Walter was my Law for Librarians lecturer when I was ccompleting my library graduate diploma. Amongst teaching our class law reports, Hansards and Statutes, and the Copyright Act, he drummed into us that we were professionals. If we were providing information we had to be careful what we provided as we were professionally liable for the content.
It is probably one of the few things from library school I have remembered and is still relevant to me today. I am a professional and proud of it.
It’s also why I get slightly peeved when as a librarian, I’m not perceived in this fashion. I know there is a perception that all I do is sit around all day and read books, which is patently untrue (that’s what I do all day at home, when I’m not kid-wrangling, cooking, blogging, tweeting, doing laundry…).
I remember a patron from my public library days, who told me he wanted to become a librarian and was crestfallen because he did not have the relevant qualifications.”But I have a Masters in Mathematics!” he cried. I’m not disputing that there are some extremely capable and experienced staff working in libraries who are not qualified librarians. But this guy was labouring under the impression that there was not really much to my job. Plus he was a moron.
I can classify, catalogue and categorise both print and online material. I can research and provide authoritative information to my users. I have structured and built websites, and tested them using usability testing and card-sorting. I have conducted classes in information literacy to library staff across Victoria and colleagues at work. I keep abreast of trends on librarianship, usability and web development and am a strong believer in continuous professional depevelopment and lifelong learning.
I will assist in helping users with their computer problems, but I am not here to print or photocopy your speech or report. I will gladly look up a reference in a database for you, but not if you thrust a paper under my nose while I’m busy tapping at my keyboard assisting someone else with an enquiry. I will record my interactions with my users, but most definitely not classify them as ‘reference’ enquiries just to bump up statistics.
Why? Because I’m a professional, dammit.
This post is dedicated to the professionals with whom I studied at the University of Ballarat, and Walter my lecturer.