This week 20-26th May is Library week. I am a proud Library Technician and am in a profession i have a deep love for (don’t confuse this with a job i love, coz i hate my job, long story). I currently work for a government department library and something strange is happening. The Librarians hate being called Librarians, they want to be research officers, and they are trying to phase out the word Library from our name…Huh? They want us to get away from the image of a library and call our selves a Research Hub. Now to me people hear research hub and think, whats that? They hear Library and know what they will find. So how did it become a dirty word?
The role of a government dept library is a lot different to your neighborhood library i admit. We are here to provide legal reference books and online databases for research. Then our role is to do research for people who don’t have the skill or time to find things themselves. To me this is what a library does. Sure we don’t have fiction books. But even when i have worked in school and public libraries the main job of a librarian was research, we hired casuals to do the loans.
The title Librarian to me says smart, efficient, knowledgeable, reliable. Yet my colleagues, whether with or without a library qualification, flat out hate being called a librarian.
I believe that this stems from the fact that few of them have worked in a traditional library. Most are from legal backgrounds and are used to being shut in a room on a computer all day. They see Libraries as stuffy old places where you can’t talk, eat or laugh. You come in, find the book, and leave and try to avoid meeting anyone’s eye. This isn’t how it has to be. Our current ‘library research hub’ is a center for technology, training and meetings. We set it up around the understanding that we are a skilled workforce and we have valuable knowledge to share. Sadly they also felt that the shelves of books had to go to make room for meetings and desks. Then they wonder why no one will come in. I have tried to promote the space, i put up articles from current journals, I made book displays of boring legal texts that I’m sure they find fascinating. I have tried to make the place welcoming. Unfortunately at each turn I’m told that my efforts are not corporate enough. I even suggested a chess club at lunch times in an effort to get people in and meet the staff. I was shot down because that wasn’t the image we wanted to display. My intention was that if we get people in the door then they can see what else we can do for them. Because right now, no one is even coming in the door.
Frankly I’m sorry to say that my library has seen better days and we are all pretty sure it won’t be here much longer as the big guys decide our finding is better spent elsewhere (i would like to see them find cases without us, some lawyers cant even use google would you believe!).
This is a debate that has been going on for a while. If we have electronic resources, what do you need a physical library for? The answer is simple, you need us because we are the ones who teach you how to find that book. We tell you what is new and what is trending. We show you how to create a reference list for your university assignment and what books your friend will want to read while they recover from their broken leg. We also run classes on how to access databases, how to find ebooks and download them. We show you how to work excel and powerpoint and how to make a flyer for your fete. We are a hub of activity and knowledge. I love the scene in a movie i watched once called Se7en, Where a cop (Morgan Freeman) gets his friend to let him into this huge old library to do research at night. The security guards are all sitting around playing cards when they have an endless supply of knowledge at their hands.
“ gentlemen..gentlemen..! i never understand. all these books. a world of knowledge at your fingertips. what did you do? you play poker all night.. “
I couldn’t say it better. And you know what? I feel the same about ebooks vs print. There is a place for both in this world. I love to flick through a print book and mark pages, flick back and forward between passages, have them all lined up on my shelves. But ebooks are fast and light, perfect for traveling or keeping old favorites on hand for long ques at the doctors or for a quick read on the beach of your favorite romance novel.
Are you a library fan?