About My Job: The Academic Librarian

by Conor Friedersdorf

A reader writes:

Donna Reed in the nightmare portion of "It's a Wonderful Life," be-spectacled, bunned, and timid, seems still to be the exemplar in people's head when they think of a librarian.  And, although we have a country full of college graduates, a librarian is still conceived of as the matronly local public librarian, stamping cards and finding interesting books for tweens.

But librarianship is both more rigorous and less self-important than people think.  My colleagues and I have advanced scholarly degrees (I have a BA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from NYU, an MA and an M.Phil. in medieval history from here at Columbia, and an MLIS from Rutgers).  We know how to do research better than most faculty, as professors often don't adapt to new methodologies or technology, preferring the tried-and-true (not all, but oh, so very many).  But we are treated as service personnel by the majority of faculty and as punch-lines by those outside academia altogether.
At the same time, we are gregarious and resourceful.  I tend to feel that my bartending experience was as important as my scholarly training: it taught me how to multi-task, to handle difficult people tactfully, and gave me an ethos of customer service.  We are sympathetic, supportive, and often silly (when it works best, as in undergrad orientations).  We are au courant with technological developments (like the porn industry, we are aggressive at adapting new technologies to our own ends).

In other words, we are well-rounded human beings, not figures of fun.  It would be nice if more people realized that.

 

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

Just In