What Librarians – Not What Libraries – Do

Library consultant Marcus Banks (former Director of Library/Academic & Instructional Innovation at Samuel Merritt University), has some nice comments on a piece I previously wrote for Ethos, that add to the discussion of “what librarians do.” An excerpt:

Klipfel documents the universal experience academic librarians have, in which most people have no idea what we do. Jokes about dusting the books, card catalogs, and the Dewey decimal system run amok. Claims that the job must not be stressful because you get to read all day are plentiful. And the widely shared belief that Google is steadily ending the need for librarians is always implicit and often explicit.

The trouble is that our profession is inextricably tied with a building. No libraries, no librarians. Whatever the root cause of this belief–public library signage that emphasizes print books, or entrenched stereotypes about librarians and what we do–the result is that people have no idea that librarianship was an intellectual discipline long before it became a “service-oriented profession.”


No worries. Because it’s what you do with the stuff you find that really matters. What is worth reading? Who makes scurrilous claims? What are the implicit biases and where are the strong arguments in any given text? Librarians are the best people on campus to sort out these claims–they trade in-depth subject knowledge (which many librarians have too, of course) for a sense of the gestalt and how all subjects hang together. With no axe to grind, the librarian can and should be the queen of campus.


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Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel

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