Heathman Hotel library is one of a kind

<a href="http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/09/heathman_hotel_library_is_one_1.html">Oregonlive.com</a> relates this story about a unique library and one enthusiastic librarian. "Guests who wander up to the <a href="http://www.heathmanhotel.com/">Heathman Hotel's</a> mezzanine discover one of the most exclusive libraries in the country: 4,000 volumes, all signed by the author and most of them first editions. What's more, there's only one way to get a book in the collection: The author must spend a night in the hotel -- no exceptions. And now, thanks to a 20-year-old librarian, the books are more accessible than ever."


Not to be a stickler, but I doubt this young woman has the credentials to be called a librarian. Sounds like she's doing a fine job with her collection, though.

I earned my MLS when I was 23 years old. Are you going to look at my age and say that I shouldn't be called a librarian?

No, I'm saying that I doubt this 20-year old has an MLS. That's all. In fact, if you read the article it says she's working on her bachelor's degree in English.

I am a credentialed librarian and I am fine with her using the title. She is going to be organizing a collection and providing access. Good enough for me.

If they hired me to do what she is doing I would have to hunt down some para-professional to figure out what I would need to do. My credentials and a nickel will get me a bowl of rice.

This is America. You are a librarian if you call yourself a librarian.

Can I just say I disagree and leave it at that?

I wonder if the head librarian of the Library of Alexandria of antiquity had a MLS? I wonder how they got off calling themselves a librarian? To bad there was not someone with a MLS around to tell them they were not credentialed.

Hippocrates did not have an MD from an accredited med school program, either. your point is silly and irrelevant.

You can call yourself a train too, but that does not make it so. Perhaps you just never used your degree?

"This is America. You are a librarian if you call yourself a librarian."

So if I call myself a physician and lawyer, that makes me one?

Damn. Think I'll call myself a cab.

Incidentally: In fact, throughout five decades of service in the library field, I have made a point of never calling myself a librarian and sometimes correcting those who did call me that.

Medicine and law are fields that are licensed. Librarianship is not a licensed field. If someone is acting as a lawyer and is not licensed in a state they are violating the law. Doctors without a license are violating the law. If someone calls themselves a librarian and acts as a librarian they are not violating the law.

Walt picks two examples of licensed profession to compare against an unlicensed profession. Good job.

When anonymous cowards call me clueless, it's sort of energizing.

Yes, of course I chose an extreme example--although I didn't say a word about "acting as" a doctor or lawyer, just calling myself one. (I'm nearly certain that calling myself "Doctor Crawford" would not be a crime, for example, unless I did so in a setting where it constituted perjury.)

Actually, your explanation is at least partly wrong. I'd bet there are all sorts of ways that an unlicensed person can act as a lawyer or a doctor--that is, carry out the same tasks that a lawyer or doctor would--without running into legal trouble. Actually, I'm certain of it. If I say "Why don't you try some glucosamine/chondroitin for that arthritis?" to a friend, I'm offering medical advice, and no court in the land would throw me in jail for it--unless I say "As a medical doctor, I say you should..." And let's not mention the PhDs and other doctorates whose holders sometimes feel they're qualified to speak out as medical experts, frequently without mentioning that their doctorate has nothing to do with medicine...

where have you been? it's been weeks.

I do have a problem with an undergraduate student calling herself a librarian, and it has nothing to do with her or the work that she is doing, but rather with how this article will affect the public perception of what a librarian is. Already, most people don't realize that you (more often than not) need a higher degree to obtain a job as a librarian. AND most people think all you do is work with books, and thus anyone with a passion to read can be a librarian.

I think the education that I am currently getting as an MLIS student (and I am also in my 20s) is priceless, and I look forward to applying the lessons I am learning as a professional in the library industry.

She's working for a hotel, not a university.

Should we be arguing about whether the hotel has the right to call its little book collection a library? This just seems silly. Nobody owns the words. This isn't France.

Yes, I'd be worried if the Library of Congress were giving undergrad paraprofessionals in its employ the title of librarian. But as the only person tasked with indexing and curating the hotel's books, what else would you call Ms. Soprani? The title is there to describe her job in terms that people can understand. Anything other than librarian would be confusing and run counter to the hotel's aim of drawing attention to the collection.

If we, as a profession, are so concerned that the value of our title is being diluted by applying it to people who don't hold the right degree, there is a way to own words, even here in the United States. Maybe the ALA needs to lay claim to the term Librarian (or some other, easier-to-trademark title) as the National Association of Realtors has done for the real estate agents who have met their training, ethics, and membership requirements and can call therefore themselves Realtors®.

Until something like that happens, uncredentialed caretakers of books will probably still be called librarians despite angry rants on in blog commentaries. And professional librarians will still show that they are properly qualified by putting the letters MLS (or MLIS) after their names. Sort of like MDs do, to distinguish themselves from all those noncredentialed posers who call themselves doctors.

I started this little tempest yesterday. Thank you for your thoughtful response. As to what alternative to "librarian" I would offer, my ideal title for her would be curator. She is the custodian of the collection (and apparently doing a damn good job at it, so again kudos to her) but she doesn't do half the things that we do as librarians.

I also agree with the posters who say it hardly matters to the public or the mass media what she is called. I disagree, however, with people who say we shouldn't care about the standards of our profession as well.

"but she doesn't do half the things that we do as librarians."

What, precisely, do those things include? Just out of curiosity.

She is maintaining a collection, creating a database to inventory that collection (much more than accredited "librarians" do with the automation companies that do all the work for them). She is making book recommendations to patrons. She is loaning out books to patrons. She is handling money in part of the transaction. If a book isn't returned, she is appropriating that money into a certain fund. While that is not the same as managing a budget, she is still in charge of the money and making sure it gets back to the patron or appropriated into the charity fund.

No she isn't bogged down in bureaucratic red-tape and politics. No she isn't doing intensive reference interviews. No she isn't scheduling children's programming or teaching instructional classes. But she is doing the very basics of librarianship.

Other things librarians do besides storing and organizing a collection of books:

--Reference work
--Assisting in Research (including usage of electronic databases, journals, etc.)
--Evaluation of research tools
--Administration/management of facilities and staff (unless they are a solo librarian, of course. Then they just have to manage themselves)
--Managing budgets
--Crafting policy
--Long-range planning
--Selection of new materials (it sounds like this hotel's collection was assembled by happenstance)
--De-selection (not sure if the hotel library weeds their collection or not)
--Implementing new technology

I'm sure there's other things I'm not listing. The point is, we do more than storage, cataloging, and readers advisory. She's filling about 3 roles out of 10-20 roles a librarian serves.

The entire staff at a library may does all those thing but there are plenty of people with a MLS that only do 3-4 things on the list. Should they not be called librarians because they do not do everything on the list?

I know many MLS/MLIS holders that do not do all of those things or only do some of those things. I know many non MLS/MLIS holders that do some of those things and sometimes all of those things. The state I live in does not require libraries in towns below a certain population to have degree holding "librarians" or library directors, yet the people employed in those positions are expected to do all of those things listed above....and more.

Your post assumes that ONE person completes all of those tasks when most often it's a whole staff of people (degree-holders and non-degree-holders) that do those tasks.

>I disagree, however, with people who say we shouldn't care about the standards of our profession as well.

I do not think that the woman in the story being referred to as a librarian lessens the standards of our profession.

Instead of taking librarian away from others maybe we should add something to the designation. Maybe there are people that are "amateur librarians." They are astronomers and amateur astronomers. Why not the same concept for librarians?