Thursday, 5 April 2007

Library workforce ... and thank you Jenelle

Back to where we get library staff from. And thank you Jenelle Cleary, who took notes at the session that Indra Kurzeme and I ran at the recent Melbourne Unconference, on the future library workforce. This is maybe the major topics of discussion amongst Australian librarians at present.

For Victorians, Gillian Hallam was in town last week, speaking about the library workforce at the State Library of Victoria. It is interesting that some of the main issues she has pulled out of the joint study she is doing with CAVAL also resonated with the Unconference group that met a few weeks earlier. Some of those issues were:

- Boundaries are blurring between libraries and other occupations, like IT, with big implications for the cohesion of our profession
- There is now a wide range of possible qualifications ranging from certificates (both TAFE and graduate certificates) to postgraduate masters degrees, and they are being offered by a wide range of faculties and disciplines too.
- The impression people receive is that there are not many opportunities for employment for new graduates, and there are different perceptions of why this might be the case.
- The role of our professional association in course recognition needs to be considered.

Our session on the library workforce at the Unconference also highlighted issues about our brand as librarians. The brand does not serve to attract people - why is that? Accountants have recently been through a rebranding exercise. Maybe there is a need to create and foster a coherent and attractive image of what we do. It doesn't mean a total re-brand, just a more engaging picture.

My last post on these issues brought out several comments, and it is clearly a major issue for us. Any more comments?

1 comment:

Dana McKay said...

Before I start, let me point out that this is the perspective of an interested outsider; one of the IT specialists mentioned in your post who is blurring into the library field (though of course being in IT, I understand image problems all too well). I believe the issues librarians face with respect to image are twofold:

The first image issue (which is a source of intense annoyance to at least one librarian I know) is that librarians are repressed types who have all sorts of weird and wonderful secret pastimes; this image is borne out by CSI episodes and Lynx deodorant advertisements. While this should not be "the" image of librarians, with more people getting their information from wikipedia and google, and fewer from the library, popular culture is going to have even more of an influence than ever on how librarians are perceived.

The flipside of this, and one that has affected me personally, is that very few people have any idea what it is that librarians actually do, other than check out and shelve books. What I perceive to be the most interesting part of the job is hidden from the public eye, to a large extent, and as I've said before, "had I known then what I know now, I would have been a librarian".

Short of paying Jerry Bruckheimer to do a show on librarians that is more complimentary than the aforementioned CSI episodes, I don't know how to address these issues, but I am sure a savvy marketer could figure it out.