The Unknown Librarian Duties

In the past, I have discussed my personal experiences in an attempt to show how people view the library , the librarians, and librarianship in general. This is another “story from the crypt”.

A user comes to me and starts joking about my job. You see, I was sitting at the reference desk for a couple of hours. I got up to assist users with computer issues, but spent most of the time at the reference desk dealing with reference questions and working on music collection development. From time to time, I would stop and just observe around waiting for requests to become useful. The user I mentioned above joked that I should be careful not to get too tired and that he realized how hard my job is for my knuckles and eyes. Apparently, he wanted me to do reference standing barefooted on one leg and on broken glass!

Now, you will tell me that he was joking. Well, I can assure you that he believed every word he said. The point here is that he, not only, didn’t know what else I had done that day as part of my duties, but, most of all, he didn’t know what a librarian does. People misunderstand, or I should say don’t understand, what our job is. A few years ago, while studying and working a job outside librarianship, a co-worker asked me what I’m studying. When I answered, he responded back: “So, you learn how to take care of books?”

Our profession is not like that of a doctor, lawyer, architect, and others that people know and understand. Most people do not know what the librarian duties are. Then, we are wondering why people don’t support libraries and don’t care about the librarians. Simply put, they don’t know what we are and what we do. They enter a library taking everything they see around for granted, not knowing that it is a result of hard work by librarians. Maybe it is time to advertize our profession, to show everybody who we are, what we do to preserve humanity’s knowledge, how hard and challenging our job is, and how hard we have worked to earn our degree.

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4 thoughts on “The Unknown Librarian Duties

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Your co-worker’s comment reminded me of what my father thought my job was. Every time I’d get back home exhausted he wouldn’t understand why. Once he told me: “So what? You put some books on the shelves and make photocopies. I don’t see why you should go to college for that”. If my own father doesn’t know what I do (even after I’ve explained it to him like a hundred times) I can’t blame any other person who doesn’t, especially in Greece where a school libraries are a rare luxury.

    • Unfortunately, our job is done behind the scenes and people cannot see it. Ignorance, however, is not an excuse. As I have learned in my life, if an opinion requires knowledge, you get your facts straight and then you are entitled to an opinion, not before. Our species does not seem to understand that. The bottom line is that we need to make our profession known, but I’m not sure how just yet!

    • I also understand your frustration where this type of attitude towards librarians is concerned! In my previous library job, I was often so busy with various tasks that many days my lunch break consisted of munching on something while continuing to work. No matter, you know that you are working hard and doing your job while at work!

      • Thank you Florence. Well, it’s not about me. It’s about all of us and our profession. I have heard worse than what I described in my post. My concern is that there is no progress in getting people to understand our job and contribution. We need something drastic.

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