Libraries, the universe and everything

My name is Emma, and I’m a bookaholic
February 14, 2011, 17:44
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have to say I’m getting a little bit fed up with people who criticise those who want to be librarians because they like books. I got into library work pretty much entirely because I liked books. I’m sorry, but if (like me back in the day) you’ve just left university, you’ve got a humanities background and you don’t want to be a teacher, libraries are quite a tempting option. The problem is not that someone has the temerity to want to work in a bookish environment because they like books, but if they are incapable of learning that the profession to which they aspire to belong goes way way beyond that.

As I’ve written previously, my first library job was in the acquisitions department of a county library service. We did handle some CDs and DVDs, but probably about 80% of the stock with which I dealt was books, and it was wanting to understand more about those books – how they were selected, purchased, distributed and used – which led me to the LIS Masters course, and to some rather different library jobs too.

These days I have a much better understanding of the whole library picture, and I completely appreciate that it goes much further than simply books. The whole librarian as conduit for information argument is one into which I buy wholeheartedly, and I totally agree that providing the right information in the most appropriate format is a really important concept for early-career LIS professionals to grasp.

You don’t often read about wannabe doctors being criticised for choosing their profession on the basis of “wanting to help people”, so I don’t really understand the need for current information professionals to crush their aspirant successors with a rather superior “well it’s not about books any more, actually”. Obviously we need to make the depth and breadth of the profession clear, but everyone’s got to start somewhere, and a passion for books seems like a pretty good place to me.

Perhaps one day, when libraries have thrown off their bookbound image people will want to be info pros “because they like computers”. And I bet you anything you like there will be info pro sages shaking their heads and intoning “it’s not all about the technology, you know”.

A confession: I don’t actually like people very much. Give me a good book/database/inanimate LIS object any day. But I do like books, and I do like research, and I do like finding stuff in an efficient way. It’s just a question of doing the very best I can with the resources I have available (personal as well as external), and it seems to work.

So what actually is my point here? Embrace your passion. Choose a career based on what you love. Do your best to avoid the things you don’t like. But leave your prejudices at the door and be prepared to re-evaluate your likes and dislikes based on what you encounter. If someone tells you something you don’t like the sound of, listen to them before dismissing what they say – they may just have a point (or they may not, but you need to evaluate it first). And books are great, whatever the librarians say 😉


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