Home > American Culture, Big Brother, Librarianship, Society > Your Job as a Librarian

Your Job as a Librarian

I’m a librarian, currently working on my master’s degree. Some people are concerned about technology being the downfall of libraries. Observing my fellow classmates makes me far more concerned that they will be the downfall of librarianship.

There’s the students who just cannot seem to properly research anything.
Idiot student: “What?! I couldn’t find the answer to that anywhere!”
Me: “Really? Cause it took me all of 2 minutes…..”

There’s the students who can’t write properly to save their lives, which is particularly a problem for academic librarians who must be published in order to stick around.

I could go on and on with my list, but I’ll get to my point. What I consider to be absolutely the worst idiocy is the students who just don’t get the ethics behind or the point in being a librarian.

Last night we were discussing working the reference desk and having a patron come up and ask for assistance in researching a medical issue such as diabetes or weight loss. (A pet peeve I have with this class is the idiot professor’s assumption that we are all going to be working in public libraries. *sigh*) A student piped up that she would first advise the patron to go to a doctor. I assumed the professor would inform her that it’s none of her damn business to go around telling people to go to a doctor. Imagine my surprise when she didn’t. I put in my two cent’s worth, which led to an epic debate.

Why do I have a problem with this?

Libraries are an essential element in democracies. If we as a populace are expected to actively participate in our governance and to keep an eye on our government, we must be informed. A library is a place where people can self-educate. They can fact-check. It’s largely about not believing everything you are told and investigating it yourself.

So a patron shows up to do just that and your immediate response is to tell them to go to some “authority” the culture has deemed appropriate and to just automatically trust them? See the problem here?

People are not complete idiots. They are aware doctors/lawyers/other authorities exist. If they are coming to the library to conduct their own research, there has got to be a reason.

Your job as a librarian is not to assume your patrons are idiots.
Your job as a librarian is not to reinforce the system.
Your job as a librarian is not to believe you can read people’s minds.

Your job as a librarian is to assist people in educating themselves.
Your job as a librarian is to help maintain (or, hell, produce) a questioning, educated public.

Librarianship is about being radical; it is not about reinforcing the norm.

The fact that my classmates simply do not get this core essence of librarianship makes me envision a Fahrenheit 451 type future where instead of firemen burning houses down, librarians only provide government-approved information and report questioners to The Man.

  1. April 3, 2009 at 6:01 am

    This is where library work parts from the code of the bookseller…

    Your job as a bookseller is always to assume your customers are idiots. Because, more often than not, they will be.
    Your job as a bookseller is to kowtow to the system. Capitalism owns you, little man.
    Your job as a bookseller is to read people’s minds and recognise the book they want from a combination of facial expression, style of dress and reference an episode of Oprah from six months ago.
    Your job as a bookseller is to let people get on with reading the Twilight series, or whatever shite is currently in vogue amongst people who can’t cope with proper literature.
    Your job as a bookseller is to avoid the public wherever possible. Why do you think God invented the stockroom?

    I wish I was a librarian…

  2. bondagebetty
    April 3, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I like how the student assumed that the person who was looking for books had diabetes…maybe they were doing a research project on the subject. Also they assumed that the person, if they had diabetes, didn’t already go to the doctor…

  3. April 6, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Yunshui–Lol, I like your matching list. There’s always time for a career change, btw, if you really wish you were a librarian 😉

    Betty–I know! One really can’t ever assume to know the reason a patron is asking for information. My brother’s example always is, “Suppose I go up to the desk and ask for a book on making bombs. Yeah, maybe I want to make a bomb, but also maybe I want to check to see if the stash of materials in my kid’s closet is for making a bomb, or maybe I’m writing a paper on it, or maybe I’m just damn curious about it!”

    You really would think future/current librarians would have this common sense, but they often don’t.

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