Monday, March 24, 2014

Librarians—We're Not Just For Shushing Anymore

Not a BPL employee.
I assisted a patron this week who was seeking information on writing a business plan. He has an MBA and a business he's owned for years, but wants to expand. He was thrilled with the Business Plans Handbook I showed him through the Database link on BPL's homepage. He also needed to find general industry and competitor information, so I showed him the Mergent Online database. One thing led to another and soon I was pointing out Alabama Legal Forms, LearningExpress Library, and the Chilton Automotive links. He was so pleased that I couldn't help saying, "And you thought all we did was read books all day long." He laughed a little, but said, "No, I thought you put up the books." Sigh. Unfortunately, both misconceptions are common. So what DOES your modern librarian do all day?

Well, we review and select materials for inclusion in the collection based on collection development policies, current trends, and community interest. We also plan programs to support the library's mission of lifelong learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment for children, teens, and adults. We contact speakers, arrange for supplies, facilities, and refreshments, and provide information to advertise and promote the programs. Sometimes we teach classes about using computers, e-readers, how to download library materials, searching the databases and diving the Deep Web, and some of us open the world of books to children through storytime. We moderate book clubs and other in-house programs, we attend training sessions to learn about new reference sources, and we assist patrons, whether it's by finding something new to read for pleasure or by finding the perfect source for a reference paper. We attend meetings of the local neighborhood associations to find out what our community concerns are and to let them know how the library is helping to address some of those concerns. We work desks where books are checked out and returned, and we get the books where they are needed, whether that's to a holdshelf or another library.

When a patron wants an item that's not at our library, we show them how to request it—and if it's not in our system, we assist with Interlibrary Loan Requests. Some of us are active in reaching out to the schools in the area to help support learning goals, and some of us do outreach with other professionals in Birmingham to find out what we can help do to make our city a better place to live and work. Some of us are in charge of staying on top of the latest technology to make sure the information our patrons want is always available and that we are well-represented in social media outlets to let the public know all that we offer. We attend in-house, county-wide, and city training on how to offer the best services, and go to in-state and national conferences and webcasts to share the best ideas with other library professionals. On any given day, the librarians and library assistants of our city can be found doing so many different tasks that there's not room to list them all.

Librarians are experts at reader's advisory.
 Have you read Oranges and Peaches by Darwin?
One of the most important things we do is make sure that accurate information is available to everyone who needs it, regardless of race, nationality, residence, economic status, political preference, employment status, gender, or age. Everyone is welcome at the library and the librarians and library assistants are there to assist you find the information you want and need, whether it's in print or online. Did I mention the information and the help finding it is free?

And sometimes we even put up the books!

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Library

1 comment:

Terri, Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest said...

Amen! The best job description I've seen yet :)