What do librarians do?
Join LibraryThing to post.
I'm a reference librarian in an academic library, and I'm often asked what it is that I do. I find it very hard to articulate what it is that I do. I usually say "I help people find stuff," or "I'm what Google wants to be when it grows up."
What do you say when you are asked what it is that you do all day?
I'm an e-resources librarian.
"You know how you can get all that stuff from the library online? Even when you're not AT the library? Yeah, I make all that work."
I am a school librarian and licensed secondary teacher. I say, "I teach Information Literacy skills." When they ask what Information Literacy is, I refer them to my online free ebook. http://www.bibliotech.us/pdfs/InfoLit.pdf
I usually just say I'm primarily a cataloger and most people nod like they understand what that entails.
"I'm what Google wants to be when it grows up." I love that.
I call myself the Library Evangelist at work: I turn bad googlers into good Ebsco searchers.
"I'm what Google wants to be when it grows up."
I have that problem too, that as I get older, I forget more and more. But somehow that makes it rather easier to give a definitive answer, which is so comforting. But these young whipper-snappers who think they know everything ... well they make it so hard for people to decide what to believe ...
How about, "I answer questions. Do you have another question I could help you with?"
I agree with you that I find it difficult to communicate what I do to those who aren't familiar with the field. I am a Medical Librarian and most of the people I encounter are very "wowed" by that, however they still think I check books out all day to physicians. My official job title is "Reference & Document Delivery Librarian," but many folks are confused as to what that means. Basically, I tell them I answer reference questions and find/send articles for health care professionals and medical students.
Thankyou for that Bibliotech - I'm writing my dissertation on IL in Primary Schools (in England).
Do you find that teachers use the term IL at all in your neck of the woods? I haven't found a single on that's ever heard of it!
My name badge reads "Information Ninja".
I feel that more or less sums my role up.
I work in cataloguing and acquisitions. I tell people that I buy the books and then put them into the computer catalogue. But people like it best when I tell them that sometimes I put the labels on the book spines!
I work in a small town library with no official reference and rarely get asked this question except when it comes from small children to which I answer "I'm here to help you with any questions that you may have."
Pretty generic but they are pacified with this and usually ask where their favorite picture book is located.
Most of our reference questions are asked when we as staff are out "roving" in the stacks or near the computers. However the patron usually has intent with their question at this time rather than curiosity about our job.
If it's someone I'm hitting on I'll tell them I do book recommendations and research help, and mention that I buy the library's movies. It's better for conversation.
If it's not someone I'm interested in impressing then I just tell them it's basically secretarial work. And that I spend much of my time reading.
I guess I would say that "I help people find information to do their schoolwork and for their personal needs."
I wish I was still a cataloger, though. I miss it! ;-)
I'm the assistant librarian in a small technical/vocational college. I have a few set typically-librarian duties, such as copy-cataloging, weeding, general reference questions, and ordering, but most of the rest of my job is wildly varied--making ID cards for students and staff, teaching two courses, doing lectures on APA and research skills for various English courses, giving online orientations, and administering placement exams.
So when people ask me what I do, I just say that I help students and teachers with whatever they need. It's usually true.
Back when I was a cataloguer and people asked me what I did, I'd sometimes say I was a metadata engineer. No one had a clue what that meant, but they always looked really impressed.
Oh, I forgot.... among my colleagues, I say I'm not really a librarian any more. I'm the A/V Checkout Girl. I might as well be back in high school wheeling a cart with a projector around the school hallways! ;-)
I don't really mind, though. I'm at a very small campus, so I'm the logical person. And most of the profs are really appreciative of the tech help I can provide.
Currently I volunteer as a reference librarian in the research library at a local museum of history & art. Formerly when I worked in a high school library, one of my duties as media specialist was to make replacement photo IDs for students. Sometimes I would borrow a term from the book, The Librarian from the Black Lagoon ... and refer to myself as "The Laminator"!
'and refer to myself as "The Laminator"!'
Second cousin to the Terminator?
I sometimes refer to myself as "The Keeper of the Overhead Projector Bulbs." But not so much anymore, as almost all the teachers now use SmartBoards.
As a Technology Librarian I tell people that I am responsible for everything that beeps, buzzes or flashes in a library. This means I look after websites, self-checkout machines, wi-fi access, PC's, Filmreaders, Scanners, the Catalogue, etc, across the five branches we have.
I also tell them that sometimes they allow me out with the public on the reference or circulation desk.
Goldengrove...I have created an Information Literacy Scope & Sequence for our K-12 school based on American Association of School Libraries standards. Would you like me to send it to you. As to your IL question, I have heard librarians use it at conferences, meetings and such, but we tend to shorten it to just Info. Lit.
Send me your email if you want the S & S. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I tell people I order documentaries and answer questions, which ARE 70% of what I do.
I am a children and teenagers librarian... i read buy the C & T books for our library, play with kids, cut But they don't realise the hard work and stress that goes along with having to talk to 120 kids in 4 hours (yesterdays class visits), trying to spend you rbook budget and running activities on a not alot of money.
But I love it and wouldn't change to another job (well not yet).
I'm a subject librarian in a UK university. I also find this question difficult to answer because my job is so varied and saying that I select books to support courses doesn't really explain how I do this and its importance, for example. I have to admit my patience is sometimes tried when people think I just issue books (or read books!) all day.
There's an interesting project on what librarians do, set up by Bobbi L. Newman. I've written about it on my blog and there are links to the project from there: http://lib-reflections.blogspot.com/2010/08/day-in-life.html
Does the existence of a 'subject librarian' imply a ruling librarian? Perhaps a despot who orders random floggings to encourage the others? Or is it possible to be an 'object librarian'?
I once had a library director who pretty much fit that description...
How can somebody buying a book be angry? Truly these were not LTers whose day is made when purchasing a book!
Probably dealers who were afraid to miss their chance at that first edition Hemingway that was accidentally donated.
I tell people where the bathroom is. ;)
In my 29 years as a public librarian and counting, I've refereed fights in the public access computer room, dealt with complaints, tried to calm down angry patrons, cleaned up messes, answered questions, fixed printer and copier jams and refilled the paper trays, had to step in when two old men (in their 80s at least) got into a tug of war over the New York Times, listened to bizarre explanations why books weren't returned on time, listened to the story of someone's life more times than I can count, explained how to use the catalog (from card catalog to book catalog to computer catalog -- my, how times change!), teach classes in computer use, the internet, and now, social websites like Facebook, scheduled and conducted programs from concerts to lectures, updated bibliographic records, updated patron records, searched for books on reserved or claimed returns, organized book sales and budget action work/lobbying, conducted classes for teens complete with book talks, and lots of other stuff. :)
Not that I tell everyone all of this. It depends on who's asking. If it's a member of the public, I pick out what sounds librarian-like and interesting. If it's a non-librarian friend or acquaintance, I give them the whole spiel above. Most folks find it interesting, entertaining, even educational! :)
I wonder what job and what library has the most fulfilling spiel to give--the one where they help person after person, create research aids of lasting value, save a kitty from an oncoming train and never ever point to the bathroom or deal with the guy who asks for library scissors to clip his toes.
38> I doubt such a library exists. I work in a government library serving primarily gov't employees, where we do provide useful research aids and help clients all day, but we still have to tell people where the bathroom is, supply whiteboard markers to people who forgot them for their meeting, clean up the odd mess, listen to people's life stories, etc.
No kitty saving, but we do have mice.
"I clean up after freshmen"
That would probably work at most colleges. :)
"I help others find information that they are looking for and help them learn how to find that information themselves."
edit: Forgot "I fix the copiers"
Here's a T-shirt that explains what librarians do (note, I just found this on the internet and I have no financial interest in this company, nor have I ever ordered anything from them. I just think it's clever): http://www.cafepress.ca/+worship_a_librarian_tshirt,193193869
I'm a library technician so a little different to librarians task wise sometimes and sometimes not depending on where you work. Often primary schools here don't have librarians so it's all up to techs and in really povo schools with ignorant principals just a teacher aide because they don't understand what a library technician is and does and the benefits of having either a librarian or tech or both.
I tell people I stamp books. Which is rot really but when you process a book you do get to stamp the school name or branch name on it. It's the best part of the job :-)
>42 A job that leads to the professional Whack a Mole circuit? :)
I've been a public librarian for about 15 years now, having previously been a prison librarian and an academic librarian. This is the most fun, although not quite the most intellectually stimulating!
I've mostly worked in public service-type positions, and although I enjoy the technical parts of the job, I prefer to interact with people.
I love a good reference interview, and have been trained as a genealogy librarian -- although where I currently am, we're all "generalists," a concept I'm still adjusting to!
Hi, I'm the librarian at an international school in China. I'd be very interested in your info lit scope and sequence. We have one for the elementary school but we need to start working on continuing that for the secondary school.
I will email you directly, thanks.
I am a library Technician and have in my time taught internet access classes, updated bibliograpic records, undertaken original cataloguing, juggled difficult customers, updated clients records and worked the desk, archived and curated, maintained, covered and repaired texts and gone the extra mile and spent inordinate amounts of time tracking and following up requests for clients. I have learnt that being employable means being adaptable and rising to new challenges and above all remember what I aspired to when I entered the profession - to encourage a love of learning as it happens this is what I love to do Its where I want to be and Its the best profession in the world but don't tell anyone.
I manage a globally-distributed virtual assembly line for the bulk
transcription of early printed books, mostly in English, Welsh,
and Latin; provide instructions indirectly to hundreds of keyers
in India and the Philippines; and supervise more directly a small
quality-assurance team of proof-readers and editors scattered between
Ann Arbor, Chicago, California, Toronto, Oxford, and Aberystwyth,
checking their work and answering their questions. All with a view
toward producing a comprehensive searchable 2-billion-word database
of early modern English--a corpus of about 80,000 repurposable e-texts.
I think it's about the best job in the world: I get to do a
little bit of everything (inventing and fixing office
furniture and computers, Perl scripts, CSS and SGML/XML);
get to deal with all sorts of interested and interesting
people; have to know a little bit about everything
from alchemy to zoology; and get to use library skills like
creating controlled vocabularies and ripping data from MARC
records, while also getting to apply in a practical way
my otherwise useless academic training and interests in
lexicography, historical linguistics, theology, hymnology,
material culture, paleography, and medieval and
early modern language and literature. And I get to read books
from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries every day. Never a dull moment.
(I also moonlight: in my spare time, I'm the entire tech
services department of a nearby community college, which
means that everything to do with putting things into and
taking things out of the online catalogue, or the stacks,
falls to me.)
I'm a school librarian, but I'm also the computer systems operator (sysop) and web master at my school. I'm also my own tech repair department. I'm currently working on my Masters in School Library/Information Science. I do a little bit of everything. I always invite people to come in and shadow me for a day. Lots of times, they're tired inside of an hour. Further proof that coffee truly is the nectar of the Biblio Gods!
That reminds me, we drink cold coffee. You make a drink, have to go do something, come back start on something else and then remember the coffee you made.
#52 - that happened to me 3 times today.
I'm a (new this term) secondry school librarian, and I really LOVE my job!
Lucky me it's a school that really concentrates on reading and the teachers are enthusiastic, supportive and engaged.
My job includes cataloguing, buying, managing 2 assistants and 2 libraries, display, teaching library skills, running book clubs for girls and staff....
I'm going to be introducing Information Literacy lessons for the older girls, and possibly for staff.
I'm very happy - finally doing what I was born to do.
I am a jack of all trades! I work in a childrens department, and am blessed enough to do storytime for two year-olds. I help all ages...from birth to adults! You are never too young to visit the kids area, trust me, I am still a kid at heart! God Bless! ;o)
The title our library board gave me is library technology assistant. I work in technical services and handle Interlibrary loans, grossoverdues, donations, memorials, and some cataloging. I also fill in on placing orders and covering books if we are short-handed. I used to be a clerk in circulation while going to college and it seems like my 8 hour days now go faster than my 4 hours nights did back then!
I'm a technician at a school and I had a girl apologise for asking for my help. I said that it was okay and that is what I do. Her response 'You're telling me that it's in your job description to help students find the books they need.'
Yes, what do they think we're here for?
Oh 56 that's sweet, but rather sad.
Do you think she'd had a bad experience at the library? Some librarians just don't get it do they? I once worked with some people who resented that we got asked the same questions over and over - how can anyone BE a librarian if they don't want to help people? For the ones who asked, it wasn't an obvious question!
I have found that students at my community college often seemed surprised when I help them, and when I do so cheerfully! I think many of them have had bad experiences. I was out for three weeks this summer and when I came back I was told the "other lady was grumpy." (There were rotating subs, so I don't know who the grumpy one was!)
Am I alone in finding the designation 'technician' rather odd for a library specialist? I was amused by the OED definition (the one not to do with the 'sciences or mechanical arts'):
'A person knowledgeable or skilled in the technicalities of a particular field; esp. an expert in the formal or practical aspect of an art, sometimes with implications of a corresponding lack of creativity.'
Are you guys happy with this? I suppose the 'sometimes' gives your taskmasters a get-out, but ...
If you want a great take on what librarians do, read This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson. We save the world, we organize other worlds, we vent, we blog, we help, we protect, we do it all!
Speaking for myself, library technician usually refers to a person without a library degree. It's a term that replaces the old-fashioned name of clerk, which tends to sound like a paper pusher. Since we deal with computers, databases, Internet and gizmos like LCD projectors, scanners, cameras, etc. we know how to do much more than our predecessors. I have a picture in my head of Ebenezer Scrooge's office when I hear the word "clerk".
I weed old books. I order new books. I teach computer classes. I familiarize myself with all of the databases out there. I familiarize myself with our collection. Then, when the time comes, I answer people's questions on the reference desk.
"Metadata engineer." I am stealing that and using it from now on.
My badge says "Technology/Training Coordinator," but I catalog, work circ, write grants, do various tech stuff, help patrons on the computers, fix the blasted copiers (they should have a grad school course in that, really), send faxes, answer references questions, sub as ILL person, answer every bizarre question in the book, etc., etc., etc., whatever someone, patron or director, asks me to do. There's no short answer to that question, except in the minds of people who hear "You're a librarian? What a nice, quiet job that must be! Do you sit and read books all day?"
I'm always slightly annoyed with people who seem to think that all we do all day is sit around until someone comes up and asks us for a book, movie or cd... when there is SO much going on behind the scenes !
It's just like any other job really. There are budgets to make, schedules to make, meetings to attend, people to hire, people to fire.
Every library system is different. What prompted me to write today is that a woman today came in and was upset because we arrange our nonfiction by Dewey number. Her response, "That's just stupid." I told our page to refer her to Barnes & Noble if the Dewey system was such a problem for her.
I've never understood how "arranging by subject" is supposed to be easier than Dewey- isn't the point of Dewey that books on the most similar subject are together, and therefore Dewey *is* arranging by subject? Sure, there are a few oddball grey areas ("Is this a political book that goes in the 300s or an American History book that goes in the 970s?"), and of course the shelves need to have signs in plain English, but I've found that it's pretty hit or miss whether most bookstores come as close to truly arranging by subject as Dewey does. Some of them are as good as a library, but far too many of them have a tendancy to do things like put all of the world history books in alphabetical order by the author's last name. If there's a specific book you're after, that may be fine, but good luck if you want to look at everything they have on the French Revolution.
I am thinking about getting a degree to become a Librarian. I already have a degree in the Study of Medicine, but found out I hated Physician Assistant work. I want to be sure this time before I spend another $50,000. The reason I am thinking about it is because I love to read. I read about 3 or 4 books a week. I like talking about books, and I am really good on the computer. Can someone give me some ideas with this?
70> Frankly, one of the first things that I was told when I started applying to library school was that "I love to read" isn't the best reason, and if that's you're only reason, you probably won't be happy as a librarian. When working with patrons, it is helpful to be well-read and thus knowledgeable of a wide range of topics or books, but that isn't the only part of the job (and especially not if you're cataloguing for a medical library, or something like that).
I can't really say much more about it, but that's mostly because I went to library school out of a love of classification systems and an interest in preservation of information (selectively), and my love of reading was incidental. I have, however, had to put it on hold because of finances and being unsuitable for an online program (failed two semesters in a row -.- Hopefully I can re-enroll when I can afford to move to a city with an archives program).
Have to admit that I agree. I know in the larger systems, you may wind up doing one job (ie cataloging) almost exclusively all the time. Polywraping books can get old after a while. Of course then a high school librarian or one at a smaller branch pretty much does everything.
I was always told customer service strengths and maybe a bit of research love goes more towards being a librarian than just an enjoyment of reading.
> 70 Loving to read is a very good start. But do you love, love, love people. Or alternatively, do you love all the ins and outs of books. Wraping them, fixing them, getting them dropped on your hand 'cause you're not fast enough to get it out of the way in time. :)
I'd also contemplate why you didn't like PA work. Although there are a whole lot of types of librarians out there, a good percentage of them directly involve the public, and although (let's go with) 90% of the public, or employees if it's medical/law/corporate, are fine people who are polite and respectful there's also a whole group of grumpy gusses that'll give you hell every day and twice on the weekends. (Not to mention the screaming babies and the local politicians that rarely come to the library, that's the sign of a good candidate to me, if they know what the hell a library is and doesn't assume everyone gets everything on Kindle).
Also, keep in mind that like the rest of the US (if you're in the US) the job market for Librarians is pretty bad, and... if you're thinking about getting into Public Libraries it seems even worse, left and right cities and towns/counties are slashing their budgets and if there are people retiring or what have you a lot of times the positions are just not being filled. It's bleak at the moment.
Still, it's an awesome profession, if you like finding the hard answer to the question that has stumped everyone else, or getting a patron the most perfect book that they didn't even know they wanted and it becomes their favorite book ever, or digging deep into Lib. of Congress subject headings or their cataloging system, or you have a small crush on Melville Dewey (or alternatively 'Dewey' from the comic strip Unshelved).
I'm a reference academic librarian as well and like others I usually keep it simple for example saying "I help/train you to find information". Sometimes when I'm annoyed with Google I will tell them I will teach you how to go beyond google. Other times I just say I play on websites (I edit/create our webpages and also explore the every changing online resources of associated libraries that our students have access to so I can train them properly). I will sometimes go even further and say I have the best job ever and list some of the (many) things I get to do.
Cold coffee! Yep! I can relate to that! I believe in 20 + years of teacher-librarianship I suspect I have drunk in excess of 3,500 cups of stone cold coffee ( 4 per week X 40 weeks x 23 years =3,680 cups of dead Java)
Yet again I find myself at the coalface at the end of my library contract looking for work in any field that my job skills fit their description.
My heart lies with working with people! Encouraging awareness of good and bad literature aiding people to discover more about the world around them. Unfortunately Libraries are becoming passe or so it seems in my remote little corner of the world.
It is hard to remain chipper when it seems the bean counters have taken over the world and it is not enough to have an depth of understanding and knowledge about your chosen profession that you are passionate and love to share. Grumble etc., Grumble etc., Grumble......Forgive me my indulgent self pity. It is the best job ever
"Google can bring back a hundred thousand answers. A librarian can bring
you back the right one."
The Guardian (London)
I tell them my job is to make sure that kids think the library is aaaaalmost as fun as Disneyland. =D
I steal the lines from Ghost Busters and tell them that Librarians are the "Gatekeepers" and that they are the "Key Holder." Most patrons just walk away and approach someone else working in the library!
Of course this is not true, but I might try it sometime.
I am retired but I told people my public library job was like a bartender. People come to the desk/counter and tell you what they want. Sometimes with a little listening and understanding. Instead of a bottle, I reach for a book to help them (or website, CD, etc.)
I work reference in an academic library. I tell people that I help students to not only find materials and information, but I also teach them how to do it for themselves. The students who are willing anyway. I also let them know that I work on several projects at any given time, dealing with reference usage, online fulltext access issues etc. What I do not mention much, is the number of times that I fix a jammed copier, or point a student to the restroom.
There are various jobs in libraries depending on how big it is. I've worked at The British Library as well as my local main library. Apart from putting books back on shelves which most people get to do, I've worked retrieving articles, cataloguing, supplying photographs etc.
I'm an acquisitions librarian. I say that I have the greatest job, because I buy books all day! And it's not just books; in my academic library, DVDs are used heavily in classrooms, and we have a music library with CDs, DVDs, and music scores.
But I enjoyed receiving a piece of mail once addressed to "Inquisitions"! Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
^Oh, that's too funny!
I haven't been an acquisitions librarian, but in a prior job got to do collection development for several areas, including art. It was glorious! All those gorgeous books.
And I had a job where I cataloged children's books. I don't have kids but I adore children's books, so that was great fun.
I'm the director of a small rural library, so I get to do just about anything involving a library and working with the public (and a board of trustees!) It's challenging and about as far from boring as you can get. The best part is helping people find what they need and reading to and with kids.
As for 78, that should be on a t-shirt.
I'm in order administration. I order books and get them listed in the catalog, stamp them and send them to other who add descriptions and such.
I'm also a floorwalker in the adult section of the library and work at the internet desk (we have 10 pc's connected to a server with free internet & ability to copy in black&white and colour).
I do the follow-up on comics in our library.
That's about it :)
>87: "I do the follow-up on comics in our library."
You do stand-up in your library?? Or are these just people who wander in off the street?
Oh, how nice! I think we are a lovable bunch, mostly.
I am a retired school librarian and I did everything that any librarian has to do, and just about anything that (some) principals wanted me to do, because they hadn't a clue.
I'd still be working, I think, if it weren't for my last principal. He made the job impossible.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.