In my last post I discussed the need to protect librarians due to the continued growth of complex information.  Today, I want to talk about my views about librarians as professionals.

Librarians are part of a noble profession in some views.  Collecting, organizing and making accessible our cultural, literary and historical records is indeed critical.  Providing access to data necessary for operating in today’s knowledge age is also hugely important.

These facts alone do not place librarians in an infallible place upon a golden pedestal.  It is our responsibility to learn, advocate, and earn our status as important providers of information.

Those of us who do not continue to learn and evolve in our service do not necessarily deserve a protected place in the business of information.  Those of us who do continuously learn and improve our services can’t rest on those accomplishments alone.

No one knows what we do better than ourselves.  I often tell my colleagues that too often expend energy advocating ourselves to fellow librarians.  It is my firm belief that what we must do is tell our lawyers, administrators, doctors, faculty members and CEO’s how important we are and follow it up with specifics on why we are important.

We must also explain how we contribute to an organization’s mission and bottom-line.  People have a difficult time understanding just what librarians do.  They know librarians are good guys but only a few know specifically why.    Without specifics, how can we expect a CEO to know that understanding when and how to use a commercial database is appropriate?   We know that when the marketing director calls us at 9 a.m. to prepare a marketing report for a lunchtime briefing fast and good is better than thorough and free is the only option.

Librarians must be specific and direct.  It is never appropriate to say “No problem” when this type of project is completed and delivered.  It is absolutely appropriate for you to say in response to the Thank You:  “You are quite welcome, with our XYZ resource we are able to meet these tight deadlines.”

Also, assertiveness is not a bad trait.  C-level executives are assertive and admired for the trait.   Recently I was given a great compliment:  “You’re nice, but you still are decisive and when you have an important point to make during a meeting you do so.”

If librarians want to be protected, they must begin by protecting themselves.  So if you are not being assertive when the occasion calls for it and you are not advocating for the resources you need to successfully do your job and you are not clearly communicating why you and the entire library staff must be a partner in the knowledge culture for successful business;  then who will?

Constance Ard August 22, 2009