18 February 2015

Things They Don't Teach You in Library School, Part 2

I wrote my original post on things they don't teach you in library school several years ago, when I was living in Uganda. It's one of my most popular posts and I still think all those things are true. However, in the years since I wrote that list, I've learned a lot more about being a librarian. The fact is, one grad school just can't teach you everything you need to know about being a professional librarian. You will learn a lot but there's plenty more to learn on the job. [Isn't that the case with any job, though?]

So, here are more things they don't teach you in library school...in a US, reference librarian context:

  • Some days, you will spend much of your time helping patrons with things like: email, printing, wifi, etc. It might feel a bit 'beneath' you, especially if you have a long to-do list of lesson planning, meetings, etc. Think of those questions as outreach...if you're friendly and approachable while you help a patron print, hopefully they will come back when they have a research question.
  • And, speaking of that to-do list. You will have one. A long one, no doubt.
  • And on that list will be meetings. Lots of meetings. 
  • Some patrons will not understand what you do. At all. They will ask you: to watch their stuff, proofread a paper, help them with their homework, etc. Just smile. And remind them what you can do for them: send them to the tutoring center, show them a book that answers their question, use a locker on campus, etc. Librarians connect people to information, even if it's not 'traditional' research information.
  • Sometimes patrons just need encouragement or a listening ear. I can't tell you how many students ask for help finding articles or books and end up asking some variation: this is a good topic...right? Which I interpret as: Can I really do this big, scary assignment?
  • There will be some questions that will cause you to have a moment of inner panic. [You want to find what?!] Take a deep breath. You'll be fine. And that will likely be the most interesting question you will answer all week.
  • The best reference interactions end with: Thank you! This is exactly what I need! And you will feel like you just changed that patron's world.

Again, this is a very reference librarian focused list. But, hey, it's all true, right? :) Librarians do a lot of things besides shushing and reading...most of which you discover along the way.

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