Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Image and perception (or, why we shouldn't apologise for our profession)

I swear I'll get around to writing a post about the BIALL conference (no, really, I promise!), but other things have cropped up, and have led me in other directions. And one of the issues that I've been thinking about a lot lately, particularly on the back of the conference, has been that of the public perception of librarians.

Now I know that everyone likes to talk about this a lot, with the 'oh, but no one understands us and everyone thinks we're just glasses-wearing, shushing, school-marms in tweed'. Which, arguably, is still the public perception to an extent. (Oh the joys of telling people that you're enrolling to do your masters in librarianship! The rolled eyes! the confused glances! the requests for private shushing sessions in the stacks! Laugh a minute, I can tell you) But there's another issue in this whole image malarky that really irks me. And that's that only public librarians exist. In the public eye there is only one way to be a librarian, and that is in a public library. Well, maybe university librarians at a pinch, but only the one's that sit on the reference desk, not any of the ones that work behind the scenes. And public librarians, well, I don't think they represent the profession as a whole. They do a good and valuable and important job, and one that I wouldn't do for love nor money, but they only represent one facet of a profession that has so many different aspects.

I'm curious to watch Hollywood Librarian when it gets a more general release, but I am kinda disappointed that (as far as I can tell) the only side of the industry that's being represented are public librarians. Which is not to say that public librarians aren't important, nor that it's not a good place to start changing public perceptions (where better to start than with what people already know). But just that it's a bit frustrating to realise that it'll be a long time coming before there's any sort of public recognition of the work that the many kinds of special librarians do. Corporate librarians and medical librarians and one person librarians and legal librarians and all of those myriad information professional jobs that don't come with the word 'librarian' tacked onto the end. I can't help but think that it's terribly important to not just modernise our image, but to broaden it (I didn't even know that special librarians of any kind existed until I started my masters). How are we meant to meet changing needs, and tackle emerging problems, in all disciplines and areas, when all people see us capable of is running an (admittedly very modern and progressive) public library service?

I think that changing the perception of librarians and information professionals in any way can only be a good thing (hey, it might even help get us higher wages one day!), but I think changing the perceptions of the whole of the profession can only be a good thing as well. And I think that it has to come from within. I hate that when we introduce ourselves to people (and I know we mostly do this - I frequently do, and then kick myself later) we sort of cringe and say, terribly apologetically, 'Oh, i'm a law librarian'. You can almost hear the tacit 'sorry' tacked onto the end. As if that's not a good enough response! (hey, we could be introducing ourselves as a lawyer! far more cringe-worthy I'm sure). We have all this rhetoric about being proud of what we do, and standing up for the profession, and we talk the talk amongst ourselves, but put us in front of an outsider and we apologise for ourselves every time we discuss it. And this has a knock-on effect in everything we do (you think a managing partner is going to pay attention to your department if you can't even believe in yourself? I don't think so). There is such a broad scope of information professional roles out there, and I'd like to see librarians (information professionals!) not just embracing them, but advertising them. Promoting ourselves and our skills. Letting people know that we exist, that we do a highly skilled and kick-arse job, and that they should know about us!

Now, I'm not proposing any answers here, as I don't have any to give. I don't know what to do about it. What do you all think? How do you represent the profession? Do you cringe and apologise? What do you think we should be doing to try and broaden the perceived definition of librarian?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

New blogger to the fold

I'd like to extend a very warm welcome to the UK legal library blogging scene (and gosh but isn't that a mouthful) to Jennie Law, a law librarian from Scotland! It's always wonderful to have some new faces in the community :)

We've got a whilst to go in matching the American contingent (so many blogging librarians over the water!), but give us time, we'll catch them up yet!

Monday, 18 June 2007


I had planned on posting while Hypatia was at BIALL, but seriously, how on earth do I compete with a bunny?!

I was also eaten by a combination of final assignments and the dreaded lurgy. As a result I'm a bit behind on my blogs, and have probably missed the boat on all the hot topics. :)

I did follow most of Gormangate, but I really don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said in much more eloquent terms. All I could do is read and shake my head.

My current project, however, is the article that I'm currently co-authoring, which is going to be published in the Autumn. This is both scary and exciting, as I've never written anything for publication before. It's not a terribly ground breaking topic, but we've got some tips that we'd like to share. And hopefully it's helpful to someone. It's due at the publishers next week, so this week is going to be a lot of fevered typing and huddles around computers. And lots of coffee and chocolate. I do feel a bit nervous about having a deadline that's not flexible - uni usually has plenty of flexibility for submission dates - and I'm hoping that I have the time to write at work rather than bringing it home.

I do look forward to seeing my name in print though. Hopefully this will be the first of many articles I pen.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

I meant to post the three-quarters written post that's been sitting in my drafts folder for about the last week before I left for BIALL, but I seem to have run out of time (time is something that I seem to be in seriously short supply of at the moment). I'm off to the conference in Sheffield this afternoon, and will be sans interwebs whilst I'm away, unless I should stumble upon a web cafe of some kind. (note to self: must get laptop /nods). I'll be twittering though, so keep an eye on that if you're interested.

And, in light of having a proper post of any real content, I give you a bunny. Cause I don't know about you, but my morning could totally do with some bunny schnorgling action.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


I've noticed a lot of people succumbing to Facebook and getting accounts there and I'm one of them. I joined about a week ago, added some of my friends, and then got incredibly frustrated at it.

A lot of my frustrations come from things where I can understand why they've done what they've done, but I wish they hadn't. For example, I've gone to two different universities, and lived in two different countries. My friends come from a variety of places. However, I can only be part of one regional network at a time, and I can't join the group for one of my old universities, as I need a current email address. The uni thing I can understand. The regional network bit baffles me though. Another annoying thing was that when I joined the network for my current university I was then no longer in the network for London. Annoying thing number 3 - I've got about 6 friends on there at the moment, but when I look at my profile I only see one, as he is the only one in the London Network.

I get the feeling that I'm missing something. That I just don't 'get' it. So far, no one I've asked has been able to tell me what the appeal of the site is, except to say they love it. MySpace I get, even if I don't like it (too much sound and graphics that make my eyes bleed). Ning, while I don't have an account (Yet!!) I see it's use. Same with LinkedIn. Facebook just looks boring, and not user friendly.

Is there an evangelist out there that can explain it to me?

Monday, 4 June 2007

Links links linkity links

Many apologies for the lameness of our posting - we have both been beset on all sides with many many things to do, keeping us from the blog. As some small means of recompense I present you with this, pretty much entirely un-library related, list of interesting links. I don't remember where most of these came from - they are the result of clearing out a backlog of two months worth of saved interesting links.

Imagining the Tenth Dimension: Awesome visualisation of string theory and dimensions. Makes my brain hurt a bit, but very interesting.

The Crossing: Beautiful flash game by Orsinal (actually, all of their flash games are beautiful, but this one has little deer! What is there not to like?)

blawg.com list of lawlib blogs: Loooooong list of law library blogs. If I wasn't so information overloaded already, I might even give looking at it it some thought.

Slacker: More internet radio! I don't think this is new, I just think I missed it, but as the first track it played on the Alternative station was The Decemberists, it's already won me over :)

iTunes Autorate: An autorater for iTunes that makes me wish I had a Mac. I never remember to rate tracks in iTunes, and having it auto rate things according to how often I skip/play tracks would be kinda cool. Not terribly useful, but still kinda cool.

Five Ways to Mark Up the Web: A Techcrunch post talking about different tools that let you post-its or notes or other bits and pieces on webpages.

Screengrab: A Firefox extension that lets you take screengrabs of the entire length of a webpage, and save it in a variety of different formats. Handy tool.

Boomshine: Incredibly simple and incredibly addictive little online game. Soothing music too. I've wasted far too much time playing this.

listeningtowards: Lectures available for download. Amongst the most popular are Kurt Vonnegut and Bill Bryson - there are over 1000 on there, so there's bound to be something to slip into the mp3 player for those long dull commutes.

Lumosity: Brain training games to improve memory and processing speed - it makes me feel a bit like a computer in need of an upgrade, but it's interesting to do.

You Don't Know Jack: has reinvented itself as a web game! C'mon - you all remember it don't you? And now it's snarky trivia-tastic-ness is right there in my browser!

The essential guide to piracy: Remember kids, piracy is wrong. But if you're going to pirate, pirate safe, kay? No one wants the RIAA (or their international counterparts) on their tail.

46 essential KM blogs: Being up to my ears in knowledge management recently has made me check out all the KM blogs around. (Repeat after me - I don't need another blogging scene to get involved in. I don't, I don't)

Entropia Universe: not!Second Life. I haven't downloaded this yet, nor do I use Second Life, so I'm not really in a position to make comparisons. It's setting itself up as a competitor though, so it'll be one to watch out for.

and now, time for sleep. I promise we'll try and by more regular with the posts now though, really.