Who is a librarian?

February 07, 2018

OPINION: Guest commentary - Who is a librarian?

Petoskey News, Guest commentary written by Valerie Meyerson, Library Director for the Petoskey District Library

January 30, 2018

Original article


Who is a librarian?


Seems like an easy question, but this job title is not as cut and dried as it seems. Most commonly, a librarian is someone who works in a library. However, in the profession, a librarian is someone with a master’s degree in library or information science, the same as a being called a doctor means there is a doctorate degree in their credentials. Many people work in libraries who do not have the degree, especially in smaller, more rural communities. Information professional is another term used to describe all sorts of workers, like archivists, records managers, system analysts and librarians. This term helps differentiate people who work in a library with a degree vs. people who work in a library without a degree. Some people have used the term professional librarian to distinguish degreed vs. non-degreed. The question that then begs to be answered, is a person with a degree more professional than one without? What does professional even mean?


Typically, professionals have specialized knowledge and they use that knowledge in service to others. Librarians certainly meet the second half of that definition, but do they meet the first? Librarians have a general knowledge of many areas. Librarians know how to organize information and they know how to retrieve information that others have organized. Librarians also know technology – how to use it and how to train others to use it. Librarians know how to plan, promote, and implement events. Librarians know how to budget. Librarians know how to campaign. Librarians know how to provide excellent customer service. Librarians may not know the answer to everything, but they certainly know how to find the answer. It is hard to say that librarians meet that first half of the definition, of having specialized or specific knowledge, with that breadth of job duties. So, does this mean librarians are not professionals?


I think not. A professional can also be defined as “a person who is an expert at his/her work,” (dictionary.com). Librarians certainly become experts in their field of work, which spans many different genres. As we all know, the information profession is directly tied to technology. The growth and changes that occur because of technology are fast and furious. One key requirement for a professional librarian is not only being an expert, but one who can continue to be an expert in the field over time. This means constantly reading, learning, and staying on top of the fast-paced change. How do librarians stay professional? They look critically at their surroundings and they are not afraid to make changes to best suit the needs of the community.


Monica Kroondyk, director at the Boyne District Library, attended a workshop to learn how to implement Project Outcome, a Public Library Association survey system that enables libraries to ask and receive answers from their communities to fine-tune their services. Ms. Kroondyk will not only be implementing the results of these surveys within her community, she will also train other local librarians on using this service. Linda Adams, director at the Charlevoix Public Library, recently purchased a subscription to Lynda.com, an online training tool. Not only will her staff be able to take advantage of the wide array of instruction, the public is also welcome to create an account and take courses as well. At the Petoskey District Library, I have begun mini staff training sessions where the staff have the opportunity to become better acquainted with many different service tools that are provided to the public. All small ways librarians are keeping on top of their community needs.


Librarians work hard at staying current, knowing their communities, and providing excellent service to their patrons. How can the people who work there not be professionals? My vote is that they are. You work in a library – you are not afraid to continue to learn and adapt – then you are librarians and professionals.