<$BlogRSDURL$>
Christina's LIS Rant
Friday, March 27, 2009
  What do librarians do and how do libraries work?
Ok, I do realize that there is no way this post can live up to its title, but this is in response to some friendfeed threads (example). I suppose I can't keep giving people crap for not knowing what librarians do and how libraries work if I'm not willing to explain. I know quite a bit about how public libraries work, next to nothing about school libraries, so I'm really going to talk mostly about research libraries because that's where I live and the people asking the question are researchers. Most research libraries are in universities, but there are other research organizations like federal and corporate labs, hospitals, etc. I guess I lean toward how universities do things, because I was only in a government library for 4 months and both they and company libraries have some unique restrictions.

So where to start? Libraries connect people to information. Librarians touch every bit of this by:

That stuff is university libraries - my job differs a bit because we all do quite a few things that would be handled by 5 different people at a big library. Also, I'm "embedded" and I do in-depth literature searching, and I'm involved in enterprise-wide initiatives regarding collaboration, enterprise search, and knowledge sharing.

Embedded means I'm actually part of the team. There might be a chemist, a mechanical engineer, a mathematician, and me. Whenever something comes up that requires finding or organizing or presenting information, I take the lead. In depth literature searching might be someone presenting a problem, and asking me to compile and organize and sort of summarize the literature in that area. They get the annotated bibliography I provide, and then see what they want in full text, I fork that over, and then they make the world a better place. I provide value because I'm an expert searcher and I understand a lot about the context of the organization and our sponsors. The scientists are so busy that anything they can offload to me helps. Once I grok what they need, I'm more efficient at finding things, too. And I charge my time back to the sponsor.

So, if you're a librarian, please fix what I screwed up (or, oh dear, tell me what i missed)... if you are a library user (or SHOULD be but aren't), tell me what more you need to know.

Update: I forgot ILL! Holy cow... added above
 
Comments:
Excellent, Christina! Much of what you have written covers the work in public libraries including the fixits you listed.

Think I'll print your post and shove it under some noses and say, "This is some of what we do; can you do it?" I hope some profs give this to their students and ask them, "Are you prepared to unstop the public toilet? It is part of librarianship."

Well done! And thank you.
 
Great list, Christina! I'd also add "go-to person" for all library-related questions from "my" students & faculty. I'll elaborate:

In my positions in college / university settings, I've served as a "liaison" to specific departments (cognitive science, communication science, psychology, and soon, journalism & mass communication). That means I do all of the above -- acquiring and deselecting resources and teaching -- AND I answer any & all questions for "my" students & faculty about the library.

Usually these questions are about doing research, but sometimes folks are reporting problems with material or even asking me how to put something on reserve. I like to think of myself as their go-to person for any & all questions about using the library.
 
I'm bookmarking this for future conversations with other researchers.

I think part of the problem is that so much of what librarians do is invisible almost by design -- infrastructure stuff, which gets taken for granted. I only started to find out how much librarians already know about scholarly publishing, for instance, when I started trying to learn about that topic for myself.
 
Excellent!! Excellent!!

I sent this to my manager. Just the other day we were discussing his understanding of what I do. As a solo, my manager is NOT a librarian :)

Can I republish it in the library newsletter?
 
I think you forgot Copyright advice (and a bit of Data Protection and Freedom of Information too). You mention archiving - I think Librarians act as a kind of "corporate memory" - the place people think to ask about if they want to know about ex-staff or past research.
 
Really enjoyed the post and will be sharing with my "clients" here. Thank you Christina!
 
Post a Comment


Links to this post:

Create a Link

Powered by Blogger

This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

Site Feed (ATOM)

Add to My Yahoo!

Creative Commons License
Christina's LIS Rant by Christina K. Pikas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
Most Recent Posts
-- Comps readings this week
-- Comps readings this week
-- Comps reading - Little Science, Big Science... and...
-- Comps readings this week
-- Comps readings this week
-- Comps readings this week
-- Comps reading, Interactive IR, Pandora for PubMed....
-- Comps readings this week
-- Comps readings this week
-- Science Online '09: Searching the Scientific Liter...
ARCHIVES
02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 / 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 / 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 / 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 / 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 / 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 / 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 / 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 / 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 / 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 / 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 / 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 / 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 / 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 / 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008 / 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 / 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 / 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008 / 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008 / 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 / 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 / 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 / 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 / 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009 / 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 / 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009 / 08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010 /

Some of what I'm scanning

Locations of visitors to this page

Search this site
(gigablast)

(google api)
How this works

Where am I?

N 39 W 76