“Librarian” or “Book-Lover”

It recently struck me that librarianship, like so many professions, is a continuum from basic fundamental skills and enthusiasm, to highly developed skills/knowledge and service/dedication. I have never known nor heard of anyone entering the librarian profession who was not first a lover of books. Isn’t that where it all begins? Have you ever known anyone who said; “I think I’ll become a librarian because I want to serve the public, regardless in what capacity.” or “I think I’ll become a librarian because it pays so well, and has such incredible prestige.” If you have, let me know.

A continuum begins with the very basics of the concept, or profession in this case and builds toward the very best ideals and practice of the profession. As one begins their career, they begin with basic skills and knowledge and acquire more skills and knowledge, as well as the dedication and professionalism that come with maturation within the profession. That’s just the way life works, assuming that the person has the capacity, desire and opportunity to progress along that continuum.

Unfortunately, in the librarian profession we have some who have been in the profession for many years, but have stagnated at the “book-lover” level. That’s all they’ve ever wanted to be, and they are perfectly happy to be just that and let their career progression end there. They are more interested in books than serving the public. They are more interested in their self-perception as a librarian, than in any recognition from their peers or profession as a “librarian,” or any professional standards. They simply want to be among their beloved books and be allowed to enjoy their surroundings.

At the opposite end of the continuum is the professional librarian. Interested in learning all there is to know about the profession. Dedicated to making the profession all it can be, as well as ensuring that it survives in the 21st Century environment of drastic change. They are those who lead the profession into that uncertain future. The professional librarian helps the profession grow and remain relevant.

I firmly believe that the professional librarian striving to achieve the pinnacle of the profession will become knowledgeable in these following areas, and numerous others that they don’t teach in library school.
• Business Acumen
• Cloud Computing
• Crowdsourcing
• Customer Targeting
• Digital Discovery
• Discontinuous Thinking
• Gaming
• Likenomics
• Open Innovation
• Planned Abandonment
• Social Networking
• Subject Matter Expert in Community

Only when a person arrives at this skill and knowledge level along with the service and professionalism can they consider that they have reached the high end of the continuum as a “librarian.” That is where the 21st Century librarian is found.>/b>


On this Veterans Day, my deeply heartfelt THANK YOU to all the men and women serving in our military forces, and to all those who have served our nation in uniform ever, as well as their families who support their service. THANK YOU ALL!


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5 responses to ““Librarian” or “Book-Lover”

  1. Frank

    Hello Dr. Matthews,
    I can’t really say I have been a book lover, but an interest in knowing where to get information and knowledge has always led me to the library. Having just realized I have been a visual learner all of my life, your new list of what they don’t teach in library school has drawn me more to the library. Which is an exciting thought to me.

    • Hi Frank,
      Are you saying that you’re not an avid reader, or you’ve never really felt excitement at buying a new book, or even joy in opening a new book?
      I’m curious how you ended up in the librarian profession. You may be an anomaly. 🙂

      • Frank

        Hello Dr.Matthews,

        I read everything that’s the problem. I can’t collect them, store them, move them, and afford everything that I would like to have. I have moved many many times and the digital age has been my savior in accessing what I read on a simple ipad. When I have time to research more I enjoy the environment of a library over a sports bar. Then again I see many mobile devices at sports bars when I do lunch at them. I bet they all are retrieving sports information from a library OPAC.

  2. Sarah

    Related to this is what I’ve found with the Readers Advisory “field” – for so long people paid lip service to it, or thought that no one needed training in it because “everybody loves to read”. Well, with the major changes in reference, and the rise in nonfiction RA, and the fact that RA is one of the few growth areas in public libraries, that has changed, along with the respect level.

  3. Thank you for this post. As I have advanced in my career, I have found that my work has focused less on the tangibles, like books. Many of the areas that you have listed are integral to my work as an administrator. As I work to develop professional staff, they are often surprised that the skill sets that I encourage them to develop have very little to do with library work.

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