Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated -or- Librarian shushes self

Just back from my lovely three day weekend, and I have to see this in my feeds? Really people? Here I am, sitting at my desk, just trying to do my job, and the internet is already on my back. Well, maybe not my back per se, but our backs, we humble librarians (or information scientists, or information professionals, or... whatever.) Outside of lawyers, whose salaries I consider balm for the irritation their mockery might cause them, are there any professions so abused as librarians? Ok, that's whiny, and probably not true, but still, I am very, very, very tired of justifying the existence of my profession. We still exist, so, society, there's your proof. And as long as my job is here for me, in the "real world" or the digital one (you have to read the article to get that one) I'm done justifying it. Seriously. Because we can't win. People say books are obsolete, so we learn all about new technology, and try make ourselves useful in that way. Then they say we should focus on books. But libraries are getting rid of books, oh no! Then we rally against librarian stereotypes, and there's backlash for that too (check out the comments if you want to know how people really see us, it will warm the cockles of your "plump, white [and] humorless" heart.)

So you know what? I give up. I'm just trying to do my job here people. I look for ways I can be useful to my community, and then try to go in that direction. I have tattoos, not to buck a stereotype, but because I want them. In fact, I got one in college, before I even thought of becoming a librarian, so there! I'm not so sure about this whole 'any press is good press' idea anymore, and I'm wondering if we should all just shut the frak up. Seriously. Stop giving interviews, stop writing fluff articles for the general press. Because no matter what we say, they're gonna pick on us. We can't win this one with words. You know how we can win? By just continuing to be useful. By assessing our communities and being what they need us to be, not what the press wants us to be. I know there are times when we need the press, like to rally support for libraries in need, but otherwise let's just lay low and be helpful. After all, we're not the only industry struggling with obsolescence, right? Maybe they're just trying to create a diversion...

(Oh, and as the assertion in the original article that all the content in paid databases will be available for free in a few years, I snickered at that. Better not tell Elsevier!)

3 comments:

De Campo said...

I don’t know what I would do if libraries went bookless. How would I cope without being able to move Rand out of the Philosophy section and into the Fiction and Literature section?

The horror.

Andy W said...

Everytime people bring up the demise of librarians and the profession, I usually smile and say, "Oh, ok. Well, while you're talking about that, I'm going to be over here doing something AWESOME. Because that's what I get to do all damn day." (Ok, not every day, but pretty close.)

The "library science is a dead end" idea has been dull since it was introduced ten years ago. It is worse than beating a dead horse. And library stereotypes are up there with high school stereotypes (dumb jocks, socially awkward nerds, and weird art kids, etc.) for their relentless nature to hang on. So what? Unless they are going to cut funding because of "shushing" (which barely happens in my library as it is), then let them say we speak in prose and sit at home at night with knitting and cats.

Whatever.

I'll be in the FUTURE if someone needs me.

val said...

Brendan, Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead are certainly fiction, but they're damn good fiction. We don't have either of them at my library by the way, so you'd be SOL on your mission here. :P

Andy, I feel exactly the same way. Keep telling me I'm obsolete while I keep getting paid to go to work everyday and do really cool things. Anyway, I'm awfully busy for someone with a supposedly unneeded job.

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