Monday 19 June 2017

Day 19: When is a librarian no longer a librarian?

Firstly - I lapsed from blogging from the weekend. Oops.

So, today, a colleague mentioned to me that, based on the nature of the work she was doing, she didn't really consider herself to be a librarian anymore. This was a library professional, who is currently doing project work developing knowledge resources that focus on areas of the collection related to particular historical events and organisations.

Similarly, in the recent past, I've observed collection managers and cataloguers pointedly distinguish themselves from librarians, based on the nature of their core duties. Then there are those who select, develop and manage collections of non-bookish materials, such as pictures, manuscripts, maps, oral histories, ephemera, etc. who might once have been called librarians, but now are officially curators. The more I enquired, the more vague the distinction was - though the overall impression was that the "Librarians" were the ones who worked on the reference desks and "Ask a Librarian" service, and everybody else - the curators, cataloguers, collection managers, coordinators, directors, etc - were a distinctly different calibre of professional.

And not that long ago, I went to a GLAM industry event where one of the speakers declared quite emphatically that it was about time we did away with the "librarian" title.

Even my current role, officially, I am an "Officer" - though all our official external communications to clients refers to me as a Reference Librarian. And in the work that I do, I do often feel like a librarian.

Of course, I often proclaim that it doesn't matter what you job title is, but rather the work that you do. Still, I do get a kind of joy and pride in telling people that I'm a librarian. I perform duties that facilitate access and connect people and communities with unique collections of cultural material that preserve our national memory and tell the stories of its people, places and events. And whilst I'm doing that, especially with library collections, I don't think I would ever not consider myself to be a librarian.

And I certainly wouldn't ever consider it a title to shy away from.

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