Librarians v Googlers: How to Advocate Kindly for Libraries

by Yandee Vazquez, former Head Editor, INALJ Texas
previously published 3/28/13

Librarians v Googlers: How to Advocate Kindly for Libraries

yandeevLIBRARIAN? LIBRARY SCHOOL?! Please, we don’t need libraries; we have Google!

This is something that I heard in school and continue to hear now when people ask me about my job/education/interests. Without a doubt it’s something most of you have heard. Even using the more accurate label of “information professional” doesn’t save my ears from the dismissal or even surprising vitriol people have against their idea of the profession. I even get the occasional person who calls me a waste of taxpayer money. We know to keep on keeping on, but we would like to help people understand that our goals aren’t simply to sit frumpily in a corner shushing passers-by.

How do we educate them? There isn’t a surefire way to teach anyone anything, but here are a couple of suggestions that have worked for me.
1. The common “Google/Internet is all we need!!”
People and the media like to talk about how obsolete the libraries and librarians are in the world of the internet, when they think of us at all.When someone brings up Google, provide an example of how that doesn’t always work and/or provide some suggestions that help clarify Google searches which many people aren’t aware of. I’m often surprised at the number of people who have never heard of Google scholar, or the medical professionals that use Google instead of PubMed.

2. The changing world of technology!
This is something follows similar thinking to the first. Some people don’t know libraries aren’t only repositories for books and the knowledge held by librarians doesn’t solely pertain to books. Really. This is a chance to demonstrate our passion toward professional issues that affect everyone–ipads and ereaders in libraries, copyright problems/solutions, digitizing quandaries, anything that gets you going! This isn’t meant to start an argument, but to show that we are a part of that changing technological community and that it extends far beyond the stacks.
3. We are one of you.
Another interesting point people don’t really realize is that libraries, even the academic ones, are a part of the community. We don’t operate in a bubble, but often try to work with the community in which we exist to provide amazing services. It’s an amazing selling point. It doesn’t really hurt to talk about community events that show us as members of the community, especially if you can know of events that might interest the person you’re speaking with.

4. Agree (in order) to Disagree
“Gee…you know, maybe library obsolescence isn’t too far off but, man, I really will miss having someone help me navigate the maze of [insert interesting, complex journal that takes experience to search].”

You don’t have to be snarky, but subtly reminding them of what exactly they might lose with the defunding/obsolescence of libraries and information professionals. People do forget the many things that are tied to the continued existence of libraries. Extra points if you can remind them of a moment when they got great help from a librarian.

5. If all else fails…
Smile. Wish them the best and be an amazing source of help if they ever need it.
The best way to advocate for your value is by demonstrating the usefulness of your skillset. People remember receiving excellent help and we are all walking advertisements for our profession. Let’s put on the best face we can!

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ has had over 19.5 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 & 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro. She presents whenever she can, most recently thrice at the American Library Association's Annual Conference as well as breakout talk presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa and as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting, at the National Press Club, McGill University, the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has relocated to being nomadic. She runs her husband’s moving labor website, KhanMoving.com, fixes and sells old houses and assists her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food as well. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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