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March 18, 2012 / theatregrad

New Librarianship: Librarian or Person Who Works In A Library?

I recently read a very interesting piece about ‘New Librarianship’ on Hack Library School.   Some of the ideas from the piece have been on my mind ever since.

The term New Librarianship was new to me but the ideas behind the concept were not.  According the author, our profession has both people who work in libraries and New Librarians.   But what are  New Librarians?

“People who cannot be this sort of ever-learning, ever-sharing, always-on go-getter can still find roles that change lives–but they aren’t the people I’m trying to join by earning an MSLIS, or the ones I’m referring to when I talk about New Librarians” (

Librarianship is viewed as a vocation.  It is not something you leave behind at 5pm and put aside until the next day.   New Librarianship encompasses the idea of librarians being on a mission to change the world, to turn empty rooms into libraries and improve the communities they find themselves within.  The author sees librarianship as being about more than having the skills to do your job; it is about personality, focus and world-view.   I’m not entirely sure what is meant by personality,  focus and world-view but I’m guessing it means to be a librarian in all aspects of life, both in and out of the workplace.

My problem with the concept of ‘New Librarianship’ is that surely this is not a new idea. Also the label New Librarianship may undermine those of us who don’t always want to be switched on to librarianship but are still committed to improving ourselves and the services we provide.  I do not want to turn every room I enter into a library.  Not everything I do is underpinned by the worldview of librarianship.

But does this mean I am just a person who works in a library? No.

I am a librarian (although I prefer to call myself an information professional) committed to the profession beyond the boundaries of my current job.  I blog, attend events, attempt to write journal articles, and much more.  But I am more than just a librarian.  I even define myself as many things in my semi-professional online profiles.

I don’t think I fit the ideal of New Librarianship but I am more than a person who works in a library.   I see librarianship not as a vocation but as a career.

I may do things related to the profession outside of my job but it isn’t always underpinned by a desire to improve the world as the New Librarianship concept desires.   On reflection a lot of the time I devote to librarianship outside of my immediate role is not about making the world a better place but about developing myself and my ability to do my job.   Often my motivation to do things outside of work is so I can get a better job and progress my career.   It isn’t all just about me; professional development of course has a knock on impact on the library I work in.  I engage with the wider profession with the view to improving the service I provide which in turn impacts upon the community that I serve.  But often the things I do outside of my job are considered in terms of the potential impact for my career as well as the impact I can have on my organisation.  I want to be good at my job and provide a good service, and to do this I am prepared to be committed to librarianship beyond the walls of my workplace.

I fully respect those who are committed to the idea of New Librarianship.   However I don’t think it is for me.  Ultimately librarianship is an aspect of my life that I love but it is not everything.  I don’t think it is my calling.  I enjoy the work and think I’m quite good at what’s involved but I like to go home sometimes and be many other things too.

(Ironically I’m a bit late blogging about this but I can’t always be switched on the profession…)

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  1. Catherine, librarian, old but new / Apr 1 2012 12:34 am

    The late Allen Smith, professor at GSLIS, Simmons College, Boston MA: “The best part of being a librarian is, everything counts. The more you know, the better you’re going to be.”

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