IL 2012: Transforming Roles: What Do You Want to Be?

monarch butterfly, freshly hatched
“monarch butterfly, freshly hatched” by Joan

Moderator: Donna Scheeder
Speakers: Marshall Breeding, Nicole C. Engard, Scott Brown, Cecily Walker, & Renee Chalut

Cecily thinks that among some people that there is a perception that if you are a techie, you aren’t a “real” librarian, and that bothers her. Regardless of her title, first and foremost, she’s a librarian and advocate for libraries. Whatever you think a librarian is, you’re wrong.

Marshall says that there are a lot of folks who do work in libraries at a lot of levels who don’t have library degrees, and there aught to be many ways to grow up in the profession and contribute as you can.

Audience member says that a lot of her relatives think she’s not a librarian because she doesn’t work in a public library.

Nicole says that the distinction between those who have a library degree and those who don’t does nothing but cause a rift.

Are library schools up to teaching the skill set needed to deal with constant change? Cecily says no, and that they should open up the curriculum so students can learn from other programs/schools. Audience member says that it’s a class issue kind of thing, and some people are uncomfortable with the title “librarian.”

Another audience member says she’s proud to be a librarian and proud to have an MLS, but thinks that you don’t need one to work in a library. She shared an anecdote of an excellent and skilled staff member who was not admitted to a MLS graduate program because of her 30 year old undergraduate GPA.

Scott sees the MLIS as an overlay on the skills he has already. You can’t teach the soft stuff in graduate school. Students need to learn how to think strategically. Renee thinks we need to have courage.

Nicole thinks we need a desire to keep learning, and in three years she hopes she will be doing more of the same, and getting to see libraries becoming more one in the same as she travels. Marshall says you need to think about what is coming in three years and start becoming an expert on it. Cecily says that flexibility has served her best, and although she has no idea where she’ll be in three years, she thinks she’ll be ready for it.

Audience member says she didn’t learn much in library school as far as skills, but she learned attitudes about working with users that is transferable to any kind of library. She says her job is to be a change agent, to be supportive, and to have a professional network that is broad and wide.

What would be your advice to young professionals graduating from library school? Nicole says you didn’t learn it all, so take an internship. You can’t learn it all in school; you have to see what a real job is like. She also recommends finding a mentor.

Michael Sauers says he’s a mentor, but he doesn’t think that he does it in a way that the mentees know they are being mentored.

Cecily says that recent grads should be a special snowflake — find something that you can do that nobody else is doing and let the world know you are doing it. Marshall agrees, continuing on his earlier recommendation of finding a niche. Renee says that if you get hired in a place without a lot of innovation happening, it’s okay to be a little pushy and bring the organization along with you.

“That homeless person who hits you with their socks… that doesn’t happen in library school.” Audience member’s point on how library programs don’t teach the real world.

Audience member says that mentoring today is much easier with technology. Another audience member agrees.

Marshall says there’s the career in your organization and then there’s your career beyond it. The organization might not be able to support your ambitions for your broader career. So do what you can and the pay-off will be in your next job.

Nicole says that if you can’t make your passion your career, find a way to do it anyway.