The Many Hats of Librarians

Sherlock Holmes statue with deerstalker cap

Photo cc by gregwake of Flickr

One of my favorite aspects of being a librarian is the variety of the work. I am never doing the same thing day in and day out, and I’m constantly challenged in new ways. This may be because I work at a small institution with a fairly small number of librarians, so we all have to do a bit of everything. But I think in general, as librarians, we often have to wear so many different hats.

We are teachers. We experiment with new pedagogical methods and attempt to design effective, engaging curriculum. We are scholars. We publish research and present at conferences about the interesting things we’re doing. We are technologists. We experiment with and implement new tools in order to improve the delivery of services to users. We are detectives. We are able to solve mysteries and pull together a case from a mishmash of clues. We are oracles. We are able to give thorough and satisfying answers to questions that at first glance seem impossible and stultifying (it only seems like magic).

We are marketers. We to promote our resources and events and sell the idea of “the library” by being vocal advocates in our community. We are analysts. We attempt to improve our services by assessing learning and collecting data on things like reference interactions, classes taught, and usage of our resources. We are managers. We are either directors, department heads or simply leaders in meetings or committees, trying to help others reach their full potential. We are customer service representatives. We try to provide the best experience possible for our users and get them exactly what they need to ensure they come back and tell their friends. We are event planners. We plan great programs that pack the library and bring the community together.

There are plenty of other hats and they’re not all positive (copy machine repairman, janitor), but the wide variety of the work that we do is one of the things that really makes me love this job.

What hats do you wear?

Andy Burkhardt


  1. I am an after-school supervisor and homework tutor. After the students are done with the normal school day, those that are waiting for transport home come to the Library and do homework (or in the case of the Kindergartners color and run a muck). sometimes it is the worst part of my day, and others it is the best, especially when I can answer a child’s question about their homework and see the “aha!” light bulb go off in their head.

  2. I should clarify that I am a Librarian, but part of my job is “after school supervisor and homework tutor”.

  3. Peter, those “aha” moments are some of the most rewarding for me. We don’t always get to see them, but I always try to remember that we don’t always see all the good we’re doing. Maybe you’re tutoring a student and you don’t see progress while he’s there, but perhaps a week or two or six later that light goes on because of your help. Just because it’s not visible doesn’t mean we’re not helping.

  4. My title is Technology Coordinator. Basically that means I do the work of a Technical Services librarian, plus all the work of an entire IT department. That includes web developer, social media specialist, tech support, help desk, PC technician, network technician, network administrator, systems administrator, systems analyst, database administrator, and Chief Information Officer.

    I love my job!!

  5. In addition to all the ones you mention, I’m also a cheerleader and a sounding board. I spend a lot of time around midterms and finals playing cheerleader to students trying to finish up papers or projects. Just letting them know that someone believes in them or reminding them they know they can do it. (Or even faculty when they’ve got that stacks of papers to grade!!)

    I also act as sounding board or even someone to vent at for both students and faculty. With students I’m always sure to listen but not side with them. Same thing with faculty. Not going to side with them, but sometimes they just need an ear.

  6. Jimmy, that’s a lot of stuff crammed into one job. You’re kind of a one man tech guru. It’s fun you get to do so much different stuff and probably stuff that’s not even in your description.

  7. Becky, I love the idea of librarian as cheerleader and sounding board. I think I try to do some of that too. I even did it today on Twitter. Also, venting is necessary especially at this time of the semester. Librarians can often be really helpful just by listening. Listening to either problems, frustrations, or an explanation of their assignment or topic can be really beneficial for people.

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