I was helping out at a career fair recently and my instructions were clear – to tell visitors what librarians do and how they too, can join this challenging and multi-faceted profession. Being someone who kind of liked talking (especially about herself), I took my place at the booth, enthusiastically waving a fistful of brochures at startled passer-bys.
However, my enthusiasm was somewhat dampened when one of the visitors I stopped exclaimed loudly, “Oh, I know what librarians do! You guys chop and shelve books right? Need Master’s Degree meh????”.
I looked at her for some sign that she was joking but she gazed back in complete seriousness. At that point, I thought to myself, man, do I have my job at the fair cut out for me. I proceeded to explain that the profession of librarianship is not defined by “chopping” and shelving books. We are firstly information specialists, charged with acquiring high quality information and teaching people how to use it effectively and efficiently. “Huh???”, she said, pulled a brochure tentatively from my white-knuckled fist and strolled away.
I was understandably perturbed by her reaction. If she could think this, I shudder to think how many other people share her notions. It dawned on me that there is indeed a gap for us librarians to bridge, a need for us to raise awareness amongst our users of what librarians do, where and how.
So librarians out there, what do you do? Let’s share.