Saturday, May 5, 2007

Yes, I am a librarian!

Evelyn: Look, I... I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O'Connell, but I am proud of what I am.

Rick: And what is that?

Evelyn: I... am a librarian.

From The Mummy (1999) starring Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser

I get some of the most interesting reactions when I tell people that I am a librarian. The most common is “You don’t look like a librarian!”. Oops, sorry, I guess I left my bun and horn-rimmed glasses at home tonight. The second most common reaction is “Oh, so you must really like to read” or – my favourite – “It must be nice to get paid to read books all day”. The most interesting reaction was when I told one of my new neighbours that I had worked as a library manager. Her response was similar to that of someone spitting a mouthful of coffee when they've heard something shockingly funny, then she looked embarrassed and stammered: “I’ve never actually met a librarian before!”.

Well, I certainly didn’t become a librarian for the prestige or the glamour. I decided to become a librarian because I had always enjoyed being in libraries and immersing myself in the world of ideas. All that knowledge that could just be pulled off the shelf to read, and to take home – for free! I liked the idea of teaching people and helping them learn, of being the person who knew just what you were looking for and just where to find it. It was the late 80’s when I decided to do a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, so there was no Internet, not a lot of people had computers in their home (although my Dad bought me and my brother a Commodore VIC-20 way back in 1981!). When I graduated, I was sure that I would be working at the information desk in a public library in a large urban centre somewhere, getting to know the regular customers and their interests, hearing about their families, and generally becoming part of the local community.

It didn’t exactly work out that way, as cutbacks in the public sector in the early 90’s meant there were very few jobs in public libraries. So my career, like many librarians I know, has been decidedly unconventional. Although, unconventional is probably the way most librarians would describe their jobs anyway!

So, to help conquer the stereotype, here is my list of Things You Wouldn’t Think a Librarian Would Do (but I’ve actually done all of these in my library career!):

1. Interview a panel of architects for a new building design
2. Work with a team to develop a handicapped accessible high school library
3. Teach Boolean logic and other search skills to teachers
4. Work with a lawyer to develop a major systems contract
5. Implement a media management system
6. Work as a systems analyst
7. Write software training documentation
8. Manage millions of dollars in budget
9. Implement an electronic document management system
10. Write Requests for Proposal for large-scale projects
11. Test barcode readers for elementary schools, with the assistance of a group of third graders
12. Know the difference between CODABAR and CODE39 barcodes (sad, but true)
13. Investigate RFID technology
14. Oversee the implementation of Self Service Check-out technology

Seventeen years after graduating with an MLIS, I’ve had a very different career than I expected I would, in fact, it seems I’ve had about 3 careers so far. But it’s all been interesting and the qualities that attracted me to librarianship in the first place – curiosity, finding and organizing information, sharing ideas, helping people – have all been essential skills in my career.

So, like Evie Carnahan, I am proud of what I am. Yes, Mr. O'Connell, I ... am a librarian.


Frog the Dog said...

Good for you Sharon,
who'd have thought that librarians would take such flack?
although i have a confession to make:
when one of our daughters was wondering wich career path to follow, we all decided that she would enjoy being a librarian because she could (legitimately)spend all day telling people to be quiet, take great pleasure in organising everything alphabetically and she could have great fun with the date stamp.
Strangely she didnt take our advice....
Have fun,
Bimmy the Bookish

LadyPyrate said...

I loved that movie!! :)

Pastry Artist said...

A blond walks into the library and tells the librarian "I 'd like a cheeseburger, fries and a coke". The librarian says "Shh! You must be quiet". So the blond leans in and whispers "I'd like a cheeseburger, fries and a coke". I love that joke. I think your web log on being a librarian is really good. Tonight Fox airs the TV show "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader". Do you watch it? Can you answer the million dollar question? Take care.

Sharon E. Herbert. said...

I think the actual version of this joke is:

A blonde walks into a library and shouts, "CAN I HAVE A CHEESE BURGER AND FRIES?!?"

The librarian replies, "This is a library."

"Sorry," the blonde whispers in a barely audible voice, "can I have a cheese burger and fries?"

It is pretty funny...

Vic Grace said...

I am a volunteer library treasurer. In our small town just about everything is volunteer. I took on the job 4 years ago. I was not a bookkeeper and I was not familiar with bookkeeping software so it was quite a learning curve for me. We have a great little library. Good luck with your blog