Friday, July 29, 2011

Help! I'm Drowning In Weeds!

I am not one of those librarians who is afraid to pull the weeds. I actually really enjoy cleaning up a dusty old collection, especially when it comes to pairing down a mostly obsolete and outdated nonfiction collection like the one that I have inherited in my new library. My problem is that there is just an overwhelming amount of weeding to be done. It’s not so much for space—there’s still a little breathing room on that element, thank goodness—but more so for content. A book about “The Personal Computer” from 1991, an opposing viewpoints type text about “The Third World” from 1988, books with countries that no longer exist, books that haven’t checked out (or been touched, from the looks of it) since they were added to the collection in the 60’s, etc. There is also the issue of the large, 20+ volume outdated reference sets that weight down my shelves. What’s a good librarian to do? Some of these books are beautiful, many of them are interesting, but most of them are no longer supporting the curriculum or development of my students. So I weed, right?

And then there’s the issue of what to do with all these discards. I don’t even want to go there yet!

What Kind Of Librarian Are You?

I feel like the need to describe our librarian roles, in great detail, is something that plagues us as librarians. Perhaps because the term librarian is closely associated with a long gone (so we hope) stereotype or perhaps it’s simply because the word librarian isn’t actually very descriptive in terms of the many things one can do as a librarian. Whatever the case, when I’m at a party and someone asks me what I do, it’s true, I’ll usually just say “I’m a librarian,” which of course conjures up many, mostly incorrect, ideas about what I actually do in my day to day life. This doesn’t really bother me though. I am bookish! I'm also a lot of other things that may or may not fit into the universal librarian stereotype.

When I first started library school, I was told to choose a specialization: Academic librarian, public librarian, children’s librarian, young adult librarian, special libraries librarian, corporate librarian, archivist, informatics librarian, etc. I had no idea what I wanted to do then and I guess, if you take a look at my career path, I still have no inclination towards putting myself in any of those distinct boxes. I eventually settled on the “official” specialization of public libraries, however, I learned as much as I could about everything else in that list. My work experience, both before and after library school, has been all over the place as well. I’ve been a public library assistant, an academic library assistant in a health sciences library, an engineering librarian for a big university, a young adult librarian for a big public library system and now, finally, a school librarian in a middle/high school. I even had a brief stint as a stock footage librarian in a film archive! I’ve sung songs at storytimes, I’ve cataloged books, I’ve created websites, done online instruction, provided classroom instruction, run gaming programs, troubleshot technology, started book clubs, directed people to the bathroom, taught computer classes, ran after someone climbing the roof, collected materials…you name it, I’ve done it. Just today, I found myself covering a ratty old bulletin board with prettier, less ratty paper. My point is not to brag about having done everything but to say just that…as a librarian, you will do everything so try to keep an open mind, be humble and learn as much as you can about as much as possible. Hmmm, quite frankly, that advice seems like it could apply to a lot more than librarianship!