Forced to be Professionals

One of the odder parts of “public library culture” is, in my view, entirely too much claim for anonymity on the part of professional librarians.   Many do not even have business cards, much less hand them out to library patrons.

This, I think, has two main reasons.  The first is the “feminization” of the profession post 1900 (or thereabouts).  Library users are a very mixed bunch and public libraries admittedly attract an undue number of “stalker” personalities – males unable to talk to women in the “real world” and happy to find female librarians “chained to their desks” and thus unable to avoid them.

The second is the nature of the work.  Few (I hesitate to say no one) has ever died or gone to prison for lack of a public library professional’s help.  It’s easy, even for librarians, to take the view that their work isn’t important enough for them to possess business cards.

After time, reasons one and two become traditions despite the growing importance of library and information services to the library using population.

Some months after I came to my current position I insisted that all professional and paraprofessional public service staff have business cards.  That was a sea change, but nothing like what is coming now with the advent of social software.

We can no longer hide behind our desks.  We have to declare who we are when we interact online and we will have to model the type of professional behavior – and produce the quality results – that members of the public have come to expect from their doctors, dentists, and attorneys.

Well, maybe not attorneys.  Make that CPAs.

And we’ll have to do this on the tightrope, open to everyone’s view, that comprises social media.

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