There are posts all over the internet (many on my beloved Hack Library School) about defending the LIS field and developing your elevator speech. And while being prepared to counter the arguments of “Isn’t the internet making you obsolete?” and “Oh, so I guess you don’t want to make any money…” is definitely important, I’ve found some other recent conversations to be more interesting/engaging.
These conversations were less attack/defense than some can be, and instead about engaging on a personal level with people about their ideas about information, the role of libraries and librarians, and the connections between LIS and other disciplines.
The first example is a humorous one that I detailed on my Tumblr: an auto parts store employee, upon learning that I am an LIS student, exclaimed something to the effect of, “Wow, that’s awesome! Librarians make so much money!” This came as a bit of a shock to me, as librarianship is widely (and for the most part, correctly) considered a “labor of love” profession – you probably won’t become rich doing it, but you will experience intellectual fulfillment and you will be able to help your community thrive and grow. Rather than brush him off or counter with “What…” we ended up having a conversation about the realities of being a present-day librarian and how many in the LIS field are undervalued and underpaid. It ended up being an eye-opener for both of us, to say the least.
The second and more recent example came on a weekend trip with friends when, over lunch, one of them inquired about my LIS degree: “But you guys are doing some cool stuff, right? Since books are kind of going away? What do you have in the works?” It was, again, refreshing not to have to start with “no, my field is not obsolete because of the internet.” I explained that not all paper books are going away, particularly in the cases of high circulation copies of new books and classics in public libraries and of special collections/unique original materials. And then we got into the fun new stuff – digital libraries, e-books and e-journals, data management, etc. And we ended with a discussion about stickers (as an engineering tech, he frequently has to de-sticker things, which also occurs in the library world).
Both experiences were great examples of the changing perceptions around the library science field. I relish conversations like this, as they serve to clarify and expand ideas around what librarians do/can do/will do. Plus, they make me happier than the ignorant alternatives. 🙂