Okay, yes, I am naming this blog post after the hilarious tumblr page Librarian Problems. If you have not seen it yet you absolutely must check it out and I promise you will not be able to tear yourself away! Or, if you have never worked in a library, you won’t get it at all, and that’s just too bad for you.
As you can see, librarians do have a lot of problems, and it’s fun to make silly gifs about them, but one of our more serious problems is The Librarian Image. And this is also widely talked about on the interwebs. Find some great posts about it here and here (guess why this is my Lego-fanatic husband’s favorite one). There is even a Librarian Wardrobe tumblr page to combat our stereotypes and show regular librarians and what they wear.
Any time I introduce myself and my profession in a social setting people ALWAYS* say one of two things (likely both). “You need a Master’s Degree to do that?” or “What do you do all day?” Now, both of these questions are slightly offensive and I don’t think it’s just me. Do you go around asking Investment Bankers what they do all day? Because I would honestly really like to know that. But of course not, because the answer is “important business-y stuff” that no one questions. I understand that people are genuinely curious and want to know these things but every time I hear these questions I cringe a little inside because it conveys the message that the person I am talking to does not perceive my chosen profession, my passion, to have value.
I have been a professional librarian for a year and a half and it has been about five years since I decided to become a librarian, so you’d think in all that time I would have figured out the exact, perfect, pithy response when someone asks me these questions. I mean, it’s not like I never see them coming, right!? But alas, no such luck. Every time I am asked what a librarian does or why on earth I want to be a librarian, I feel like a bumbling fool as I try to explain myself. And this, children, is not a good thing. I need to stand up for our profession! If even I, a librarian, can’t explain it to people, why would our communities ever see the value in their libraries? And this is what advocacy is all about and why I need to be better at it.
Okay, so how’s this for a practice round?
“You need a Master’s degree for that?”
“Yes, all librarians have Master’s degrees but not everyone who works in a library is a librarian. My education has given me strong knowledge in early literacy and childhood development, research and reference skills, community outreach and partnerships, grant writing, new technologies, and management. I use the things I learned while earning my degree in library science every single day.”
“What do you do all day?”
“One of the things I love about my job is that everyday is different! I help people access and find information, I recommend books, help children with homework, select new books to purchase, and put on storytimes that teach early literacy skills for little ones and programs that give teens a safe place after school. I visit schools and read to children, I plan a Summer Reading Program every year to keep kids reading through the summer to fight learning loss. I talk about great books with middle school students to encourage them to read for fun. I do a wide variety of things every day and I love my job!”
*Unless I am talking to someone after my own heart, and these people generally say, “That sounds awesome! I wish I had your job!” Thank goodness for people in this category!