Boot Camp

So…you’re a librarian, eh? What does that mean, exactly?

After a volunteer organization meeting on Tuesday, I was the happy recipient of graduation congratulations and good wishes for my hopeful-but-yet–to-be-fully-solidified job prospect. I was also confronted with a question that I was ridiculously unprepared for: “So, what do librarians do now?”

This is Library Boot Camp stuff, right? Lesson 1: Have your Elevator Speech Ready. My problem is that my elevator speech has become too focused on defining myself to other librarians and not focused enough on my community. I can tell you that I am a New Librarian, a connected librarian, a maker librarian, a passionate advocate for equity of access and transliteracy education, and an unquiet librarian. I can tell you that I think librarians should focus on community in everything we do, and that I think we should call libraries Civic Spaces and call the people who use our libraries (in person or remotely) Members and not Patrons or Customers or Users. I can tell you that I “totally heart” the work of Steven Krashen, and that I think that the RDA Toolkit is Awesome Sauce. When I think of what I am going to do as a teacher librarian (or school media specialist, if you prefer), I feel a firm conviction that I am going to change the world by empowering students to be literate seekers of information.

Did any of that come out on Tuesday in my answer? Nope. I feebly explained I was going to be a school librarian because I wanted to work with students, then I fielded a lot of questions focused on how on earth I would try to keep those students quiet while they were in the library. I am hoping they won’t be quiet, I explained. I am hoping they will come to investigate, to learn, to collaborate. I got a few kind smiles (the kind people give to someone who is clearly delusional).

So I did what I imagine any librarian with a foundation in English Literature would do next–I went for alliteration:

Think Loud, think Lifelong Learning, think Literacy, think Love of reading, Love of technology and Love of people.

It’s OK if you are cringing a little as you read that mini-manifesto. I cringed as I heard myself saying it at the time. Thinking about it on the way home the  only “L” word I could think of was “lame.” How can I expect others to understand what librarians do if I can’t articulate it myself?

So, self-assigned post-graduation task number one: Develop an elevator speech that articulates my passion for libraries, literacy, and learning without using insider jargon and without resorting to alliteration any more than completely necessary.

And, for those fellow librarians of all kinds out there, how do you tell people about what you do in that kind of situation? People who are interested and looking for a real answer, but not looking for a lengthy conversation. I’d love your input, your thoughts, and your stories about how you answer the question, “So, what do librarians do now?”


2 replies »

  1. Kate! Love the post and the thoughts behind it. I am a librarian each and every day in my job, but I’m a corporate librarian managing a digital library. I am a knowledge manager and content strategist. I curate content to positively impact the business and the bottom line, design input/output classification systems to track and publish content, instruct people how to use these systems, publish content, make taxonomy recommendations, and generally contribute my librarian-ness to every project. People LOVE that I’m on the team, and they seem to understand what librarians can do more than some of my librarian colleagues who wonder when I will come back to the profession. Hint: I’m here. I’m the future of many librarian jobs. I think I define what I do by doing it, not by talking about it. And this suits me just fine because I’m an action-oriented person (who has abstained by the future of libraries blah blah conversations quite well over the past year or so). So Kate, I think people will very quickly know what a librarian does by being in awe of everything you do for your community!