Let us make a resolution together. Let’s make 2010 the year of the librarian – not the library. As librarians we have become so consumed with an institutional focus that we all too often lose our personal responsibility and our power – it’s about librarians not libraries! I think all too often librarians get lost in some institutional identity and forget that they are the ones that make things happen. The library is not some large all encompassing and abstract entity resistant to change, it is just a group of people making decisions together. If the library is slow to change, that means that we are. If the library is not customer focused, that means we are not.
Worse still our constant use of the library as a sort of “royal we” leads those outside of the library field to see the library as a place and collection, not a group of expertise, people, and a mission. This makes it all too easy to cut it, or stereotype it, or even ignore it. We need to take back the language, and force ourselves and our communities to realize that it is all about librarians and their skills, not buildings and collections.
A simple shift in our language use, librarians instead of library (the librarians of X University, or the librarian of X city) can have an impact on our community’s and our own perceptions. Sure we use words like hospital or law practice as a normal aggregation. But no one thinks you go to the hospital to get well because of the walls – it is because of the doctors. Law firms don’t help us because they have an outstanding collection of law books. But that is what we perpetuate in our own language and marketing with the library. Go to the library to lose yourself in books, or to get free stuff.
If we want people to appreciate our efforts (our communities, our bosses, even our colleagues) we need to start giving credit where credit is due. You are the library. I am the library. The library is a place of knowledge, and knowledge is active and human and conversation. Andrew Carnegie said it best:
Take away my people, but leave my factories, and soon grass will grow on the factory floors. Take away my factories, but leave my people, and soon we will have a new and better factory.
So my resolution for the New Year is to make it the year of the librarian. To put a face on the building and the services. To take credit, and make sure my community knows me. My resolution for the New Year is to make a brighter future for librarians, and in doing so, making a brighter future for my community. My resolution for the New Year has a name – it is Karen, and Nicholette, and Joe, and Jeff, and Paula…