Wednesday, January 16, 2008

So...What Kind of Librarian Are You?

I made it through the conference in Philly A-Ok. I'm not going to do an event by event account of what I did because, frankly, that would be damn boring.

Probably my favorite event, though, was the Best Books for Young Adults meeting on Sunday afternoon. Every year librarians put their heads together and come up with a list of the "best" books for teens published over the past year. What made this event so special is that a group of teens from a small high school in Colorado---not sure how they were chosen---were invited to speak their minds about the chosen titles. It was a rare chance to hear from straight from teens what they liked, what they didn't like and why. For books they only kind of liked there comments were pretty smart and incisive; they dug into ideas of depth of character, believability, theme, setting and so on. But when they were passionate about something----on either side---their emotions got the better of them. It was a lot of fun and a good reminder of why librarians do what they do.

The question that kept coming up to me, though, was what kind of librarian are you? Whether I was at a sales presentation from a database company, a panel discussion on challenges for community college libraries, or teaching writing to teens at a library, I think it was something I was asked at nearly everything I went to. I suppose it was the conference equivalent of cocktail party talk, when a stranger asks, "So, what do you do?" as an opener to conversation. Just more specified since everyone assumes you're a librarian since you're at a conference.

Part of why I was asked so frequently is probably because I don't fit neatly into any one category. At least by appearances. For starters, I'm a guy. And while some guys go into public libraries they are few and far between. Secondly, I was donning casual attire. Non-descript khakis, dress shirt and a sweater. Most corporate librarians come dressed in full suits. So while that might leave me looking like a university librarian I don't quite have that befuddled look down yet. You know---that special glassy-eyed look people get when they've spend the last twenty years of their life researching and thinking about research. Probably in time, though, I'll have it down.

Trouble is, I don't know 100% what kind of librarian I want to be. I came into library school balanced on a precipice of indecision between public and academic, and I'm still teetering on that same precipice. I like the atmosphere of a public library---it's fun, it's open and has wonderful potential to really help people. And I've really enjoyed the little bits of work I've been allowed to do with teens at my library. But I hate how tied everything is to circulation and that virtually everything gets phrased in the context of how it increases the circulation of the library. Academic libraries aren't quite that focused on circulation, but I don't look forward to having to kiss the behinds of department heads. I want to primarily help students, not faculty. But helping faculty could be a large part of the job, especially at a big school. If I work at a college I think it would have to be a small liberal arts school and not a huge university.

Ah well. In the end it will probably end up depending on where the jobs are when I graduate.


No comments: