Guest post #4: First they came for the school librarians…

Today’s very timely guest post comes from Katy Wrathall @SmilyLibrarian, who blogs here describes herself thus:

I started as a hotel receptionist book-keeper, then clerk in Civil Service, moved to IT as programmer, analyst, developer and then was an IT Consultant (Unix) jacked it in at 40 to do Library and Info Mgt degree, since when worked in Schools Library Service, then FE as LRC Manager, then info-lit project SMILE project manager, and temp Academic Liaison Team Manager, currently between engagements.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave this week you’ll know that, yet again, public libraries are in the spotlight and for all the wrong reasons. Katy explains why we need to support our professional colleagues and advocate on behalf of the profession. If we don’t, who else will?

School librarians have been fighting to retain the professionalism of their role for a long time, in some cases with little support even from their own professional body. If we do not fight for the professional qualification to be recognised and mandatory for all librarians are we saying that actually it has no relevance?

If you are a librarian in any sector you can’t fail to have noticed that Public Library Services are under increasing threat. There is a misconception about their role and the services provided that at times seems tantamount to a campaign of deliberate misinformation. The vitriol towards libraries and indeed librarians expressed in responses to articles such as those by I. J. Clark and Lauren Smith has been shocking, and, for me, deeply concerning.

It seems to me to be symptomatic of a much wider lack of understanding of the role of a librarian, wherever we work. I believe we are at a crossroads in the profession and we all need to stand up and be counted. No librarian, wherever they work, can afford to be complacent about the future of the profession. We have to work together to say what librarians are, and what we bring to our employers. We have to get loud about our skills in finding, organising, detailing and relaying information. We have to get loud about the fact that people may be able to afford to buy their own books, DVDs, computers and access to online services, but without librarians they can’t easily retrieve just the piece of information they need, they can’t have objectively selected fiction available freely and with minimum effort, there won’t be anywhere they can go to ask for help with their research and there won’t be anybody ensuring their work is acknowledged by others.

We can’t sit and wait for somebody to do this for us, and we can’t assume that they won’t come for the college, academic, legal, or business librarians next. We have to stand up and be counted, we have to tell people what they are throwing away which they will never get back, we have to act outside the stereotype. And we have to do it now.

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4 thoughts on “Guest post #4: First they came for the school librarians…

  1. Well put Katy. I believe that we should have been fighting our corner for about a decade or two now, informing people about what it is that we do exactly. But acting now is still better than never. We can’t afford to be complacent and just hope that as traditional part of British society libraries will survive, public or otherwise. And we can’t expect other people to fight our cause for us when most of them only partially understand what is at stake.

  2. Why isn’t CILIP trumpeting the achievements of its members in terms of outreach, profiling, making a difference, etc.? I don’t just mean in Update – I’m talking about press releases, marketing campaigns, Calendar Girls style naked librarians if needs be. We have to stand up and TELL people why the profession matters, before it’s too late.

    Those Sunday supplement articles about ‘Twenty people to watch in the arts’ may be slightly annoying but they are a very effective way of highlighting the diverse achievements of the previously unknown and unsung in their chosen field. CILIP could do something similar with relatively little effort.

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