather information about analyze your taste in books to hopefully provide you with your next favorite read.
"With just those 5 things, librarians have to learn graphic design, communications, how to interview, public relations, writing, computer literacy and information literacy. And yet, there is so much more to librarianship that even just the 5 items discussed above. [W]e have to study and learn multiple professions so that we can act as librarians."
This is a good point. Librarianship intersects with many other professions (as noted above), and I find myself studying new technology or teaching methodology to be a good law librarian, as well. It also helps to have a mind like an elephant and remember vasts amounts of information.