Are We Cool?
Recently the local newspaper came to interview me. As usual, I was surprised for the reporter to be calling ME and not the other way around. I always look forward to talking about the library and the services that we provide. But at the outset, I’m trying to overcome the stereotype that most people have about what it means to be a librarian. Joanne Papaianni starts by saying:
Most kids, or most people for that matter, don’t equate librarians with being cool, but that’s only because they haven’t visited the Bradley Beach Public Library.
Now, as flattering as that may sound, it bothers me a bit. Because don’t we all think we’re “cool” in our way? None of us are running around saying that but we think it. But why doesn’t the general populace see us that way? Maybe this is where our profession is most lacking, in the ability to promote and market our services as “cool” or even necessary.
Ask any of the people who come into your library on a daily basis if they think the library or its staff is cool and you might be surprised. Just today Robert Lackie was visiting and talked to some of the kids sitting out in front of the library. I was VERY surprised when he came in and told me that they said I was cool.
I think that maybe all of us face this same challenge. And we all need to be doing more to overcome that stereotype of the librarian as the mean and cranky old woman (or man) who is trying to impose outdated and restrictive rules. One of the best ways is to try and garner good publicity (I happen to be lucky lately in that) which talks about libraries and librarians using new and maybe even controversial media or websites to reach out to underserved populations.
Don’t know where to start? The easiest things that I have found are to offer IM reference (and promote it) and to have a profile on a social networking site (like myspace). And we’ve all heard it before but we really need to get out from behind the desk. Be friendly (not necessarily friends) with your users/patrons. It really does make a huge difference in the perceptions that your community has of you and the services that your institution provides. Maybe over time then everyone will think of their library as “cool.”
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