According to my “calendar of very important National Days”, today is National Librarians Day.
Although officially the nation is the US, any day that celebrates the work of library folk is worth celebrating if you ask me. On Tuesday, you may remember that I mentioned it was National Library Workers Day. In fact, across the pond it’s been National Libraries Week all week!
To most people, a librarian is anyone who works in a library, right? So why the division? What is the difference, and why do we need separate days? Well I guess we don’t need them, but maybe it’s kind of nice to have them? Because while some of us have been to library school and studied the intricacies of cataloging and indexing, others of us have arrived here through different routes, and therefore may not be recognized as “librarians” in the strictest sense of the word. Many of us have other degrees, postgraduate qualifications and credentials which enable us to do our jobs effectively but which aren’t traditional “librarianship” qualifications. The hierarchy of job titles, grades and status are complex, but every single person is necessary in providing the services we give. Without the breadth of experience and expertise of our staff, our library would be a very different place.
Wikipedia describes a librarian as “a person who works professionally in a library, and is usually trained in librarianship. The role of a librarian is continuously evolving to meet social and technological needs. However, a modern librarian may deal with information in many formats, including books, magazines, newspapers, audio recordings (both musical and spoken-word), video recordings, maps, manuscripts, photographs and other graphic material, bibliographic databases, web searching, and digital resources. A librarian may provide other information services, including computer provision and training, coordination of public programs, basic literacy education, assistive equipment for people with disabilities, and help with finding and using resources”. I would add to this things like stock purchasing, the production of promotional materials and guides, managing social media feeds and even blogging.
The role of the librarian is, as Wikipedia so correctly points out, always evolving. And so too are the roles of the many para-professionals and other staff who support them.
So, if you wanted to say, buy a librarian a card or a bunch of flowers for National Librarians Day, how would you recognize them?
They don’t come with labels (all our ID cards just say “Library” on them), and you won’t find a warning sign near them. They don’t wear their hair in buns, their glasses on chains or a string of pearls around their necks. Well not all the time, anyway. They won’t be found reading a book, because (contrary to some perceptions) they don’t have time for that until they get home.
In fact, they would be very hard indeed to distinguish from other library staff. If you found them in an academic department, or hosting a workshop, I guess that would set them apart, but other than that, on the surface, to the untrained eye, they camouflage themselves pretty well. And this is A VERY GOOD THING. Why? Because it goes a long way to proving that these days, all library staff are part of a large team, working together to provide the best service we can. We each have specialisms, and we each have roles, but they’re mutually supportive. We’ve broken down our physical spaces, bringing us out from disparate offices into a shared, open environment, and we’ve broken down role divisions through our restructuring process.
So do we need National Librarians Day? And does the distinction between “Library workers” and “Librarians” matter? (Does it even imply, albeit very subtly, that librarians aren’t working???)
Personally, I’d rather we all celebrated together; Library Assistants, Senior Library Assistants, Assistant Faculty Librarians, Faculty Librarians, Associate Librarians, everyone – as Library Workers. After all, that’s what we’re doing. Working. In a library. Together.
So let’s not panic about divisions, let’s celebrate our togetherness. Let’s hear it for ALL the Library Workers!
Photo by Super Furry Librarian
Image from giftypedia.com