College & Research Libraries News

Nothing ventured, no one gained

By Anne K. Beaubien

ACRL President and Head, Cooperative Access Services University of Michigan

Many bright‚ creative people are not considering information science as a career and never will unless we intervene.

Gosh, you don t LOOK like a librarian! How often have we all inspired that comment? Every time I hear it, two thoughts occur to me. The first is that the popular image of librarians is still a sad stereotype—intellectual, professional, andphysi- cal—of who we really are. The second is that people in general, even very well educated people, do not have the faintest idea about what we do or about how varied and challenging our jobs are. If my thoughts are correct, it follows that many bright, creative people are not considering information science as a career and never will unless we, as individuals, intervene. I believe that each of us can do a lot with very little effort to improve the common perception about ourselves and our work and to help recruit outstanding people to our field. Here are some ways to achieve these goals:

1. Be a good, conscientious role model for your own paraprofessional and student staff. (Those of us in direct contact with library users can also impress them with the range of our knowledge and responsibilities.)

2. Become more active within your institution and community to enhance the profile of librarians as doers. For instance, library instruction, collaborating with teaching faculty on their research, participating in faculty governance, serving on local citizen groups, and assisting in youth projects all bring our talents to the attention of others.

3. Attend meetings of other professional associations or of social, religious, or recreational organizations with the “hidden agenda” of interesting others in information science careers. Find out ahead if there will be a place to put recruiting materials on librarianship in the exhibit or placement area of the conference. If so, contact the Office for Library Personnel Resources at ALA (800-545-2433, ext 4279), your state library association, and library schools to ask for brochures you can take along to display or distribute. If circumstances permit, you can even volunteer to run a poster session or participate on an informal panel.

4. Work with the guidance and career counselors in local high schools and on campus to let them know about our field, its requirements and rewards. Offer to speak individually with students who may be considering librarianship or related careers and contact academic departments to reach students wondering what they can do with that major. And don’t forget that not all graduate students end up as professors; many of them would be delighted to learn how valuable advanced degrees are when combined with professional training in information science.

5. Plan a program for student library workers about the many career options in librarianship. Consider rotating student workers into different units every semester so they will experience that variety first hand.

6. Mentor paraprofessional staff by working closely with them on special projects and allowing them to develop all their skills in the library setting.

7. Identify graduates of your institution who have become information professionals and invite them back to speak with current staff and students about their careers and the decisions that got them there.

8. Perhaps most important of all, brainstorm regularly with your colleagues at work, nearby, and in your chapter about how you can individually and collectively promote the benefits of librarianship.

If we all do our share of lively recruiting, the next comment we should hear is, “Gosh, I didn’t know librarians could do all that!”

Ed. note:This article first appeared in the Eastern NewYork/ACRL Chapter Newsletter, Fall 1991, and is reprinted with permission.

Copyright © American Library Association

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