Sunday, July 09, 2006

"Yes lah, Librarians got degrees"

Here's a post from QQLibrarian on how three "young trendy" school girls were brought up to speed that librarians do have degrees:
What am I talking about? I’m talking about library users who talk condescendingly because they think I sit at the counter therefore I am a receptionist, and then suddenly change their attitudes when they realized I am better educated than them. I really don’t know if this happens to me more often because I look like a bimbo or what. :-)
Rest of her post, here.

She suggests librarians should display name plates while serving at the Advisory/ Information counters, to indicate the professional qualifications (like what you see on the desk of doctors etc). I think no harm trying out that idea.

I don't see the idea as showing off, or that librarians are insecure about how they are perceived. It's about ultimately serviing our customers better.

If our customers perceive that we are unable to help them (for whatever reasons -- perceived educational qualifications being one of them), then it's their loss as well as ours as well. They don't receive the assistance that otherwise could be provided to them, and librarians lose potential customers.

Granted, librarians can approach our customers as what QQLibrarian has, but it's not such an efficient way after all. Besides, judging from her blog post, the students might have thought she was a bother.

I also see QQLibrarian's post alluding to other two other ssues -- Graciousness and Humility. Specifically, on how to better inculcate in young people (like the students mentioned in the post) that one does not judge a person's 'worth' by educational qualifications alone.

I'm not saying the students should seek help from anyone for their science question. Certainly it's logical to consult a professional or someone they think is most likely to be able to assist. But to assume that "I know better than you do because I am beter educated" -- that's foolish and dangerous thinking.

It could be a science question now. But then they could very well adopt that same attitude into their adult lives.

Well, for those "three trendy young girls" that QQLibrarian assisted, it's not important if they remember the librarians. I hope they remember the lesson in humility.

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  1. Yeah what, I thought librarians just sit around sorting books once in a while... joking! :P

    Seriously, librarians are academics. The ones I know in my university are the kind that consistently write conference papers on their specialized subject matters, and win awards along the way.

  2. And then there are other library staff, like myself, who do not even sit in an area where readers would see them. We rarely ever meet readers, except when stopping by the reading room to drop off a reference book. We also have degrees and do academic work...

    On the other hand, you cannot always go around telling people that you are smarter than they are because 1) that might not always be true; 2) it is not what life is about. I really don't mind if my butcher has no idea of my academic background and thinks that I am just a customer who cannot tell the difference between two kinds of bacon.

  3. and there is a distinguished history of scholars working as librarians: Borges, Philip Larkin, Ranganathan....

    but perhaps this is why Singaporeans in the public libraries don't really take their queries to the librarian? because they don't think he or she can help them?

  4. Doctors have stethoscopes so you cannot make a mistake. Let's see .. what can we hang around the neck of librarians? Time to consult the Ask Stupid Questions committee.

  5. I was watching the movie adaptation of Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose lately (starring Sean Connery!) and an idea struck me: perhaps what librarians lack in their professional image here is the image of power. In open-stacks collections, the user can browse through himself without the librarian's help, but in closed-stacks libraries, like the one in Eco's book, the librarian is the agent through which information and knowledge is channeled to the user, just as temple mediums channel spirits to devotees, but a bit more prosaic. Users have no choice but to make use of the librarian's services. Of course, one would flout the 1st and 4th of Ranganathan's rules, but many famous libraries maintain closed stacks....

  6. Hi Brandon - no, I don't think librarians should go down that path. It's not about being indispensable because people have no choice, but being indispensable because people appreciate the value-addedness.


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