Did you know that Batgirl was a librarian? No? Apparently the creators believed that being a librarian was a perfect contrast to Barbara Gordon’s alter-ego of superhero Batgirl. Presumably they believed the opposite of a kick-ass, pvc-costumed superhero would be an introverted, quiet and mild-mannered librarian.
The idea of librarians being specs-sporting cardigan-wearers, hair tied tightly into a bun, is fairly outdated and a stereotype that many new to the profession try to avoid at all costs. (Although to be fair I have been known to partake of all three at the same time!) According to CILIP, the professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers, as a modern day information professional you have to have the ability to ‘design, create, identify, locate, retrieve and exploit information in all formats’. The idea of librarians hiding in dusty book stacks (which we have plenty of) cataloguing and stamping books (which we do plenty of) and doing not much else is a stereotype that does need challenging. Yes, stamping books in dusty book stacks does still happen occasionally, but there’s a heck of a lot more to it.
First and foremost a good librarian must be a people person. That’s what’s it’s all about really: put simply it’s about helping people find stuff! Secondly they have to be technologically switched-on and know equally as much about the digital word as they do about the printed one.
Many librarians also pride themselves on being crusaders (superheroes even!) for ethical access to information, whether it be our visitors’ rights to accessing information about our objects and collections, to our library users’ rights to privacy. In fact, we librarians like nothing better than sharing and sourcing information. The more tricky the request, the more we generally like it!
Within the Information Services team we manage the Research Library and the Library at the National War Museum as well as the National Museum of Scotland’s Info Zone, and, as is the case with many smaller specialist libraries, most of us multi-task and work in several different areas of library work.
Amongst other things, we preserve things for the future by storing and organising material within our Archives, as well as shelving and collections management (yes, in dusty as well as clean book stacks) and answering the myriad of enquiries we get from staff and the public; we manage access to e-journals and e-books; provide access to items we don’t have in our own collections through various library networks including the British Library; provide up-to-the-minute online resources to enable Museum staff easier access to information; manage the Museum’s Research Repository as well as managing the Museum’s intranet. It certainly keeps us busy!
Another benefit of working in a multi-tasking multi-disciplinary Library is that most staff develop a well-rounded general knowledge covering most of the disciplines within the Museum. Clearly demonstrated by being Christmas Pub Quiz winners two years running.
So whether you want to call yourself a Librarian, an Information Manager, a Library Resource Officer or an Information Facilitator. Whether you spend your time cataloguing books, organising information, managing and taking part in large scale book moves or managing data; whether you wear flats, Jimmy Choos or Dr Martens, one thing is for sure: underestimate us at your peril, we are multitasking information professionals! If you are still in any doubt, I’ll send Batgirl round to convince you!