Breaking the librarian stereotype – My love/hate relationship with being a librarian

I am a Librarian.

I am a Research Librarian and sometimes I think it would be easier if my job description didn’t have the word librarian in it.

Don’t get me wrong I love my job. I love the trill of the chase, going down the research rabbit hole and coming out the other end with the right answer. I’m addicted to it. But sometimes I find myself not liking or struggling against one of the many versions of the stereotypical librarian.

Like many other professions, the Librarian has some established stereotypes, hey I work in the legal industry and I’m not quite brave enough to ask the lawyers I work with what they think of the lawyer stereotypes.

 

Lawyer or librarian are any of the stereotypes actually true today? Now this isn’t an attack against subcultures; the lovers of the 1950s or the hipster librarians. Subcultures are a very different kettle of fish (and great!). What I’m struggling with is the residual perception of what a librarian can and can’t do. We are coming up against the stereotype every time someone says:

Oh!, I didn’t know the library could do that!

Fighting against the perception that Librarians can help you with a select often very traditional set of tasks: find the right book or database, find an article. We can do a lot more and do it EVERY SINGLE DAY!

But sometimes I get a little cranky and think maybe it would be easier if I had a title like information manager, knowledge consultant etc cos hey even the industry itself has been trying to work out for the past 20 years what it actually is…..Being defeatist won’t help. So here are my ideas on how to nip the unhelpful stereotypes in the bud:

  • Become a master of the elevator pitch – Its tough but know what people are working on, what issues they are facing and ideas on how you can help them when you come across them. You don’t need to know everyone but choose some select people and read up, if you do a good job they will let people know and word of mouth will do the rest!
  • Infiltrate where your clients are meeting – Use the information and hints from the meeting to pre-empt your users needs. This really only applies to corporate, academic or specialist libraries. If your in a public library – don’t infiltrate someones house thats not cool, its a crime.
  • Ensure that your service offering is consistent across the board – if one librarian is helping with something and its useful make sure that everyone can do it, is aware of it and offers it.
  • If it comes from the library, make sure it has your name on it! Own your awesomeness.