Monday, 21 January 2019


Ok, I admit, conversations over the last couple of months have been driving me a bit nuts! Well, lots nuts, if I'm honest!

A recent Tweet asked CILIP followers to say how long they'd been a member of the organisation, and I admit I was a bit shocked to realise I've been on the CILIP books since January 1979 - that's 40 years! How astonishing! And during that 40 years I've witnessed many changes to the profession - some good, some not so good. If you're really that interested you can read about my journey on an earlier blogpost

So, the realisation of the length of time I'd been in the profession, and some conscious changes in the workplace, along with some impromptu conversations led me to throw a bit of a wobbly!

I don't know about you, but over the years I've been aware of a myriad of job titles associated with librarians. Here are just a few examples:

  • Librarian
  • Assistant Librarian
  • Senior Assistant Librarian
  • Library Assistant
  • Subject Librarian
  • Information Librarian
  • Liaison Librarian
  • Faculty Librarian
  • Academic Librarian
  • Repository Librarian
  • Systems Librarian

And then there are other roles that don't include the term "librarian", like:

  • Resource Centre Manager
  • Library Director
  • Team Manager
  • Information Assistant
  • Information Professional
  • Knowledge Worker/Manager
  • Metadata Specialist

Oh, and not forgetting Cataloguers!

Now, what my recent conversations and discoveries have revealed is that if we don't have the word "Librarian" in our job title then other people do not consider us to be librarians. Hmmmm ...

Part of the role of a cataloguer is also to classify resources. The classification scheme I'm most familiar with is DDC (although I've certainly used UDC, LC, NLM and BLISS) which is an hierarchical scheme where the top-level topic is sub-divided into more specific topics. I'm probably not explaining this very well, but then since you, my readers, are likely to be cataloguers, I don't really need to explain!!!

Anyway, the point is that to exclude a group of people from the top-level description "librarian" because they do not include the word in their job title is to misunderstand the range and breadth of knowledge, skills and experience that comes with the job. Exclusions from the "club" can also lead to alienation, disenfranchisement and strained relationships. 

You might argue that the term "librarian" is a little out-dated, but in my experience this is still a term that is widely applied and understood by people outside the profession. That people within the profession are hazy about whether or not someone qualifies to be labelled (for that is what the term is, a label) as a librarian is a bit worrying.

I have in my head a hierarchy which begins with Librarian, and then subdivides into all those terms I've mentioned above. This, of course, might not suit, and might indeed upset those people who would not think of themselves as librarians, but I myself take umbrage at not being considered by others to be a librarian first and a specialist librarian second. 

For my part, I  consider myself a librarian, albeit a librarian with a specific set of skills honed over a long career. I joined the librarianship profession for many reasons, not least because I saw it as my way of helping people, of sharing with people, and an opportunity to carry on learning with people. The fact that I went down the cataloguing route makes me no less a librarian than any other person in the profession. I am proud to call myself a cataloguer and I am proud that alongside my specialism I have continued to develop my "readers advisory"/"reference interview" skills (20th century terms!), and my UX skills (21st century terms!), and have embraced the technology that comes with all areas of our work.

So the next time you meet new folk and they ask you what you do (when really what they want to ask is "Who are you?" "What makes you tick?") will you be a librarian or a cataloguer? 

I do hope in explaining how I see myself in the profession that I haven't offended anyone along the way!

No comments:

Post a Comment