Do you get to read books all day? Battling with the librarian stereotype.




Whenever I tell someone what I do for a living the number one question I get asked is “so… what exactly do you do all day?” As librarians we are all familiar with the common misconceptions surrounding our profession and the stereotypes associated with it. If we are to believe the masses, we all sit at a vast desk all day reading books and periodically shushing anyone who dares to make so much as a squeak. Oh and we all wear cardigans, live alone and have fifteen cats. Admittedly the stereotypical librarian ‘image’ is becoming a thing of the past but the fact remains that the huge variety of roles and responsibilities associated with librarianship are not common knowledge.

A few weeks ago, a friend and I attended a Young Professionals event in Bristol where in a room full of engineers, lawyers and accountants we were the only librarians and it seemed, the only librarians to have ever attended such an event. Every single person that I spoke to asked me if I get to read books all day and all of them stared at me in disbelief when I told them that that I’m also studying for a postgraduate degree in librarianship because that is what is required in order to move up the career ladder. I have to confess, before starting my role as a graduate trainee I had underestimated exactly what my role would involve but I have been pleasantly surprised. Librarians deal with complex databases, manage sizable budgets and are often subject specialists. They negotiate with publishers and manage access to a huge collection of digital and print resources. They deliver academic skills sessions to students, produce information literacy skills resources and support academics as well as managing the library space. They work in schools, universities, hospitals, law firms and prisons to name but a few.  I have yet to touch more than a handful of books and I definitely do not have time to read them (nor unfortunately is this included in my job description).

As hilarious as the stereotypes are and as much as I want to just give up and embrace them, buy more cardigans and become a ‘cat person’ I feel it is my duty to spread the message that librarianship as a career option is both challenging and hugely rewarding. If however during my quest to transform the librarian stereotype I am compared to Hermione Granger or Giles from Buffy, I will not argue because let’s face it, who would?


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