A Thursday Library Rant
Have you entered my “blog-a-versary” giveaway yet? It ends on Friday!!
Note: I started this rant on today’s open thread at Agnostic, Maybe and I’m finishing it up here.
There has been SO. MUCH. TALK. about technology training in library school, and while that is so great and wonderful and necessary for some jobs, it is not necessary for mine.
I’m a solo hospital librarian working at a not-for-profit, community-based, teaching hospital. My main users are residents and attending physicians, but I also work with nurses, pharmacists, and administration. I spend my days doing literature searches, finding and sending articles, maintaining my collection, helping out with research and grant writing, and teaching instruction classes. I do classic library work. My job description and my actual duties (as they sometimes – er, always – differ) have nothing to do with programming, web design (in fact I’m not even allowed to touch the website), or anything tech related past putting paper in the copier and turning on and off my computer.
If I had been required to take a lot of technology classes for my MLIS, I would have of course done so and probably been a more well-rounded librarian, but at this point in my career it would have been a complete waste of time. I may need it for a future job, but let’s face it, by the time I move on, things will have already changed so much that what I learned in school would be useless.
The skills I need for my job are good reference skills, cataloging/indexing (although most of what I do is copy cataloging, knowing how NLM indexes articles for PubMed is so helpful), and customer service skills.
Which actually brings me a really great point. Customer service skills and how incredibly important they are.
I’ve said before that my job is 1/3 library skills and 2/3 people skills. I can teach anyone (well, anyone with a good head on their shoulders and a desire to learn) how to do library work. But I can’t teach anyone how to be a librarian. Because being a librarian isn’t about doing library work. Being a librarian is about being a service professional. You are providing a service to your users/patrons/customers/whatever you call them. And your users/patrons/customers/whatever are people. And if you don’t like people then why do you want to be a librarian?
People use libraries and librarians help these people. So it would make sense that librarians should actually like and be good with people, right?
Apparently that’s not always the case.
I was reading a blog post the other day (now I can’t remember where so if you know, please put the link in the comments) about how shocked someone was when people were sharing, on that first day of library school (you know where you have to stand up and say why you’re there), that they went to library school because they like to read and/or because they like books.
Getting back to my original point (I had one someone), these are the kind of people we should be concerned about going to library school. Not people who are technologically-illiterate, but people who don’t know what it means to be a librarian. (Side note: read this comment for a great idea on how to fix this problem.) Because being a librarian is not about liking books or programming or being great at twitter. Those are all great qualities, but what makes a good librarian is someone who is helpful, who is genuinely interesting in assisting and teaching users how best to access their information, and who actually likes working with people.
Unless you are a cataloger or in IT; then you can sit in your office and do whatever you want to do, however you want to do it, because, let’s face it, we need you desperately.
That’s the end of my rant. Thoughts?