Friday, February 03, 2012

If you want to work in libraries...

Ned Potter, a UK librarian who blogs at the wikiman, has put together a slideshow of ten critical things to know if you want to work in libraries, saying "the Information Profession is generally misunderstood; this is an effort to set the record straight." The presentation itself is a couple of years old, but was cited in a recent article in the Guardian on "What it Takes to be a 21th Century Librarian".

None of them will come as a surprise to folks who are currently working in libraries, but there are some good reminders in there: it's not all about books, but it is all about people and technology. On a tough day, it's important to remember that you have to be ready to fight; advocacy is an ongoing process. And this one -- you have to be ready to change -- is maybe the single most important piece of advice I'd give someone to entering the profession.

Looking back on the motley crew that made up my library tech program, there were a lot of people there because they just plain loved books. I think many of us became interested in the program for that very reason. We liked the idea that we could find a job that would pay us to hang out with books all day. (Books, not people! Not technology!)  But as we learned more about the world of libraries, most of us came to understand that books were not the point. Technology was the point. Information was the point. Teaching was the point. Literacy was the point. And those things were a million times more interesting and engaging that dusty old (or even fresh from the publisher) books on a shelf.

There were people in my class who really weren't prepared for how much technology would be involved and struggled to see how many of the assignments were relevant. Don't get me wrong, there were a few duds among our classes and projects (there are in any program), but overall, I think we were remarkably well prepared for what the working world of libraries would be like.

One of my instructors, Darlene Taylor, said something I've never forgotten and often repeated: Working in libraries is like getting on a treadmill, and just when you start to think, "this is okay, I can keep this pace up", it gets faster. The change never stops, and if you want to be good at your job - and I'd argue, if you want to enjoy your job - you just have to adapt.

When I started my program in 2001, I  had no idea where I would wind up. These days I'm not even working in a library, but it was skills I sharpened and developed, and relationships I made while in the library trenches that brought me to where I am right now.

So, if I could add one thing to Ned's list of things you should know if you want to work in libraries, it's this: be open to where your library career takes you - you never know where that might be.

What would you add to the list?


Blogger tamarack said...

Agreed! Just last week I toured a group of first year library technician students around my workplace. My imperative words for them: "It is no longer acceptable to not be technologically literate."

I have met far too many technicians and librarians who are recent graduates and current students who think they can wave their hands and make self-disparaging comments about their computer illiteracy. This is not okay. Computer literacy is now a basic literacy, and if you are afraid of technology then you are no good to your patrons.

You do not have to hold a degree is computer science to work in libraries, but you do need to have solid troubleshooting skills and an willingness to learn new technologies. If you really love libraries you will facilitate their continued relevance -- and you can't do that if you are shying away from technological change.

10:14 AM  

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