Thursday, April 29, 2010

Prejudice and Pride (with apologies to Miss Austen...)

It seems all too common for the public and even for some of our own faculty, staff, and administrators to have a cozy set of assumptions about what folks who work in libraries do and/or the value of that work. They are frequently not very complementary; for example, I have heard people at this institution say "It must be nice to be able to read all day long", as if we sat at our desks with the latest bestsellers propped open in front of us most of the time. For me, it's especially galling when you hear it said about your staff - and when attempts to correct such misconceptions get met with a condescending smile or a look that says "OK - whatever". There is also an idea that librarians and library workers are somehow wedded to our books and will not deal with any other format (or don't really understand technology and how it will make us "obsolete").

So here's a nice little counterpoint to that idea from a director of media and technology in a school district in Minnesota, courtesy of the "Public Perception" column from American Libraries Direct:
"You can’t just be a ‘book’ librarian anymore and be considered professionally competent, even if your area of interest and expertise is literature. If you work with books and kids, you can’t do your job without understanding how to use technology in your field. Tech’s no longer a ‘nice extra’—it’s a vital set of tools, skills, and undertandings you need to master if you want to provide the services kids deserve. I would categorize librarians who fail to recognize how technology can support what they do as unprofessional and incompetent as a doctor who can’t use a CAT scan or an accountant who can’t use a spreadsheet or an engineer who doesn’t use CAD/CAM. There you have it. There are no more ‘book only’ librarians.”

Well, there probably are a number of them - but not on this campus. So there...