A Positive Impact on Perceptions: Librarians Must Be Proud of Their Profession and Vocal about Their Abilities If They Want Others to Recognize and Value Their Skills

By Schachter, Debbie | Information Outlook, March 2011 | Go to article overview

A Positive Impact on Perceptions: Librarians Must Be Proud of Their Profession and Vocal about Their Abilities If They Want Others to Recognize and Value Their Skills


Schachter, Debbie, Information Outlook


We librarians are forever wondering (and sometimes worrying) about our image in the eyes of our clients and employers. I think we all understand that librarians have an enduring brand and that librarianship is a recognized and valued profession. At the same time, it is possibly one of the most misunderstood professions today.

Although some librarians continue to hold traditional types of library positions, by and large our professional activities, skills and expertise are not well understood by people outside the profession. A recent OCLC report, Perception of Libraries 2010, states that while librarians are highly recognized and valued by society, they are not the first source of information for most people. The report says that librarians have a positive image, but are not necessarily the "first port of call," an honor that belongs to Google and other search engines.

Capitalizing on Our Brand

SLA's Alignment Project focuses on using the language of our clients to convey our professional and personal value to our organizations. Misunderstandings about our profession can and do devalue our very tangible skills--skills that are both transferrable and applicable to a variety of work contexts.

In my case, I have always thought about how I want my skills to be perceived, and I have modified my language and behavior accordingly. For example, when working in a legal environment, it was important that I understand the role that information professionals play in the legal world (a work environment that has very clear and regimented roles and responsibilities), understand and use the language of attorneys, and encourage an understanding of the realms in which I have expertise.

We must embrace the language of our clients, making it clear that we use the same rigorous management practices that other professions do. The real question lies in whether we want to change our image. On the one hand, the term librarian conveys very strong and often positive images that we can effectively leverage to our benefit; on the other hand, it also conjures up stereotypes that do not reflect who we are or what we do. As the OCLC report shows, though, librarians are trusted sources, even if the traditional library environment is not where people think to go first for information.

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