September 19, 2011

What Michael Said

Over at The Travelin' Librarian, Michael Sauers has been posting about his adventures working through "23 Things for Professional Development" as part of the Nebraska Learns project. His #16, Advocacy, really caught my eye:

"So, simply put, I need to advocate more to people who aren’t librarians themselves."

This got me to thinking... Michael says how sometimes he explains "What do you do?" without using the word "librarian" because sometimes it's just easier in some situations. When I think back on how I answer that question, I always say "I'm a systems librarian" and, inevitably, pull out my short explanation (I'm a trained information professional who works a lot with computer systems.") What I've been mulling over is how many times it would have been easier and more straightforward to say something like "I work with computers" or "I work at an observatory" and just leave it at that.

I do think I do a decent job of advocating the power of librarians... but am I preaching too much to the choir? I have to think about this a lot more.


Joe said...

Reminds me of some of what Ned Potter and Laura Woods recommend here, and the prezi at

Anonymous said...

Librarians already know the values of libraries and librarians (if someone doesn’t that is a whole other issue). We do need to be preaching to the audience not the choir. Ultimately it will be the audience who decides (in part) our fate, be it through taxes, tuition or some other voice. They need to understand how we enhance and better their world. But first we need to believe that ourselves, and believe that we need to proselytize for ourselves not amongst ourselves. I’ve spoken at professional conferences outside the library profession – as a librarian, and I am accepted as an expert by those groups because I’m a librarian. To me, that does more to promote the profession than telling a group of librarians what they already know (what most programs I have been to do). Yet my boss doesn’t consider my presentations to be professional involvement because I’m not speaking to librarians. I’m speaking to authors and researchers who use our resources and in some cases give money or tangible donations because they want to support the institutions which support their work. Aren’t they the people we should be preaching to? Our profession needs to learn to be outward facing instead of inward facing. Until then we are our own worst enemy.