I am not a librarian (and neither are you)

by Naomi House, MLIS
previously published 11/26/14

I am not a librarian (and neither are you)

NaomiHouseCensusWhat do you do?  I’m a librarian!  Right?  This is how we often answer because the jobs we hold are truly what we do for much of every day. Sometimes we are lucky and hold a job we are thankful for and feel like we make a difference at.  But we are not our jobs, skills sets or duties performed.  Ultimately we are members of our communities, citizens with incredibly different privileges and perspectives first and foremost.  The space I occupy, the interactions I have with others are much more heavily influenced by perceptions of my gender, race and class than my title. In fact those factors also influence perceptions of which job title I am presumed to hold.

I spent over ten years working in various positions in libraries. I have been hired to work as a library assistant, circulation manager, loose-leaf filer, manager of students, manager of acquisitions, reference librarian and other positions.  My experience in those positions will always be different than someone else’s experience.  What we share is not an identity, for example “librarian,” but the skills a librarian learns how to do.  How we do something, like what we do, does not define who we are.

Librarians are not an unassailable group that does only good. Librarians are individuals not a personality type (INALJ is not Myers-Briggs). We see / seek solutions based in libraries because that is where our power to effect change lies.  We center ourselves in institutions that allow us to make changes that can positively effect our communities, but also can have negative effects as well. We think first of these institutions and systems as change agents (whether they actually make change or not) because we see the shared degree as a singular identity, but it is not enough to erase everything else.

When asked “what do you do?” – answering with your job title is one of many perfectly correct / reasonable responses.  But it is not who you are.  That one title does not bind us together in spite of our differences or erase the privileges or disadvantages that are our very individual realities.


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) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its 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. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians 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 one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


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