Learning to be a Librarian

All of these recents posts about skills needed to be a librarian and how to learn them have really got me thinking. Really, I think graduate school is important – I wouldn’t be spending money that I could certainly use elsewhere, if I didn’t think it was important. Grad school is where you learn about the nuts and bolts, the background, the history and the theories. These are important (although not always the most interesting material), but don’t always translate into the actual skills that you need to perform a librarian job day to day. How best to learn the daily life of a librarian??? Talk to one. One of the most wonderful things about online world is the ability to connect with people in a variety of ways. You can learn about the good, the bad and the ugly – and get realistic, real world visions into the world of librarians and libraries. I mean just reading all of the recent posts about skills needed to be a librarian (along with the fascinating comments) will tell you an awful lot. 

So, you want to be a librarian? Read up on it. Send an email to a librarian. Comment on the blog of a librarian. Ask questions. Get involved in the discussions going on in cyberspace. Join the newlib listserv or one of the many others. Many of the librarians who get involved in blogs and discussion lists love to talk about this stuff. Investigate graduate programs. Understand that the job market can be tough – people’s experiences trying to find work varies wildly. Try and get a sense of how many libraries are in your area and how often they hire. This may give you a sense of whether or not you will have to move to find a job. And, ultimately, take a hard look at why you want to be a librarian and then make a decision about what kind of librarian you want to be.

I don’t mean a public services, a cataloging, or an electronic resources librarian. I’m talking about becoming an engaged librarian who cares and understands that the patron is center of our universe. You will be responsible for what you learn and what type of librarian you become. Although I often get frustrated with apathetic and distant professors, I try to work around that to make the learning process far more valuable. You will have great professors, so-so professors and awful ones. There are classes and professors that require little or no work, and you can choose to fall into that rut or rise above it. I don’t always succeed at this myself – my job, my life, etc. sometimes interferes. Sometimes, I whine and complain about a class or a professor. But, I try – and I try very hard to get the most out my graduate school experience that I possibly can.

Blog posts about skills needed to become a librarian:

  • 20 points on excellent library customer service – A post by Steve at Blog about Libraries about excellent customer service in libraries. (July 6, 2006).
  • 21st Century Librarian: Further Thoughts and Your Comments – A follow-up post by Meredith Farkas at Information Wants to Be Free to her Skills for the 21st Century Librarian post. (July 20, 2006).
  • Are Librarians Customer Service Oriented? – A response by Steve from Blog about Libraries to Meredith Farkas’ “The 21st Century Librarian: Further Thoughts and Your Comments.” Steve argues that the role of the librarian is changing: “We just can’t afford to be “wait until they ask us for help” librarians anymore and we can’t assume that our worth is self evident. We know that we have a lot to offer and now it’s time to stop the handwringing and start strengthening the value that people place on us.” (July 21, 2006).
  • Internal Customer Service Skills – A post by Steve at Blog about Libraries which is a follow-up to his post entitled 20 points on excellent library customer service. Steve expounds upon his third point “Treat each other well and you will find that treating patrons nicely becomes easier.” (July 19, 2006).
  • LibraryLand Skills for Any Century – A post by Karen Schneider at Free Range Librarian containing a list of skills needed for those who work in libraries. These skills include cunning, impatience, pessimism, fiscal-horse sense, cajones [sic] and feistiness. (July 20, 2006).
  • LibraryLand Skills, Part Deux – A post by Karen Schneider at Free Range Librarian with skills needed to succeed in libraryland, including stubbornness, high grubbyness tolerance, be lucky, and know how to be in the moment. (July 20, 2006).
  • Shamelessly glomming onto meredith’s awesome post – A post by Sarah over at the Scattered Librarian in response to Meredith’s Skills for the 21st Century Librarian. Sarah writes “However, with those caveats, i stand by my initial post. We can have all the tech savvy in the world, but if we are not adding value by what we do and how we do it, and (at least) as importantly, putting forth a compelling message about the value we add to the communities we serve, it’s time to fold our tents and go home, because we don’t deserve to win the battle for eyeballs against wikigoogazon, et al.” (July 20, 2006).
  • Skills for the 21st Century Librarian – A post by Meredith Farkas from Information Wants to Be Free detailing skills needed by librarian, focusing on “big topic” items. Be sure to read all of the comments on this post.
  • Skills for Success – from Info*Nation – includes cloud tags of personal and professional competencies for librarians. Found via Infoblog.
  • Teaching New Tricks – A post from Joshua M. Neff at the goblin in the library. Joshua focuses more practically on the things he did and did not learn in graduate school. (July 18, 2006).
  • Technical Skills and the Librarian – A post about the technical skills that everyone who works in a library should possess. (July 19, 2006).

One Response to Learning to be a Librarian

  1. mara clary says:

    I am trying to find out more information about being a librarian. I am currently in college and I will be done next spring with a bachlors degree if I get past the math. I also use a wheelchair from time to time due to health problems and wonder would that keep me from being a good librarian. My legs dont work sometimes but my brain is fine. I will have a bachlors in general studies, and I have two minors in geology and art. I paint dinosaurs, and study microfossils on the side. I also have other hobbies such as sewing, reading, surfing the net, photography(a big love of mine) and learning about new methods in digital photography. I have an education that has touched on a lot of subjects and I find that it all relates from time to time. I feel I would be a great asset to a library and to its patrons. Would anyone out there be able to tell me what is it like to be a librarian. Mara Clary

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