Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thread 4: Communities

By the end of this thread, we've been called on the tendency to divide ourselves up by library type. It's a familiar practice. I work in an academic library. It gives me the impression that somehow what we do there is much, much different than what, say, school media libraries do or what public libraries do. That's when Lankes brings it back around to the discussion of librarians and mission: it isn't about the library, but the librarian. What we do is make ourselves, wherever we are, indispensable (2011).

Let's rephrase then. How can I make myself indispensable in the context of the academic library in which I work, within and maybe pushing beyond the limitations of what my current (non-librarian) position allows? It's an interesting question, and very exciting to contemplate. A lot of my day-to-day work centers around course reserve management, the requesting end of document delivery, fielding general questions about the library and services, student management and stack maintenance. I sort of feel indispensable with some of this work in that someone has to do it, but for the most part, not so much. It's pretty behind-the-scenes, almost clerical kind of work. Is there a way even we could render ourselves visible at an individual level?

For example, in my joint departments we have people of varying educational levels and backgrounds who all do essentially the same tasks within their departments, minus a few specialized tasks here and there. What the community may not really know is that each of us has developed a fair amount of expertise in subjects of personal interest. One makes a point of keeping up to date on and collecting modern art and art literature. Another is building up a core of knowledge around human rights issues and immigration in particular. Yet another has an encyclopedic knowledge of plants and local plant nurseries. This is all in-house knowledge; some of it is known to certain communities of faculty and students. Why shouldn't it be more accessible to the community at large?

Lankes describes a public library in which the teen members wanted to know the librarians better through blogs so that they knew they could trust them as credible sources of information on teen literature (2011, p. 85). I don't know that blogging is for all of us, but surely greater visibility of us as individuals actively pursuing knowledge for our own pursuits could lend some authority to our voices when we begin explaining to faculty the particulars of fair use. I agree that librarians must jump into the conversations and make their value known, but I'm not content to have it stop there. I'd like to see this philosophy carried down to the next level of service providers who make it possible for the librarians to go out and do what they do. I want us to join the conversation, too.

Lankes, R. David. (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship (83-115). Cambridge: MIT Press.

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