When I tell people what I do for a living, I can count on one of three response scenarios:
Scenario 1: The Fan. I've stumbled into a person who has a parent/good friend/loved one who is a librarian, or who has been positively affected by the work of a librarian. This category also covers people who just love libraries (the buildings, the books, the concept). These are the people that I'd like to see run for elected office.
Scenario 2: The Clueless. The person I'm speaking with hasn't read a book without pictures. Thankfully, these conversations never last long, as this type of person will run, not walk, to the nearest convenient excuse to escape. This category also includes those who think I'm from Liberia. I like to think of these folks as the non-voting population.
Scenario 3: The Expert. These folks will pick up on what I do and proceed to drill me with comments about how my avocation is doomed, and I'm soon (if not already) to be replaced by the Internet. These folks usually will ask me what my back-up plans are for when all the libraries close their doors, and we all go home to do our research on Ask Jeeves. For the expert, everything is on the web or at least "online somewhere." These folks never seem to notice the glimmer in my eyes while they carry on about the blessings technology holds, for little do they know, this is my favorite encounter.
When I run into "an expert" I am wise to wait until they run out of good reasons why librarianship will go the way of the horse and buggy. Experts are usually smart and techno-savy, so they have much to offer in terms of why I am obsolete, but they are misinformed, and I consider it my mission to let them know why.
If you've been in JMU libraries lately, you will see a very busy place full of students doing research and librarians helping them to be efficient. You won't see all the behind the scenes work that goes on to make doing that research possible; this work is also done by dedicated professionals (librarians and others). The world of information that has come to us via the Internet hasn't made doing research easier, in fact, I've found it makes it harder. Try explaining to a new student that you look for articles in one database, you check another database to see if we have it in the library (in print or electronically) and then refer them to yet another database to get a copy of the article. All this, coupled with helping students sort out the good from the junk available on the Internet, keeps me pretty busy. Many of the students librarians encounter these days don't have the basic information skills critical to living in the information age. As a librarian, I'm trained to train those who don't have those skills, so tell me, who is more necessary than that? I'm gentle with the experts because I want to make them into fans. Some of them have potential.
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