Way back in November 2015, I wrote a post asking people what came to mind when they thought about the word “librarian.” I got lots of wonderful answers and have finally gotten my act together and created a word cloud with the results. Behold!
In my word cloud, as you might expect, the size of each word corresponds to the frequency of the replies I received. So, as we can see, the word that most people who responded to my (informal and highly unscientific) survey thought of was “helpful”. The second most common answer was “knowledgeable” followed in popularity by “dedicated,” “intelligent,” and “well-read.”
I was pleasantly surprised by so many positive attributes being associated with librarianship. Of course, I think most librarians are the greatest thing since sliced bread. And chances are that someone who’s reading my blog probably thinks the same way. However, I’m always prepared for the possibility that people have had negative experiences with librarians and don’t automatically think of positive words. This was reflected in my survey with one response each of “cranky” and “intellectually superior” (although with that last comment I can’t tell if it means “think they’re smarter than everyone else” in a bad way, or actually means “are smarter than others” in a good way.)
So, what do you think? Are you surprised at any the words or phrases that appeared in this little experiment. If you were to play this word-association game today, what adjectives would leap most readily to mind?
What do pancakes have to do with librarianship? Admit it, that’s what you’re wondering. I will do my best to explain.
I’m interested in innovative library programs that don’t have to do with books. (Don’t get me wrong, I love books. But I want to spread the message that libraries are more than buildings full of reading materials and are instead vital community spaces about exploration and learning.) In searching for exciting new non-book library services I came across an item in AmericanLibraries magazine about one library’s use of PancakeBot. PancakeBot is a 3D printer for pancakes… you design your pancake, fill the device with batter, and then it “prints” the design onto a hot griddle which cooks the pancake. Pretty cool, huh?
Yes, that’s really cool, Heather, but again… what does it have to do with librarianship?
In the American Libraries magazine article, I learned that librarian supervisor Alix Freck from the Alachua County Library District in Florida uses PancakeBot to promote culinary literacy and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) learning among youth in the community. “Participants first watch a video of the PancakeBot’s inventor describing his invention process, then explore several different stations in the room… The batter-making station requires participants to follow directions, read instructions, practice fine motor skills, and use math. The next station features laptops with PancakePainter software… in which participants design a pancake” which they then watch print on PancakeBot.
In the case of this library, PancakeBot is being used as a tool for exploration and learning. Not only is it a gateway to investigating STEAM concepts with youth but it can attract patrons to other making opportunities the library has to offer. It is a fascinating and innovative non-book technology that Alachua County Library District has deployed for community engagement and outreach. And that’s what pancakes have to do with librarianship.
If you’re wondering where this whole “Part 2” business is coming from since you don’t remember Part 1, don’t be alarmed. It all goes back to October 2015 when watching a Harry Potter movie marathon on TV inspired some librarian-ish thoughts. I posted Part 1 (check it out here) and did actually write most of Part 2 back then, as well, but I just realized today that I never finished it. So, here it is, three years later…
Now that I’m looking at the wizarding world through the lens of librarianship, I see the movies, especially Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in a new light. In The Atlas of New LibrarianshipDavid Lankes proposes that:
The mission of librarians is to improve society by facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.
Certainly, improving society by facilitating knowledge creation can be accomplished in any number of worthy professions, but I believe it’s a special province of librarians. And who do you think improves wizarding society the most by facilitating knowledge creation in the Hogwarts community? I’ll give you points for answering Professor Lupin or Harry himself. But really the most new-librarianish (yes, it’s a real word, damned spell-check) individual in the story is Hermione Granger, and not because she’s always in the library.
recognizes a need in her community: to learn Defense Against the Dark Arts in practice rather than just in theory.
knows the limits of her own knowledge and skills. As clever as she is, she can’t teach her fellow students everything they need or want to know.
identifies an appropriate resource (i.e. Harry) who can meet the need of the student community in question.
invites members of the community to gather at the Hog’s Head Tavern during a convenient time (i.e. Hogsmeade Weekend) to gauge their interest and provide a basic framework for future group meetings and conversations.
And the rest is history! Hermione is a community-focused facilitator of knowledge creation and the result of her work is the improvement of society in which Dumbledore’s Army kicks some Death Eater arse bottom. Librarians in the Muggle real world should look to Hermione as an example to emulate when trying to engage with their own communities.
My youngest brother Jared has many talents, which include rocking his graduate coursework in applied linguistics, coaching runners, making tasty curry dishes from scratch, and living life as a hard-working, motivated, responsible member of the Millennial generation.* But perhaps my favorite of his qualities is his skill at, and penchant for, drawing imaginary cityscapes in his limited spare time.
He began a new creative project over the holidays and asked me if I’d like my own house in his latest utopia. “Yes, please,” I replied, “And may I have some trees in my yard? And could it be not too close to other houses, but still within easy walking distance of the library and other community spaces?” He promised me it would be, and when he finished, this was the result:
The downward arrow points to my cozy house among a delightful copse of deciduous trees.
The rightward arrow points to the library of which I am now mistress. I adore it’s resemblance to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre while being thankful that it’s better protected from the elements. I’m delighted to see a free, public library in the midst of a city that looks so Renaissance-era European (where libraries were generally found at universities or abbeys, but not widely accessible to the general public… and almost never to women who weren’t among the clergy or nobility.)
I firmly believe that a library should be more than just an edifice full of books, and that a librarian’s mission reaches far beyond mere caretaking of printed artifacts. That being said, I’m inordinately charmed by the library building my brother drew for me. I confess that I do imagine it full of rare volumes and new publications, as well as spaces for learning, collaboration, and creativity.
As mistress of this city library, I don’t see myself remaining always within it’s physical confines, but happily venturing out into the community and becoming a person who improves society by facilitating knowledge creation with individuals, groups, and organizations. In the interest of accessibility, I may also advocate for more localized library services and spaces – perhaps a new branch? – for the citizens who live and work across the river. Mobilizing a corps of roving librarians to serve the homebound and residents of outlying areas is also part of my daydream.
What does this flight of fancy have to do with modern-day librarianship in the real world? Only that it’s important (as librarians, librarians-in-training, library staff, and/or library members) as often as we can, and by whatever means necessary, to widen our view beyond a specific library building, to see our larger community with fresh eyes, and to consider how we can serve it better. An imaginary library in an imaginary city can also be a visual reminder to share our mission with others and to discover the interests and talents that community members may wish to share enthusiastically with us.
* I often read and hear criticism of Millennials for being lazy and entitled. While I don’t doubt that this has been some people’s experience with the younger generation, I’m very fortunate that the Millennials I know are focused, productive, thoughtful, and generally society-improving people.
The quiz is perhaps more inspirational and humorous than a rigorous assessment of my leadership skills. I confess my perfect score was rather easily obtained, though I did answer honestly. I promise.
Still, it gave me a smile, and I needed the pick-me-up since I’ve been sick for about two months now. (See this post and this post for non-TMI details.) In fact, I’ve had to apply for a medical leave for the semester, which is completely wretched because that was not part of the plan! I’m rarely more cheerful than when I’m in school, learning interesting things. I’m rarely more grumpy than when I’m stuck at home recuperating.
The good news is that I finally seem to be on the mend, albeit at a snail’s pace, and am looking forward to next semester’s classes with much enthusiasm. January 19 cannot come soon enough.
In the meantime, I’m thankful for Library Lost & Found’s post for boosting my morale; perfect scores on quizzes always do. The quiz also reminded me that my mission – to become a Superhero Librarian of the Future – is not disrupted altogether, just delayed. I’ll soon be back at the iSchool, honing my leadership skills, with energy and passion!
Recently, I started following a blog called Ditch the Bun, which is written by a public Reference & Information Services librarian from Sydney, Australia. I appreciate Ditch the Bun’s strong, humorous voice and creative ideas. One idea I liked so much that I asked permission to borrow it for my own blog.
Back in October, Ditch the Bun wrote a post called What do Libraries mean to you?in which she asked her readers to share a word or words about “what libraries mean to you or words that remind you of libraries and what you can do there.” She used the submitted terms to create a beautiful word cloud. Check it out here.
My idea is similar, but I’d like to explore a different facet of the question. I think most people conjure up positive words when they ponder “libraries”. However, associations around the word “librarian” are often mixed. These associations include many favorable adjectives but some negative, old-school stereotypes as well. I’m interested in how the thoughts we connect to libraries will compare to those we attach to librarians.
So, reader, please tell me what comes to mind when you think “librarian”? What words remind you of librarians, the ways you interact with them, and the role they play in your life? Like Ditch the Bun, I’ll use your input to make a word cloud and share it in a future post… although I can’t promise mine will be as good-looking as hers.
To get us started, I’ll list the three words that pop into my mind when I think “librarian”, though it’s OK if yours are different:
You may submit as many words as you like, within reason. Please be honest, there’s no judgement here, only curiosity. I can’t wait to find out what your words are!
On Saturday night, when I wasn’t feeling well, I spent far too much time lying under a quilt, moaning piteously, and watching a Harry Potter movie marathon on ABC Family. However, this did not stop me from thinking profound librarian-ish thoughts that surely no one’s ever thought before.
So does the Hogwarts’ library have a massive card catalog? Or can librarians modify the Summoning Charm to search by author, title, etc.
1. More Whovians than you can point a sonic screwdriver at.
Seriously, I have never met so many other fans of Doctor Who in one place. I can mention the TARDIS or say “Spoilers, sweetie.” and people know what I mean.
2. “Works well with others.” In school, I hated group projects. Getting stuck with apathetic classmates meant I always did all the work. Fortunately, my library school teammates are enthusiastic and conscientious about what we’re learning and producing together.
3. Creativity abounds.
My peers include a published fiction author, numerous musicians, accomplished (and beginning) knitters, a professional photographer, some graphic designers, and other artists of all types. I’m a little envious sometimes, but mostly inspired by the presence of so many creative people.
4. It’s better to be kind than clever. (But why not be both?)
LIS students at the iSchool are bright and insanely talented. They’re also friendly, generous with their knowledge, and genuinely helpful.
5. Like Super-Grover, only better!
We may not be “faster than lightning.” We may not be able to fly (or crash-land as spectacularly as my favorite blue superhero), but iSchool library students are just as passionate about serving our communities. We’re learning the skills to make us capable facilitators of knowledge creation. And we are cute, too.
Although I’m enjoying all of my classes this semester, I must confess to some challenges when tackling the readings for IST 616 – Information Resources: Organization and Access. Librarians love acronyms. Although I am generally fond of acronyms myself, I seem to have met my match in this particular class regarding the number I’m able to absorb, understand, and remember: AACR2, DC, RDA, MODS, DACS, CCO, EAD, MARC, CDWA, VRA Core, TEI, CIDOC, ONIX, etc.
Last week, I cheekily shared my opinion that reading the textbook reminded me of this (only with no Robin Williams, so much less fun):
My mind is well and truly boggled by all these acronyms. Only the well-organized lectures of the professor, weekly visits to office hours, and class discussions with other students have kept me from losing my mind. I’m in the midst of making flash cards to aid my memory, but confess that I’ve viewed the above video clip multiple times as a stress-reduction technique.
Tonight, I’ve been skimming the AACR2 section of the RDA Toolkit in preparing for my Friday morning class. In spite of being blessedly free of acronyms, the reading is not without its challenges. My brain seems determined to treat it like semi-comprehensible legalese. What’s a girl to do when confronted with instructions like:
Base the description on the first part or, lacking this, on the earliest available part. For numbered multipart monographs, the first part is the lowest numbered part. For unnumbered multipart monographs, the first part is the part with the earliest publication, distribution, etc., date.
Why… remember her Marx Brothers, of course:
Here’s hoping I don’t have to invoke the Sanity Clause before the semester is through.
I mean this quite literally, because I’m a little bit in love with the Belmont Public Library for the birds. They are visited by a lovely variety of feathered friends, and whoever writes the captions does a nice job. I visit this site whenever I’ve had a particularly trying day. Check it out:
(Please note: all pictures and captions belong to the Belmont Public Library. I claim no ownership, I just want to share the joy.)