Deborah Jacobs, former City Librarian for the Seattle Public Library, once stated: “Libraries are the core of our community and our democracy. I believe if you have strong libraries, you have strong communities.” There is never a library without a community, as libraries provide access and information to whichever community they serve. Librarians fulfill intellectual, social, creative, and even practical needs of its community and users. Librarians are the personal face of libraries.
I experienced firsthand how libraries and librarians affect almost every facet of the communities they serve; I grew up in libraries—literally. My mother was a school librarian, and my afternoons, weekends, and summers were filled experiencing almost every aspect of librarianship: stamping and shelving books, typing catalog cards, later converting those cards into an online card catalog system, helping students find that right book for a book report, suggesting books for purchase, and even presenting storytelling programs to younger children.
Libraries and librarians are unique in education in that we support every academic unit — not only its curriculum but also the various needs of that unit’s faculty, staff, and students. It is necessary for librarians to provide a general expertise across the curriculum and be able to present information and information literacy skills using multiple methods. Librarians teach in a variety of settings, including one-to-one exchanges on the reference desk (in which every question is an opportunity for that “teachable moment”); presentations/workshops for students or faculty or community members; information literacy sessions integrated in courses across the curriculum; and through information literacy courses. We also engage in peer-to-peer training to improve our personal teaching and reference skills. Librarians work and learn in an environment focused on perpetual improvement of our services and teaching skills; therefore, we benefit every day from these opportunities to teach and to provide service.
I believe our main mission as librarians is to promote lifelong learning in those we help. Guiding others to develop information literacy skills is the most rewarding part of being a librarian, as we help our users develop lifelong skills. Ultimately, I view librarianship as a social service. Our jobs are never finished – there is always something more to learn or to help someone else to learn. To borrow from Jonas Salk, “I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.”
Click here for an online interview to read more about my background and outlook on academic librarianship.