What Does a Librarian Do?

by Rebecca Tischler, Senior Editor, INALJ North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon

What Does a Librarian Do?

rebeccatischlerA while ago, I wrote an article about the 5 Things That People Don’t Realize their Librarians Do, and one of my grad school teachers pointed out that I had not included the most important duty of a librarian: the organization of information. Everything a librarian does is in support of this main objective, and all the other duties we have just assist us with it.

Librarians are organizers of information first and foremost, and we curate the endless and ever growing piles of information, so that our patrons don’t have to. That’s right, we spend all of our time rummaging through information so that no one else has to spend all of their time doing it. There are millions of books, thousands of different magazines, journals and newspapers (each with regular issues), and new websites popping up every day.

Then to add on top of all that, information has expanded much farther than just the written word. And librarians handle ALL information formats, not just information that is bound and shelved. So many librarians also organize film clips and DVDs, photographs, maps, sheet music, ebooks, audio clips, and digital databases. It’s like an endless whack-a-mole game where anytime you think you’ve subdued all the information, more appears! Librarians are fighting a constant, never ending battle of curation.

This is one of the reasons that a library’s collection is so important, as well as impressive in my opinion. We find the best of the best information on topics so that the patrons don’t have to go through every scrap of data about it, which could include out of date information, unverified information, or just plain bad or made up information. Librarians have the knowledge and skills to help people sort through this unending influx of information and find what they need. A librarian may also provide other information services, including: computer provision and training; coordination with community groups to host public programs; basic literacy education; assistive technology for people with disabilities; and assistance locating community resources. If we didn’t have librarians, the search for information would be maddening and sometimes impossible.

People turn to librarians for help when they need answers. No matter where they work and what materials they handle, librarians help people find and use information. We know how to find information, how to organize it, and how to tell if the information is quality information. Our job is information, and we are the gateways.