Thing 10: Why libraries?
August 2, 2011
For Thing 10, we are to blog about our experience in libraries so far: why we became a librarian, what our experience has been like (good and bad), etc.
I became a librarian a few years after graduating with my degree in history, but with no desire to teach history. I worked at a library as a teen and really enjoyed it. Unlike the stereotypical view of why people become librarians, I didn’t do it because I am introverted or wanted to have a quiet job, or, as someone once said to me, “it must be great to be able to read all day.” In my 16+ years of library experience, I don’t think I have ever had time to just read a novel for fun (professional reading, on a rare occasion, yes).
I chose librarianship because I like to organize and provide access to information so that people could find it easier. I like to teach people about finding what they seek in order to make good decisions about their lives, or to assist them in finding their “truth” amongst all the untruths out there. I like the idea (perhaps idealist) of a democratic option for anyone regardless of economic situation to find fun or informative things to read or options that help educate and better our society.
I think librarianship (and libraries) are one of the few uncommercialized institutions out there. Although I am very interested in marketing library services, my main focus has always been the patron and their needs. Sometimes it is difficult to take off the library hat and put yourself in the patron’s place, but it is necessary in order to make the library and the patron’s experience a success.
I have worked in the following libraries, and my experiences were all pretty positive. I know I learned something important about libraries (and life!) in each one:
- Law Library: 4 years. I worked in a county law library for a board consisting of lawyers and judges. This is where I worked while I went to library school. The staff consisted of a director, an assistant (me) and a part time worker. I learned a lot about loading CDs, doing legal research, working with a demanding clientele, and built the first website for the library. My director was a wonderful person, but on her way to retirement, so wasn’t a big force in change.
- Academic Library: 8.5 years. I left the law library for this better opportunity. Again, a small staff like the one above. I was the Reference/Media Center librarian in charge of instruction, collection development, the media center, student workers, and interlibrary loan. I learned so much here and developed a formal evaluation process for the student workers, an instruction program in conjunction with the English department, and did committee work. Working with faculty was similar to working with lawyers–very demanding and there was a need to have a lot of tact when trying to teach them (some were embarrassed that they didn’t know how to use the Internet or computers and could be a bit gruff). I really enjoyed this job, except for my director. He was having personal problems and toward the end of my time there was fairly impossible to work with. He also was not one for change too much. However, my husband was transferred for his job, so it worked out well to move on.
- Corporate Library: 3.5 years. My duties here consisted of document delivery, collection development, assisting with marketing and searching, and support functions. I was part of a team of 8 people and had a very positive experience overall. Most of the staff was very professional and all were very nice people. Some of the staff were exceptional in their jobs and I wish that I had the opportunity to more fully take advantage of their knowledge before we were transferred again in April of this year. The scientists that I worked with were terrific–they tended to be natural born seekers of information and knowledge so it was easy to teach them or assist them. They were great about giving feedback as well.
I have learned through my years as a librarian the importance of putting the patron first and truly caring about his/her needs. Helping people find their “truth”, whether for a court case, a good book to read, or the answer to a health question has been extremely satisfying. I think we as librarians are still valuable and needed as “information specialists” who can help navigate through all the stuff. Finding the truth is a quest–it is not always an easy Google click away. Our job is to open minds and possibilities to enable lifelong learning and spur imaginations.
Why libraries? Because we need a non-commercialized force for truth in the world, and librarians whose impetus is to assist with truth-seeking, no matter what the patron’s economic status.