Home > Librarianship > Librarianship Is a Service Career

Librarianship Is a Service Career

Librarianship is a service job.  I think a lot of librarians tend to forget that.  Oh sure, the general public can be annoying.  Anybody who has ever worked with them is fully aware that the more people you interact with in one day, the more likely you are to come across someone who is conniving or making insane demands.  The fact of the matter is though, most of the people who come to you for help aren’t that type of person.  They’re generally good people who will respond to the tone you’re setting.  That tone should be I’m here to help you in a non-judgmental manner not I’m suspicious of you and am going out of my way to make your life more difficult.  Unfortunately, a lot of people’s experiences with librarians are falling into the latter camp.

Part of this is because people get stuck in their ways.  “Well, the old manager never let patrons use the fax machine, so I’m not going to let patrons use the fax machine,” instead of allowing for extenuating circumstances or setting up a pilot program to allow use of the fax machine and see how it goes.

Part of it is because it can be hard to stay cheery when working with the public.  Maybe the previous person you interacted with was screaming at you for no reason.  Maybe something upsetting is going on in your personal life.  The fact of the matter is, though, that this next patron coming up to you didn’t do either of those things to you, so you should give her the best service you possibly can and not rain on her parade.

Finally, part of what I’m seeing is quite frankly librarians not wanting to actually have to work at work.  A librarian on twitter today said he would like to design his own summer reading program theme, and another librarian responded why would he bother?  It’s so much more work to make your own theme than to use the pre-packaged one.  Similarly, I’ve seen librarians visibly groaning at needing to go acquire an item from the stacks for a patron or hoping for no in-depth reference questions.  Excuse me, but helping people is our jobs.

Our job isn’t to sit behind a desk all day hoping no one will need us.  Our job isn’t to pick the easiest summer reading program.  Our job isn’t to refuse to offer a service that patrons want because we think it’s silly.  Our job is to make the library a welcoming place where patrons know there’s someone who will do his or her darnedest to make their day easier and more fun.

There’s been all this hullabaloo in the past week over whether or not librarians are “professionals.”  It’s time librarians stopped worrying about terms and started actually working at providing the excellent service our patrons need.

  1. May 6, 2010 at 2:03 pm


  2. geekylibrarian
    May 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I really want to force everyone here in my library to read this. Excellent!

  3. Andrea
    May 6, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Well said!

  4. May 7, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Thank you all for the compliments! Glad it was well-received.

  5. May 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Lovely! I fear many librarians and teachers fall into that trap – when someone’s job receives little respect from the outside, he/she can forget to respect it as well. Just as the best teachers are always making an effort to improve through WORK (updating, learning more, developing new activities) instead of lazily reciting the same old lesson, the best librarians also make an effort to be active and engaged in their profession (or whatever they’re calling it these days…) for the benefit of their patrons.

    • May 10, 2010 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks for stopping by! I really enjoyed your teachers example. Well-put!

  6. Mimi
    May 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Great job!! I work at a library in the children’s room, and my boss did not like the theme for this year’s SRP so we did make our own. We have had a lot of fun putting it all together, and it is sad when people maybe forget, or lose their passion on why they chose to have the job they have.

  1. June 8, 2010 at 8:51 am

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