Becoming a Librarian, some more thoughts

My most recent post was some advice for people who are thinking about going into libraries as a career. I was really delighted by the comments that people left on that post and further discussion that it sparked on Twitter. There were some excellent points made that I’d like to explore a bit further.

Customer service was a point that came up a lot:

Secondly, it’s a customer service profession. Even the ‘back room’ roles like cataloguing are customer service roles. It’s about connecting people with information, people, ideas… And that underpins everything we do. – katiedavis

I have been very pleased to read in the comments an importance being placed on customer service, both as a library user and as (hopefully) a future librarian. I would like our cultural institutions, in general, to be seen as approachable by any member of the public, and I think that an emphasis on customer service is an ideal approach. – Kelly

I’m really happy to see comments like this. I worked in very customer service oriented industries before going into libraries (training for retail and call centre staff) and it’s something which makes all the difference to me. I have been nonplussed by some of the ‘service’ I have seen at various libraries where the staff treat clients like an inconvenience or talk down to them. Just because we’re generally not providing a paid service, doesn’t mean we should skimp on customer service.

All New Librarian Action Figure
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by blg3

Another point raised was about community connections. This goes to the heart of the work that I’m doing and where I’d like to see libraries headed:

I love that the library is a community space, that we are the place people can go when no one else will help them – Julia de Ruiter

I love working libraries mainly for the interaction and knowing I can help the customers out with most of their enquiries or direct them to the right answer. – pyloncoltrait

I really believe that libraries can bring together people with different knowledge and interests and help them to share them effectively. In my job I’m looking at ways of facilitating community knowledge online and many libraries are taking it in lots of other cool directions. This can include makerspaces, workshops, craft groups or the many many other means that we are connecting people. It’s happening in academic and special libraries too where librarians are often the people who know where to go for infomation in people’s heads, not just in books and organise events that bring technical and academic communities together.

The last point I want to make is about continuous learning. Don’t be a librarian if you don’t like learning new things and upskilling on the go, it’s not a great profession for resting on your laurels.

I like finding out about new things no matter what they are. – Petra Dumbell

Adaptability and flexibility are key. – jamesmcgoran

Definitely agree that keeping up to date is an important part of our job. After all, we encourage our patrons to be lifelong learners, so why shouldn’t we practice what we preach? – Andrew Spencer

There have been some amazing librarians who have recently retired in WA; Kerry Smith and Carol Newton Smith. Both of them were learning and engaging with new things even as they were heading into retirement. That’s admirable and something I hope to emulate.

Our roles have changed greatly and the changes are happening more quickly now than ever. It’s often necessary for librarians to ‘unlearn’ what they know – yaketty

I think in many ways I was using tech learning in my last blog post as a metaphor for continuous learning. It can be a good way of quickly identifying people who do not wish to learn new skills, as tech knowledge is currently viewed by many as firmly in the too hard basket.

As I commented to @flexnib on Twitter, we have enough people in the profession who are fighting change. We don’t need more coming in!

So it looks like there is a fair bit of agreement that librarianship should be a learning profession where we need to keep updating our skills. My next question is how we can help our less enthusiastic colleagues to increase their skills? Do you have any tips to share on how to do this, or is it a lost cause?

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2 thoughts on “Becoming a Librarian, some more thoughts

  1. Engaging the less enthused … I think what we are doing at our library is a good place to start – the INTH sessions are non-threatening and offer good basic information. Do you think perhaps that there is room to perhaps build a follow up program where staff are further challenged and perhaps have to do some follow up research?

    One idea that I’m personally not that excited by but will float for discussion- registration with a requirement that Librarians do continuous improvement (like the nursing profession perhaps).

    (Here comes the part where I sound like Maggie Thatcher) It seems to me that there are some people who are quite content to allow their workplace to foot the bill for all their further development and believe that the only good PD is paid PD – in this economic climate (I’m only speaking for working in Government) it’s silly to have that expectation – it will only lead to disappointment. If your workplace won’t fund your further development then it is up to you to either fund it yourself (if you can) or find a more supportive employer. That said, 23 Mobile things, the Hyperlinked Library Mooc and the New Librarianship Masterclass are free and available on the web to do in a self paced learning format.

    Consider my thoughts provoked!

  2. Pingback: Veille hebdomadaire – 07.07.13 | Biblio Kams

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