Monday, July 22, 2013

It takes a village...to run a library

I was prompted to write this after seeing some twitter discussion in the last few days about the role of non-librarians in libraries and reading @librarianhoi's Thinking about the shambrians.

My view is (disclaimer: I work in an academic library and don't claim any inside knowledge of other library sectors) that running a large library is a complicated undertaking. In my library we have a significant number of librarians, library technicians, library assistants and some other staff who are none of those. They are IT, communication, education, administration or other professionals. They make a great contribution to the library, not despite the fact that they are not librarians but because they are competent professionals in their own field. The longer they work in the library and the more knowledge they gather about the peculiarities of the library world, the better they are at their jobs in the library.

Let me put this another way. If you were a librarian working as the only librarian in a particular company then as you learn about the company you get better at your librarian job. Why shouldn't this apply to other professionals working in our backyard. It does.

I remember when the world wide web was new and shiny and librarians turned their hand to web mastery because there was no one else to do it. Today we hire people to do those jobs and focus on our own knitting. That is because we no longer look for a willing amateur (librarian) but look for a professional in an area of expertise not our own.

We should look at all the roles in our library and ask which one's require a librarian and which would better filled by a competent professional from another field. There is no need to be precious about our role as library professionals. It takes a village to run a library.

4 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more. I've had such good experiences working with shambrarians since I started in libraries and I think it makes sense to diversify libraries to meet the new challenges we face.

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    1. Exactly. Teams with diversity are always stronger.

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  2. One of my work colleagues in my library is a shambrarian- a web developer who has done so much with our web applications for our organisation. He has provided a much needed skillset which complements and enhances our own service delivery. However, I do think librarians do need to enhance their own skillset, and embrace other non-librarian skills in order to remain relevant. These skills may be technological, but may also include project management and marketing and training.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Steph. I would disagree with you to some extent. Sometimes you need other skills to do your job as a librarian, and you mention a couple, but if being a librarian isn't the primary part of your job then does your job really need a librarian? I do agree that a librarian has to have technical smarts in their toolkit, but that is the nature of librarianship. When we need a real programmer then we know what we are doing when we call them in!

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