Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Changing Image of the Librarian

Rebecca has suggested something more on the changing image of the librarian. It is always the right time for a discussion of this engaging topic, and I have been thinking about it. Watch this space for a post on this topic later in the week - it is one which inevitably preoccupies me in the grand role of Vice President of ALIA and chair of its Education Standing Committee.

Interestingly, the Berkman Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School has several references to pieces of journalism about librarians, one of which is the unfortunate NY Times article, and another article from The Chronicle of Higher Education. The first comment on the article provoked what may be a record, with 26 defensive comments by librarians - although many are not particularly defensive. (The Berkman site is really about the Recording Industry Association of America, a militant trade organisation).

There are several questions to be untangled and answered here. What are appropriate images for the 21st century librarian? More to the point, what kinds of people and skills should we have in libraries? What are the dangers - what would be the wrong way to go? How do people envisage librarians now, and why? And behind those questions there are more questions about libraries themselves.

1 comment:

TRR said...

Surely the best way to find out what most people think about librarians is to look it up on Urban Dictionary.

There's not a lot of overlap between the different popular definitions. The term librarian is associated with everything from 'one to be worshipped' to a person who has 'sought a job to define their compulsive tendencies'.

Take a look at the ratings: 38 out of 58 people agree with the definition which says that 'due to the increased popularity of alternative "information sources" (primarily the Internet), one can sense an inferiority complex within the profession as a whole'. 154 people agree that librarian means 'one to be worshipped'. That is probably illustrative of Urban Dictionary's audience a little.

One definition, which is voted highly, states that librarians 'are some of the most interesting individuals you will ever meet ... are more excited about technology then you think'.

The 'Pedia also has a section on Librarians in Popular Culture, which lists everything from literature, films and computer games featuring depictions of librarians to librarian comic strips.

According to the 'Pedia, Terry Pratchett's librarian character is so popular that 'pin badges bearing the legend Librarians rule, Ook are now available'.

In Librarians: We're Not What You Think, John Hubbard says that 'in today's world the boundary between the career of the librarian and the information technologist is disappearing'. He goes on to say that 'librarians today not only administer Web servers and dynamic databases to help manage large digital collections and thousands of electronic resources, they teach people how to use library systems'.

Hubbard tells us to go have a look at the ODP category Librarians in Society and check out the new film The Hollywood Librarian: A Look At Librarians Through Film which seems to be a doco about librarian stereotypes and the reality of librarians. There seems to be a clip on YouTube.