Five Not So Good Things About Librarians

Following up on yesterday’s post listing Five Good Things About Librarians, here are some generalizations about the weaknesses many librarians share…

1. Librarians are often extremely anal retentive
What else would you expect from a profession which has the organization and classification of the world’s information as one of its core purposes? Part of this is that I think we like routine and order and this makes us perhaps more resistant to accepting change or even being nimble compared to other sectors.

2. Librarians have an inferiority complex
Because we’re not “professionals” (at least in the same sense that doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, teachers are professionals) but we have similar levels of education, if not more, that often leaves us with an inferiority complex about our place in the social hierarchy. This also manifests itself with the ongoing debates about “professional librarians”, “para-professionals” and who can be properly called a “librarian” within the four walls of our buildings.

3. Librarians aren’t as smart as we think we are
Many of my points in this list are basically the inverse of the “good things about librarians” points I listed yesterday. For example, although we know a lot about a lot of things which is one of our strengths, often that knowledge isn’t as deep as it for a specialist in an area. Put another way, we may know a little bit about technology and a little bit about politics and a little bit about community development and a little about marketing but rarely will you find a librarian who is an expert in multiple areas.

4. Librarians overvalue our importance to society
Another corollary to yesterday’s post – I mean, anybody who claims that their profession “embodies democracy” as I said yesterday probably has a highly developed sense of self-regard! I think the problem is an issue of perspective – often, libraries (and librarians) don’t make an immediate, visible impact in the same way that doctors, firefighters and even highway repair workers do. Many times, our impact is much deeper, less visible and stretched over a much longer period of time. (How many people in society developed a lifelong love of reading via childhood visits to the library?)

5. Librarians chase trends, we don’t create them
Again, thinking of librarians within the context of the wider world, are their any recent examples of where we’ve been in the lead of a new trend instead of chasing what others have done? We look to Chapters for ideas on how to design our libraries. We look to Amazon for guidance on promoting e-books and ideas for how to enhance our OPAC. We look to retail for ideas on everything from open hours to customer service principles to merchandising. I also think that we missed the boat long ago – libraries should’ve been the ones inventing sites like Wikipedia and Google, Facebook and Yelp. Of course, it’s unlikely libraries would’ve created these exact sites. But is there any reason we couldn’t have developed localized forms of these types of sites?

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