The librarian vs information professional conundrum has always given me something to think about, but has only come to a crunch point once so far. Until now.
The first time names caused issue was whilst I was choosing my Masters course. The choice of ‘Librarianship’ against ‘Information Studies’ was something I quibbled about very briefly, before realising that the course content was far more important than the name. If I wanted a cool degree title that made people go “ooh” I would have studied Egyptology or Experimental Archaeology.
But now LinkedIn has come along and forced me to choose the sector I work in, providing me with two supposedly opposing camps: ‘Libraries’ and ‘Information Services’. This puts me in a quandary.
I like the libraries/librarian tag. I am very much aware that it is connected to a traditional stereotype, but that stereotype is also well known. I think that the best way to make people understand what we do is to take that image and update it. For me, using ‘information professional’ or ‘information services’ creates a whole new problem of defining what that is, leaving the stereotypical librarian to fend for itself. Alternatively, that attempted definition will come back around to the word ‘librarian’, creating a sense that the word might be taboo, as if the profession were trying to hide it. Neither of these situations help our cause. As long as that old-fashioned perception exists, people will not understand the sector’s work, no matter what we call ourselves. I realise that some feel librarianship no longer encompasses all that we do as professionals, making the title unfit regardless of any connotations it may or may not carry, but I still feel that it is the best way to crack down on what people think the profession is and does.
I should emphasise that I am not against the term ‘information professional’, in fact I am all for it. It explains that our roles transcend the physical library, and the work that we do is not only books, but information on a grand scale. However, might this be because I understand the importance of the sector and the work it does? We need to stamp out incorrect stereotypes before attempting a re-brand. A bit like decorating – you need to remove any old wallpaper first and smooth the walls before applying a new finish, otherwise the old decor will still be visible underneath.
Then there are the views of others within the profession to consider. If I advertise myself within ‘information services’ will that demonstrate me as a forward thinking professional, willing to challenge the boundaries of traditional perceptions? Or would ‘libraries’ better position me to connect with others, showing an appreciation of the profession’s core? Or maybe titles don’t matter at all? This was partly proved in research by myself and theatregrad presented at the New Professionals Conference earlier this year.
My LinkedIn sector currently displays ‘libraries’. I think I might stick with it for a while, until those library stereotypes are banished. Feel free to convince me otherwise though, I’m always open to change.