A librarian\'s changing job description?


Have our job descriptions changed as a result of new technologies? I would agree with most who say that they have, as we need to know about online resources, evaluating those resources, navigating the web, and training our customers in their use. However, I think that this change should not uproot the basic foundations of present day librarianship, giving the customers what they want with the best possible service...

Does this service entail knowing all there is to know about the web so that we can assist in the best possible way? Probably not.

Librarians are the gatherers, catalogers, and keepers of information. We certainly do not know all there is about the research we do for our customers (even though some are surprised when they ask us if we have read a certain book – and we tell them that we have not), so I don’t believe that we need to know everything there is to know on the web, but are these the expectations of the people we serve? And further, are these expectations valid? Probably not.

Libraries provide Internet training because it is a tremendous research tool, (which, in my opinion, is going to kick the pants out of many reference books in the future) and in that respect I think that our job description is changing, but the basic caveats are there. We perform the same service, just in a different environment. Bibliographic instruction is evolving into technological instruction (compare the number of times in the past month that you helped a customer with any reference book with the number of times you showed a customer how to “Google”) and our job descriptions must evolve to stay competitive, while the basic underpinnings remain stable.

I publish a monthly Internet newsletter for my library, available in print and on our web site. In every issue, I discuss web sites on particular topics of interest to my clientele. I decided on such a venture because after 2 years of teaching my customers basic Internet skills, I understood that they not only want these abilities, but they may want someone to point out appealing and exciting web sites to visit. The customers agreed with me, as the CPL Internet Gazette, thanks to the fantastic staff at my library, has become very popular, and is a giant step towards our goal to give them what they want. Again, the job description has evolved, but the fundamental foundation remains.

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