5 Things That People Don’t Realize their Librarians Do

by Rebecca Tischler, Head Editor, INALJ Tennessee

5 Things That People Don’t Realize their Librarians Do

rebeccatischlerMany people still have the stereotypical image of a librarian stuck in their head: an older kind of frumpy woman wearing glasses on a chain, her hair up in a bun, shushing people with one hand while stamping books with the other. Many of my Jr. High classmates predicted that I was going to be a librarian because I liked to read, and, during those years, I was very quiet and wore glasses. I still love to read and always have something to read, but since I’m much more comfortable with myself, I don’t know if people would still say that I look like a librarian. Ironically, I did become a librarian, but for completely different reasons (part of it is the sheer variety involved in the profession).


As a librarian, we help to teach people how to become self-sufficient on the computer, find the answer to patron’s questions (no offense Google, but while you may come back with a million answers, we librarians come back with the right answer), develop graphic designs for advertisement, act as a social media managers, handle reader’s advisory, teach information literacy classes, act as storytellers, and teach children, to name just a few of our duties. We wear many many caps.


And here are five things that you may have been unaware that librarians do (just a few of their caps), or that libraries offer.


  1. Librarians are teachers. Many libraries have computer classes, which can include teaching a room full of people how to use Microsoft Office, how to use the internet safely, how to set up accounts and stay safe on social media, or how to use photo manipulation programs. Some libraries even teach computer programming classes. Librarians also do a lot of one-on-one tutoring if there isn’t a class that specifically covers the need of the patron.
  2. Librarians are tech savvy. Whatever computer classes librarians are teaching, or when we have to help a patron troubleshoot their own technology, we have to be computer and technologically literate in order to help. We have to know the basics of computer technology, at the very least. Most times, however, we know more, and if we don’t know the answer off the top of our heads, we know how to find it.
  3. Librarians are advertisers. Libraries mostly manage their own public relations and advertise their own services and events (and generally with almost no budget). They write the press releases, network and make connections, as well as create their own logos and graphic design. And many of the librarians are self-taught when it comes to graphic design software.
  4. Librarians are event planners. Libraries have dozens of events every year, and the staff has to create budgets and event plans, and bring in volunteers or paid presenters. They plan the activities, the topic, the refreshments… everything. Most of the decorations are probably also made by the staff and, sometimes, the librarian is also the presenter if the librarian’s outside hobbies coincide with the event’s topic.
  5. Librarians are researchers. Librarians not only know how to organize and find information. We know how to collate and analyze information. We see the patterns and can extract information from it. For example, have you ever gone to the library looking for the next book that you would love, and asked one of the librarians what they would recommend? If so, you were probably asked about what type of books you liked, if you have favorite authors, of those favorite books or authors, what was it that drew you in (location, characters, humor…), etc. These were all questions that help the librarian gather information to analyze your taste in books in order to hopefully provide you with your next favorite read.


With just those 5 things, librarians have to learn graphic design, communications, interviewing techniques, public relations, writing, event planning, budgeting techniques, DIY crafts, computer literacy and information literacy. And yet, there is so much more to librarianship that even just the 5 items discussed above. This in no way means that the librarians are ready to march into those other professions fully prepared, but we do have to study and learn multiple professions so that we can act as librarians. Librarianship is much more than just reading books, and organizing them. Libraries provide classes, events, public space, and access to computers and technology, just to name a few.


Libraries are more than just free bookstores.


  21 comments for “5 Things That People Don’t Realize their Librarians Do

  1. April 30, 2014 at 3:52 am

    What a great defining sentence to justify the library vs search engines : [they] may come back with a million answers, we librarians come back with the right answer

  2. April 29, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I liked your article, however I feel that I wear only one cap i.e. of Librarianship and I don’t change it. The other caps your talking are medals in my view and every librarian possesses several such medals. We must respect our CAP and it is always at top priority (Head). Medals will increase your recognition but CAP is fundamental.

    • David
      April 29, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      Well said Dr. Sunil! As a Library Technician, that is my cap. Anything I do at work comes under that cap. But I have badges, medallions, and flags that I have earned along the way, earned as I learned to do things that weren’t taught in my qualification.

  3. Aimee
    April 22, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Great job, Rebecca! Not only do we wear these caps, but enter in concierge, security, babysitter, social worker, therapist, and moderator!

  4. Jean Plumb
    April 22, 2014 at 10:55 am

    I think we are very underestimated. I find it sad that in the UK so many libraries were closed down through concil budget cuts or passed over to be run by (mostly retired) vounteers who do not have the same skills. I work in a college library where my staff as well as doing all the aforementioned tasks are also careers advisors, social workers, debt collectors, charity fund raisers, first aiders, translators, photocopy and sacnne operators, administrators for other depts and just simply good helpful people. The reason we all enjoy our jobs is because you never know which one or how many of those hats you may need to wear in one day.

  5. April 22, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Exactly what I was doing everyday in my life. Well written..!

  6. Steven MacCall
    April 11, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    You forgot the most important one … librarians are ORGANIZERS! 🙂

  7. KateFontaine
    April 11, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    And plumbers, and babysitters, and advocates; oh my!

  8. April 11, 2014 at 10:34 am

    I loved this piece. You are so right! These are things I do everyday. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Elmarie
      April 13, 2014 at 12:33 am

      Well put! This is exactly what we do, everyday!

  9. Michael
    April 10, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Great article. Couldn’t agree more! We’re also social workers, security guards, and programmers.

    • Deborah
      April 23, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Proofreader, test proctor, fortune teller (do you think I’ll get a good grade on this assignment? )
      Great article!

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