How technology forces change

Our world has changed so quickly. With the use of technology, many job titles that used to make sense, just don’t hold the same value. When this is happening, it can be frustrating for staff as everyone attempts to hold onto what once was. Trust me–I am a librarian–we are the epitome of having to deal with change. I graduated with my Masters in Library and Information Science in 2007. That meant that I took classes in web design, management, social media, marketing, instructional design, literacy and presentation skills. Does that sound like a “shushing” librarian? Not so much. Many of us graduate with this kind of degree, only to have the public tell us our skills are not needed. It is because of this is that I argue for a change in job title to better inform the user base of what public libraries stand for today.
There is at least one public library out there who is using this model. Anythink Libraries is the amazing rebrand of the Rangeview Library District in Colorado. Rangeview did a lot in its self-proclaimed “revolution” but one of the things that resonated with me the most was their brave re-titling of all library positions.
This was not a top-down approach. The entire staff took part in the rethinking, allowing for important staff buy-in. New positions and job descriptions were written and then, to make things really controversial, EVERYONE had to reinterview for a position. They were told that they would not lose their job, conversely, people could actually make more money than they were making depending on which position they wanted. Introverts were then not forced to plan programming, and extroverts had the opportunity to shine. They took a fun approach–using job titles like Wrangler, Guide, Concierge and allowed people to grow into these new roles.

Now the modern urban library system might have different challenges. I, for one, spent a lot of time helping people develop resumes and search for jobs. Other librarians who worked mostly with children, did wonderful work designing and implementing developmentally appropriate programming for the community. Other librarians were experts in researching local history, or digging through massive government databases. Not to leave other staff members out, I worked with many clerks (the people at the check-out desk) who were, as the first point of contact for many patrons, personable greeters of the public, masters of efficiency, wizards with a spreadsheet, and experts at quickly writing up the unrelenting paperwork. So let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s try out a few titles and see what happens: Employment Specialist (instead of Librarian), Community Literacy Coordinator (instead of Librarian), Research Expert (instead of Librarian), and Customer Service Coordinator (instead of Clerk), Administrative Specialist (instead of Clerk). Isn’t that more helpful to the public and harder to lay off in a recession? And how about Community Education Center (instead of Library!). Scared yet? Or are you kind of feeling it? Instead of counting the number of books that circulate (which will continue to decline as more people switch to electronic resources), the Community Education Center could be judged by what urban libraries have been doing for years–serving as a learning, resource, and community center for the neighborhood.

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  1. I am definitely open to it! However, I am still one of those people who really likes telling people that I am a librarian, and I lament the fact that we have not successfully rebranded the title itself. I wish we could continue to just be librarians; legislators and potential patrons would ideally understand that the title encompasses all of those things you mention above.

  2. I agree with you. I used to LOVE telling people I was a librarian (my dear husband’s first reaction when I met him was, “WHOA! You protect my intellectual freedom!” But now, I feel that it doesn’t quite hit the mark–people equate librarians with books and print information. We are so much more than that.