Tag Archives: librarians

consider kali

Often times it is somewhat embarrassing to encounter the mindless conception of ourselves and our profession among the uninitiated masses. Most people I encounter do not have an accurate representation of what libraries are or more importantly, what librarians do.

Part of that is our fault. Libraries serve as a refuge, and it has been out of our compassion to accept more social responsibility than to specifically limit our professional responsibilities that we do a great many things to a great many people. Typically, we are left picking up the pieces of our shattered reality before we can attempt to promote our significance.

Rather than outright say what we are for others, for that would be a really boring post, I’ve been concentrating on others’ misconceptions. Normally the first thing associated with us is some form of nostalgia commonly associated with a rural family farmhouse. A little outdated, we are represented by the elderly, matronly, meek and respected guardians of the nourishing, sacred tomes and the all-around country quiet; though not quite altogether upstairs, we however are quaint and eccentric all the same, deserving of some form of respect as well as a new coat of paint before we meet our abrupt and untimely foreclosure, mostly figuratively speaking. Sadly, our image, our stereotype is rapidly in flux and we must redefine it.

If people were to see our work more through our eyes, more would understand why we are a little off, why our conventions are typically booze filled and generally outrageous. But again, without spelling it out, I humbly present an analogy.

At the risk of sounding a bit too high and almighty or righteous I propose that in order to reclaim and expand upon our identity, we should think big and identify ourselves with the more recognizable figures, for example religious and philosophic deities. I nominate the Hindu deity Kali. The connections are simply too logical. Continuing the stately female-centric image, which as a male librarian I fully endorse, I can think of no more fitting stereotype…ahem, representation.

A symbol of death, destruction, even time, Kali first and foremost signifies the death of library patrons’ ignorance and the change that will slowly blossom from the ashes of our jarring instruction on the nature of information. We are an urgent force and need to get peoples’ attention. Kali demands attention: she’s naked, crispy, wears a necklace of bloody heads and carries swords, among other trophies.

Secondly, her image endures due mainly to her batshit rage emanating from her presence, inciting instantaneous fear in enemies. This is appropriate especially with those in the public service side of the profession, who incessantly deal with patrons trying to take our pens and staplers, deceive us out of their printing and late fees, as well as expect us to babysit their children while they’re off scoring their next fix. With a bit more of our tough instruction, people will learn to respect our professional boundaries and our wrathful knowledge.

Thirdly, she is a multitasker, as evidenced by her numerous limbs. I think nearly everyone in libraryland relates to this, though I couldn’t think of any deity possessing many emanations wearing an assortment of hats. In any case, we do a lot of different stuff, things not normally expected of us and often times without extra compensation or simple gratitude. I cite the wrath mentioned above, all things being feeding off each other and stuff.

So as a passing warning to library-goers, if you’re ever wondering why that circulation or reference librarian is looking especially pissed off, consider the Kalis among us. We are only invoking our disdain upon the complacency of the masses for their (your) benefit. We will happily destroy your ignorance with violent force by: simultaneously instructing you on OPAC searching techniques with one pointed, scarred hand, accepting your overdue fines with another clawed and outstretched palm, shushing you with a third as we hold a bloody finger to our charcoal lips before a dangling and frothy tongue, and grasping a mobile device in a final hand, tweeting your idiocy to the world as we dance upon your expired library card which we can make happen anytime we want.

So in our grand quest for identity, it may better for you dear patrons, as well as fellow librarians, to think of ourselves as such.

when you think of librarians…

Forwarded by a friend…Cat and Girl.

self-entitlement in 3 easy steps

That’s easy…become a CEO, politician, or… librarian.


year of the ‘brarian

librarian.net just highlighted what US News and World Report have broken in their ongoing investigation…librarianship is groovy.

From the article:

That effort to land a job will be well worth it if you’re well suited to the profession: love the idea of helping people dig up information, are committed to being objective—helping people gain multiple perspectives on issues—and will remain inspired by the awareness that librarians are among our society’s most empowering people.

Seems about right.  If I could think of any simile that would approximate my approach toward the profession, it may just be this:

resisting google: not so futile

Not too long ago I mused upon the idea of how some search engine companies are trying to provide more  human interaction when one has an online reference question, by either doing the searching or providing suggestions on how to perform the search.  This quasi virtual reference seems to be catching on, and librarians are suddenly becoming more recognized for the credibility they provide in their reference work.

This sentiment is the impetus for a new project that aims to compete with likes of the great goog, Reference Extract.  The project, an ever-increasing collaboration of libraries, aims to differ from Google in the credibility taken from the shrewd linkages that librarians provide in applying sound information literacy principles. Said better than myself:

Users will enter a search term and get results weighted towards sites most often referred to by librarians at institutions such as the Library of Congress, the University of Washington, the State of Maryland, and over 1,400 libraries worldwide.

The issue of credibility is interesting when compared to the measure of relevancy and popularity Google bases its index on.  The issue of credibility is more fully explained:

In essence linkages between web pages by anyone is replaced by citations to web pages by highly trained librarians in their daily work of answering the questions of scholars, policy makers and the general population. Instead of page rank, the team refers to this as “reference weighting.”

That is to say, it is no great leap to believe that working one-on-one with a librarian would yield highly credible results, but it also appears that gathering the sites librarians point to across these one-on-one interactions and making them searchable continues to yield highly credible results. Further since the librarians answer question on very wide range of topics, their answers can be applied to a general purpose search engine.

I find it clever that the organizers of RefEx measured their index by using the custom search engine provided by Google…beating it at its own game perhaps.

It is important to note that by using the Google Custom Search Engine service the exact same technology was used to search and rank the results, the only thing that varied was that one was an open web search, and one was limited to only those pointed to by reference librarians. So, even outside of the library website context the credibility of librarians is retained.

We may index less pages, but the ones we point to are more informationally literate. One question to walk away from with this: does less material indexed = more reliable?  Philosophically speaking, words like popular, relevant, and usefulness will cause debate; academically speaking, this justifies the librarian’s attempt to wean those frothing, zombie-like patrons away from The Google and more toward our subscribed databases, online resources and guides.  And with RefEx, Google’s helping us do it.