Saturday, 1 October 2011

Thing 20: The Library Routes Project

There's so much more to us than being stern custodians!

So having already blogged about my journey into librarianship in Thing 10, I took Laura's advice in this week's Thing 20 post, and decided to browse the Library Routes wiki and see how my experiences compared to other people's. The one thing that struck me most was that several people echo my own sentiments in Thing 10; namely, that the reason they didn't start off as a librarian was because beyond the common perception of the public librarian, they had no concept of librarianship in any other setting - academic perhaps after university, but certainly not in a commercial setting.

It's the one thing that I find pretty sad about our profession to be honest - that in this day and age, we still can't seem to escape from the crusty old stereotype of the strict, reprimanding and boring public librarian who shhhshes you if you so much as turn a page noisily. And the reason I find this so pathetic is that most of the people who still retain that stereotype have clearly never entered their local library in the last decade, because if they have, they would realise that most libraries are now a world away from even the library of my own childhood. When I go into my local library (which I do, regularly - I'd be lost without it and cannot understand why, if you like reading, you would rather pay money for a supply of books you will never read again, when you could just borrow them. Oh and PLEASE don't mention the Kindle to me - really, this will never be the forum for me to articulate my utter loathing of this and any similar device. So just leave it, okay. You will not win this one!)

ANYWAY - as I was saying before I interrupted myself, when I go into my local library now, the one thing that has struck me over the last few years is how they are far more than just a place to go to borrow books - there's obviously CDs and DVDs, which is nothing new nowadays, but there is access to the internet, there's amazing resources for children - lovely soft play areas for them to snuggle down in cushions and read or be read to; there's also an array of classes for babies of four months and upwards....there's even a group for teenagers focusing on ghost stories at the moment - I imagine, in a bid to make reading that bit more 'cool'...But my point is, the stern dictatorian no longer exists - or at least not as much anyway. Libraries are no longer deadly silent because there is so much going on. Okay, admittedly you shouldn't have your phone on loud and start having a conversation - come on, there has to be some limits. But the face of libraries in the public domain has changed so much in recent years that I think it's a great shame that more people don't accept this and MOVE ON. Maybe then librarianship wouldn't be a profession that young people are too embarrassed to admit they're interested in.

Even more frustrating is the perception of librarians being...well, shall we say not educated beyond GCSE level. I admit I have no idea what the criteria are for those working in public libraries, but in the academic and commercial environments, to my knowledge, a diploma or Master's degree in library an/or  information science/studies - or some hybrid of these disciplines - is necessary. There's also Chartership. Yet librarianship as a profession isnt anywhere nearly as highly regarded as a lawyer/doctor/dentist/accountant and so on. Even a teacher would probably be looked more favourably upon. (Before you start on me for that as well, I don't mean that in an insulting way to teachers! My brother is a teacher, I have nothing against them at all - all I am saying is that I am probably more qualified than a lot of teachers as I have an MSc - but sadly the general perception of us as librarians seems to be that we are lucky to have more than a few GCSEs to our names)...

Indeed this is mentioned in Woodsiegirl's Library Routes post -
 she mentions how at a conference, one speaker told the story of how a careers advisor had 'advised' against librarianship because 'you only need 5 GCSE's'! Shocking ignorance and such a waste - I have no doubt that if I had been told a lot earlier on in life that you could be a 'librarian' in a commercial law firm, I would most likely not have wasted my four years at uni studying for a modern languages degree. (well okay maybe not wasted, I loved my time at uni per se, but I didn't enjoy my studies by the end, and I have never used my linguistic skills since, so forgive me if I am a little bitter!)

One thing that has also become apparent from reading people's Library Routes posts - and indeed I think is mentioned in this week's cpd23 post, is that very often, unless people have a relative or family friend working in libraries, they don't ever start off their working lives with a dream of becoming a librarian - again because they probably just don't have any awareness of the options open to them. But fellow blogger the Running Librarian writes that he knew he would like to work in libraries from a fairly early age, and believes that this was influenced by his mother's work as a librarian. So the only consolation I have at the moment is that you never know, I might become an inspiration to my own son/daughter/niece etc and they might just consider a career in libraries thanks to me!

I realise that this has been something of an angry post, so I think I am going to leave it there, as I don't feel it's right to rant quite so much on a beautiful sunny morning in October!! However, that having been said I don't regret any of the above, because it's a topic I do feel very strongly about, and the perceptions of librarianship are something I would dearly love to see change - even within my own family at times, who, frankly by now really should know better!

Been really interesting to read through other people's experiences and how they came to be in the particular area of librarianship that they are in today, so if you haven't already done so, I definitely advise having a little browse through the Library Routes wiki posts - particularly interesting to compare your experiences with those in the same field....go on, get noseying around!

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