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Kathy Ennis and Lyndsay Rees-Jones of CILIP say “Market your value as a librarian” February 10, 2010

Posted by michaelpawlus in Uncategorized.
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Today, we were fortunate enough to host Kathy Ennis and Lyndsay Rees-Jones from CILIP.  It was a great presentation, full of energy and enthusiasm and lots of content with no filler or reading from PowerPoint slides that audience members could easily read themselves.  At the cornerstone of their presentation was one simple message: Librarians are important but we need to market our value and showcase the unique skills we have to offer.

This presentation goes so well with my post yesterday about marketing the value of the public library.  In addition, we need to market the value of the public librarian and every librarian.  We had a discussion about what makes a librarian; what skills does a librarian have.  I think there is a tendency to be to modest when describing the role of the average librarian.  Some words that emerged were good listener, good customer relations, multi-tasker, team player, organised, etc.  All of these are true but in this tough economy if a local or council government or company is looking to cut corners and that is all you have to offer it is likely they will see you as replaceable.  We next looked at a different set of skills such as: collection development, metadata creation and integration, knowledge of classification and cataloging systems, as well as the legal side of information managment which includes understanding copyright laws, Freedom of Information, Health and Safety, etc.  In fact, seeing this list of specialised skills growing to cover the white board gave me a lot of encouragment and made me feel much more confident.

I wrote very early on about the constant question that almost every library student receives when he or she says that this is what they are studying and it is something around the lines of: you need a degree for that?  As much as you try to have a thick skin, I think those types of questions can get to you.  You start to think maybe I will be replaced by Google, perhaps I am becoming obsolete, I suppose anyone with a good set of general skills could probably be a librarian.  It’s not true though and seeing all the unique skills we bring to a position today really helped me see that.

In addition to hammering into us the need to stand up for ourselves and loudly proclaim how valuable we are they provided us with a number of practical tips and idea.  Some I had heard before such as clean up your online brand and try to make a distinction between your personal and professional identities on the Web.  Even so, I agree that this is an important issue and one that I am still working on.  Another was a classic piece of advice which is to get business cards.  Of course, I have always wanted to have some but I could never budget for them.  They let us know about a website, VistaPrint, which prints business cards for free.  In addition to just having business cards, they recommend that when you collect someone else’s business card that you write some information on the back such as where you met that person and what you talked about.  That makes so much sense but I had never thought of it before.  Lastly, they had us write some examples of what we have learned in the last six months.  There were some great examples and sometimes you are so busy in the present you forget how much you have developed and grown.  To help with this they recommended regular reflective journalling which I have been hearing a lot about but have not been doing enough of so this was good motivation to get going on it so I can better track my progress.

All in all, it was a great presentation with not even one dull moment.  If you get a chance, be sure to go to any workshops offered by Kathy Ennis and Lyndsay Rees-Jones.  It is sure to be a very worthwhile investment of your time.