Friday, May 13, 2011

Talking Points

They say you should have an elevator pitch ready to go about your library. I agree, and I would add to that the idea that you should also have a spiel about librarianship ready to go at all times. When people find out I'm a librarian, the first thing they ask me (after they stop laughing at the unlikeliness of that...) is what librarians do. If they knew what librarians do, they wouldn't be laughing, because librarian is the perfect profession for me!  They know (thankfully) that I don't sit around and read books all day, but they don't know what it is I do. Here are my talking points on what librarians do.

1. We find information. We know when Google and Wikipedia are a good first step in research. We also know when to skip the general internet and dive into databases. We know our own library's collection well enough to know when a catalog search is likely to find a book on the topic. We know when a subject exceeds the scope of our local collection and requires searching holdings at a different kind of library. People come to us and say "I didn't find anything online!" and are amazed when we come up with journal articles and books on exactly what they need.

2. We evaluate information. The library's collection is made up of items chosen by librarians. Librarians are trained to assess materials for accuracy, authority, currency, and relevancy. When you find an item on a library's shelves, someone looked at it and dubbed it worthy of being in the collection. (That's why collection management is so important! Awful Library Books is what happens when collections are ignored!) We've done the work for you, so the information a librarian gives you is trustworthy.

3. We teach people how to do #1 and #2 above. We teach people how to use a computer so that they can find, use, and evaluate information. We teach people how to use the library and its resources. We teach people how to weed through all the information on the Internet and find the good stuff.

4. We share information. We plan programs and events where people can get together and learn something new. We share books in discussion groups, we bring speakers to the library on a variety of topics that they might also find in the library collection.

There are lots of other activities that librarians do, but you have to keep an elevator speech short! No one wants a lecture on librarianship when they are just curious about what we do. I love the Library Day in the Life project because it lets librarians share what it is they do directly with anyone who cares to read it.

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