Saturday, May 27, 2006

What I Do When I'm Not Knitting

It's funny that I rarely write about my day job, because being a librarian really defines me. I can't imagine doing anything else. Librarian is one of those jobs you do for love, not money, although I don't like to complain about the money part - I do well enough to own my own home (in a city where you can still buy a decent house in a safe, although not fancy, neighborhood, for $125k).

Specifically, I'm a medical librarian. Medical or health sciences librarians are librarians who work in hospitals, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, or, like I do, health sciences centers (specialty universities usually granting the MD degree and other health science professional degrees - mine has schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, allied health professions, and masters and PhD programs in things like microbiology and biochem). We're not the people who manage medical records, although they are sometimes called librarians, too. Like other professional librarians, the vast majority of us have masters degrees in library and/or information science.

Medical librarians are, on the whole, more like academic librarians or special (corporate) librarians than public librarians, although inevitably, we are all big supporters of the public library, even if we don't think we want to work there!

Librarians in general are wildly misunderstood. That stereotyped timid mouse of a librarian is rare, although I guess I've met a few. Although I don't like to talk in generalities, some of the characteristics librarians tend to share are:
  • intelligence
  • curiosity
  • compassion
  • commitment to serving others and the belief that doing so is important
  • the belief that everyone has a right to the information they want or need (and the government has no right to interfere with this)
  • the desire to teach people to find information, not necessarily to find it for them
  • a love of techy stuff
  • the belief that the internet is not doing away with our job, but is just making it better
  • liberal politics
  • and a lot of us knit, too!
Computers don't scare us; in fact, we can't imagine doing our jobs without them. Libraries have been using computers for much longer than many other professions. My library converted to an online catalog in the early 1980s, and, in the mid-1970s, when I was 'student help' at the University of Illinois Undergrad Library, I helped with the conversion to an online system which had originated at Ohio State's library. It's the rare library today where you'll see a card catalog, unless it's there as a conversation piece. (It's funny, though - I know many librarians who like little boxes and drawers - it must be our compulsion to organize stuff!)

If you really want to know more about medical librarianship, or even librarianship in general, there are lots of librarian-bloggers out there. One of the best is T. Scott's. Scott is a medical library director, former editor of the Journal of the Medical Library Association, and founder of the Bearded Pigs, an all-librarian rock band. This combination doesn't surprise us in library land at all! My friend Stewart's is good, too, with an emphasis on library use among Millenials. I've known Stewart since he was a 'baby librarian' in Oklahoma. I'm not always sure that I agree with the idea that different generations have to each be served differently, but I do like a lot of what Stewart says. (I'm a baby boomer - back in the 70s, our parents thought we were outrageous. Now we're the parents and even grandparents.... My point is that it all seems to come around eventually, with every new generation thinking they'll change the world. The world is not convinced.)

So - welcome to my world! I should have written this months ago, I guess. I promise knitting content next time!

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