Why are You a Librarian?

No, that isn’t meant to be said in the voice of a slightly-tipsy relative at a family gathering. You? A librarian? Why on earth . . .

It’s an invitation to a meme started over at Free Exchange on Campus, where I occasionally blog. It was inspired by Dr. Crazy’s wonderful post, “Why I Teach Literature.” And now a number of academic bloggers have weighed in. What they have to say is an excellent way to learn more about faculty perspectives and the passion that drives them into the classroom.

I was asked to join in just as I was mulling over Steven’s post on faculty status, so in part my response to “why I am a librarian” is an extension of my responses to that post and a reflection on the ACRL/AAUP statement on librarians and faculty status. In my post I tagged a handful of librarians – you’re it! – but then felt a bit silly because in those blogs, the answer is pretty obvious, even if it the question isn’t posed that way.

But I hope some librarians will be moved to pick up the meme – here in comments, or on your own blogs. I sometimes think some of our colleagues in the academy respect what we do … they just aren’t exactly sure what it is or why it matters.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

8 thoughts on “Why are You a Librarian?”

  1. Almost 30 years ago, when I first became a librarian, I bought a poster of a person leaning on a rock outcropping looking out on a beautiful, rugged landscape. The caption on the poster is “Knowledge is free.” While it’s true that, over the years, I’ve been tempted to add a sticky note saying, “But information will cost you a bundle!”, this captures an essence (there are several!) of why I am a librarian.

    I want everyone to be able to find the knowledge/information they need, when they need it. I think this is the basis of a healthy democracy (and we can discuss just how healthy our democracy currently is in another post!). I think it’s a fundamental right, along with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Golly, should we cue the trumpets now, or what?

    But no, I won’t be dismissive of my own passion here, because I’ve seen the same passion in my colleagues over these many decades. I have the great joy of saying I have a job that pays me well, that I really enjoy, that has endless variety and frequent updates, and that makes an important contribution to the world. How many people can say that these days?

    Besides, it’s just too cool to be able to say to almost any question, “I don’t know — but I know where I can look it up!”

  2. I am a librarian because it lets me be a generalist, and bounce quickly between Thai economics and the history of the Reformation and fixing problems with network printers. Endless variety.

  3. I was just reading some of the postings related to the meme – Inside Higher Ed pointed to it today – and I thought, well, if librarians are faculty – why aren’t we being asked to join in. So I’m glad to hear that someone recognized that librarians should be included. I’ll look forward to some librarians joining that conversation.

  4. I became a librarian at the age of 40 (after raising a family) and 18 years on I know I made the right choice. What a pleasure to be on the front line of accessing the latest research and teaching students (and faculty!) how to do this.
    I’d like to say my job pays well but I guess that’s too much to expect. At least it’s fulfilling.

  5. I have never been a librarian nor have I ever wished to be a librarian…I research and teach federal information policy, more specifically information policy departures (not related to libraries, except when the Nat’l Archivist violates the Federal Records Act). HOWEVER, Florida State University’s College of Information just awarded me a PhD in (you guessed it) Library and Information Studies. If you are suprised you may be more surprised to find out this is my second graduate degree in Library and Information Studies awarded by FSU. I was awarded a Masters of Science from the Department of Information Studies in 2002. I have never taken a single course directly related to libraries or librarianship from FSU or any other university. So, buyer beware…when recruiting from FSU
    Why am I writing this? Simply to make you aware that a graduate degree or two in library studies does not qualify you to be a librarian.

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