Librarian without a library - Jo Alcock Consulting
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-1050,single-format-standard,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,paspartu_enabled,paspartu_on_top_fixed,paspartu_on_bottom_fixed,qode-theme-ver-10.1.1,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.12,vc_responsive

Librarian without a library

Librarian without a library

It’s been a while since my last post, longer than usual anyway. I’m not going to apologise for this; partly because I get fed up with reading posts from people apologising for not blogging (personally, I’m all for organic blogging rather than forcing blog posts), but mainly because it’s sort of been a conscious decision whilst I’ve been contemplating.

I’ve been settling into my new job (almost 5 weeks now, gone so quickly!), and with that a whole new institution (and accompanying procedures and acronyms) to understand, and a whole new way of working. So far I am really enjoying it, and it’s getting more exciting now I’m getting stuck into the actual work, but it’s a very different world to get used to.  Technically I’m still part of an academic library department, and I still refer to myself as a librarian, but truthfully my job role doesn’t need any library experience or qualifications (although it is an advantage), and I could successfully fulfill my job role and very rarely set foot in a library. I know I’m not unique in this way, there are a number of people within the profession who don’t work in libraries; information specialists, independent consultants, and others working on library/information service related projects such as myself. But it’s taking a bit of getting used to after 5 years of being fully immersed in working in libraries.

View as I left my last day working in a library
View as I left my last day working in a library (imagine it’s changed a lot since!)

I’m lucky in that I have a network of fellow librarians and information professionals who I am in regular contact with, but no longer being in a library, particularly at this time of year (the busiest time for an academic librarian), is very strange. No running round like a headless chicken frantically trying to cover all the induction sessions and tours, no working extra long hours to prepare for these sessions and try to keep on top of other demands, no Fresher’s flu even (fingers crossed!). OK, so if I’m being totally honest there are some things I don’t miss, no one enjoys having Fresher’s flu. But on the flip side I won’t get that feeling of exhausted satisfaction when someone truly appreciates the session you provided, the warm glow when you know a session has gone down well and genuinely helped people, or the feeling of pride when someone recommends you to a colleague because your support was so invaluable to their research.

It’s given me a different perspective on things, and I’m so glad that I’ve had that experience so that I can understand how the work I currently do (research and evaluation for the information community) can support the core of the profession – the library environment. I don’t want to lose touch with that, and I’ll be making a conscious effort to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Some things haven’t changed, my network for one, which has been a massive bonus whilst changing jobs (and it has also helped tremendously that I knew some of my new work colleagues before I started and they have been wonderful at helping me settle in – if you’re reading, you know who you are, thank you!). I’ll still be blogging, although the nature of the posts may change. I have always kept my blogging separate from my work anyway, but a lot of my blog posts stemmed from issues/developments which emerged through my work as a librarian, and I’m unlikely to come across everyday problems from users within my work; I’m not even sure technically I am a librarian anymore (though I still very much feel like part of the library profession).

It takes me back to a much earlier popular blog post of mine, which got some really interesting views in the comments – what makes a librarian a librarian? It’s a different angle on the issue from when I initially blogged about it (when the focus was on the value of qualifications), but it’s a question which has been running through my mind a lot recently. What defines a librarian? Do you need to work in a library? Will anything change in the future? Am I still a librarian even though I don’t work in a library? I’d be interested to hear other’s views.

  • joeyanne
    Posted at 13:30h, 24 September Reply

    New Blog Post: Librarian without a library

    • Wendy
      Posted at 16:04h, 05 October Reply

      Hi Joeyanne,
      I have also started a post in a research facility (in the last week, in fact) for which I don’t need to be a qualified librarian but it is certainly an advantage. It’s very strange, so I can completely understand what you are saying. I had inernal tussels with myself such as ‘am I not a librarian anymore?’ And if not, how does that impact on my work when I’m trying to get my chartership going?! I think acutally I am, and librarian skills are certainly valued in the area I’m working in, so I guess really we have to think more laterally.

      • Jo Alcock
        Posted at 15:07h, 09 October Reply

        Thanks for your comment Wendy, it’s good to hear from someone in a similar situation. I’d be very interested to hear how you get on with your chartership as it’s something I’d like to do once I’ve finished my MSc; it is something I’ve been thinking about as I don’t know if I could do it in my current job.

  • thewikiman
    Posted at 15:05h, 24 September Reply

    Librarians beyond libraries is an issue we may well be discussing, virtually, on an on-going basis throughout NPID2010. We’re using WallWisher, so you can join in with your views too…

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 19:30h, 24 September Reply

      Great, I’ll have to remember to keep an eye out for that.

  • Richard Hawkins
    Posted at 15:07h, 24 September Reply

    Hi Jo,

    Your blog post really struck a chord with me, as I used to work in Public libraries until just over a year ago. Now though I have what is mostly a desk-based job and I sometimes wonder if I should refer to myself as a librarian too?

    However I think that although I don’t work in a library any more, I’m still doing very much the same thing as before, except that instead of meeting people face to face I’m interacting with them electronically instead. So while the venue has changed, I’m still drawing on the experience I gained from working with the public for so many years. In light of this I still consider myself to be a librarian, but if I’m explaining my job to people outside of the profession I often let them know I don’t work in an actual library anymore, sometimes I tell them I am a bit more like a ‘digital librarian’ – they seem to understand when I say that.

    I imagine that you will (like me) continue to draw on your library experience in your current role too (you might not even realise you are doing it sometimes) and who knows maybe one day you’ll find yourself back in the library again…

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 19:39h, 24 September Reply

      Thanks for the comment Richard; I think digital librarian or virtual librarian is a good description of your work (or at least my perception of what you do!).

      I’m definitely drawing on my knowledge and experience in terms of getting to grips with some of the projects I’m working on – it certainly helps knowing how a typical library works and understanding some of the systems and services. I’m not currently using my traditional librarian skills in terms of reference support (which was a large part of my job previously), but many of the other skills I developed are thankfully transferrable to my current role.

      There’s also a fair bit of flexibility to my current role in that it will vary massively depending on the projects I’m working on so there may be a lot more crossover in some projects than in others. I am fiding it different, but in a good way – I should hopefully develop a different set of skills and adapt to a different way of working which will enhance my experience.

      My boss mentioned on one of my first days that it’s very difficult to describe what we do to most people, particularly non-librarians, so I guess it’s natural that it will take me a while to figure out how to define what I do.

      It’s interesting hearing other’s experiences, I really enjoying reading your library roots and routes post. 🙂

  • Tweets that mention Joeyanne Libraryanne » Librarian without a library --
    Posted at 05:19h, 25 September Reply

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jo Alcock, Helen Murphy. Helen Murphy said: Really enjoyed this post from @joeyanne ( Great observations about starting new jobs & the definition of ‘librarian’. […]

  • Lisa Jeskins
    Posted at 11:04h, 27 September Reply

    Hi Jo,

    I’ve ‘not’ been working in a library for 3 years now and I still call myself a librarian. I know I work with online library and archive services (As you know – Copac and the Archives Hub) and I work on our helpdesks so I suppose technically I can say I still deal with library users everyday. However a lot of my other tasks are quite different from when I was a subject librarian. I’m not sure what my next move/role will be and if it will take me further away from the concept which people traditionally think of when they consider ‘librarian’, however I think that my mentality will always be that of a librarian. As a friend of mine would say. “It’s a state of mind.”

  • Mike Dainton
    Posted at 15:54h, 04 October Reply

    Hi Jo,

    We’ve had a stop motion camera installed to record the new build, so I’ve not taken many photos recently. However, just for you, I’ve updated the facebook page ( with a couple of recent photos.

    Librarian is a state of mind not a job!

  • Bre Wong
    Posted at 01:48h, 14 October Reply

    Seems to be a lot of redefining what it means to be a librarian or information professional. See Karen S. my blog partner on same thing in Canada.

    P.S. Love the look and feel of your blog as we have been following lately.

Post A Comment