Today’s guest post was sent to us by one our community members, Sandra Brandt. Thanks Sandra!
As a child, the visit to the library with dad, was the highlight of my week, but the librarians scared me to death. As a teen, the school librarian was an imposing figure. As a young adult at college, the librarians I had the courage to approach were unfriendly and superior. As a young mother, weekly visits to the library were full of joy as I watched my kids grow into the thrill of discovery. The librarians I remember for their lack of involvement and eagle eyes, lording it over their immaculate space. That was my experience. I hear you asking, surely, there must have been one friendly librarian? No, not one stands out.
Finally, given the opportunity to study in that direction, why did I choose to become a librarian? For the excitement I experienced in fiction, the joy of discovery in books of all kinds, and the almost tangible atmosphere of knowledge in libraries, regardless of my fear of librarians. I resolved to be the librarian that I never encountered. Service oriented without superiority. One who takes her meticulous job seriously, yet makes her patrons feel valued and (God forbid) welcome. Even if those shelves need to be straightened AGAIN, and that one annoying person always makes the same remark; even though the same people have the same impossible requests, and the online catalogue has to be explained for the thousandth time today. When people still need help because they can’t find a book in the Dewey system, and there’s that email reference question awaiting a reply. Even when my job is on the line because of the economy.
Professional librarianship is just that … a profession … of CHOICE. One that has been achieved with recognised tertiary study and which adheres to an accepted code of conduct. It means never reaching the point where you feel that you have arrived (at the top of Maslow’s pyramid). In our ever-changing, technology-ridden information environment, constant PD is necessary to refresh, challenge and inspire us as information professionals to greater heights. (Just last week I encountered a young librarian who didn’t know what a LISTERV was.)
I recently read a conversation on Twitter about ALIA plans to introduce mandatory PD in the future. In my opinion it should be required of every professional librarian, regardless of the stage of career. And now I’m really going to rattle some cages – PD doesn’t only belong in working hours. With so many free opportunities online, weekends, evenings, holidays even, can be used to improve your skills, enrich your knowledge and challenge your comfort zone. The ALIA PD scheme gives many suggestions. To me, in a nutshell, professionalism is the desire to constantly ensure that you have what it takes to be referred to as a ‘professional librarian’ – for the sake of the profession, but mostly for the sake of our patrons/users/clients.