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?


Don’t Make It Easy For Them: New Post on ACRLog

I was recently asked to guest post on one of my favorite blogs, ACRLog. I always find their stuff valuable, and I was happy to get an opportunity to contribute. Here’s a short teaser:

“I love customer service in libraries. I love improving our systems and services so they are more user-friendly. I love helping students with their research and answering their questions. But I don’t want to make things easy for students. If I did, I wouldn’t be giving them what they want: an education.”

Check out the full post at the ACRLog, and subscribe if you haven’t already.


How To Reduce Clutter In Your Library

many, many bookcarts

Image from Yuba College on Flickr

It can be difficult to drop things that we’re doing or get rid of things we’ve had for a while. Just watch the show Hoarders. We become attached to our possessions and ways of doing things. It is necessary though. We can’t do everything, collect everything, and be all things to all people. If we try, we will either become bloated or stretch ourselves too thin. We have to know our communities and tailor our services to their specific needs.

Gretchen Rubin, the author of the Happiness Project wrote a great blog post over at Zen Habits about identifying and getting rid of clutter. Much of what is in this post is relevant to libraries and the way they collect resources, implement technology, and provide services.  Here are a few of Rubin’s questions seen through the lens of libraries:

  • Would I replace it if it were broken or lost? If we’re not replacing specific library books when they get lost, did we really need them in the first place?
  • Does it seem potentially useful—but never actually gets used? A book or database or technology may have seemed like a really great idea and perfect for your community, but it isn’t getting used. Sometimes this has to do with marketing. Sometimes it was simply a bad decision. Don’t retain a resource or maintain a service because it seemed like a good idea at one point. Retain the ones that are valuable and used by your community.
  • Does it serve its purpose well? Is the collection you purchased doing what you thought it would? Is the new service you’re providing doing what you wanted? If it’s not actually doing what you intended you may need to reevaluate it.
  • Has it been replaced by a better model? Has a newer edition of a book come out? Does a technology you have been using have a new competitor that might be cheaper or  work better than what you’re currently using? If so, maybe it’s time to upgrade. Conversely, don’t get something simply because it is the newest and shiniest. Evaluate if you need it or if your version of it still fills your need.
  • Is it nicely put away in an out-of-the-way place? Perhaps you’re considering offsite storage or compact shelving for books. This could be an option for some institutions, but maybe you just have too much stuff. Could you just get rid of some of it?
  • Does this memento actually prompt any memories? Sometimes we develop emotional attachments to things. “We need to keep this specific collection because we’d feel bad if we got rid of it. Libraries are supposed to have this reference set!” If your patrons don’t use things, there is no need to keep them around.
  • Have I ever used this thing? Look at your reference statistics. When was the last time that book circulated? Never?! In seven years?! Hmmm, it might be a good candidate for Better World Books. The same thing goes for electronic resources. We have the ability to look at usage. Tie your decisions to your patrons usage. They vote with their clicks and their checkouts.

I’d bet you could start getting rid of things today, reducing clutter, and begin freeing your funds, space, and time for much more valuable ventures. What clutter do you have at your library?