“You need a degree to be a librarian?!”

Hello there, my name is Lisa, I’m in my 2nd semester of the Master of Info Science (Library and Information Practice) at QUT in Brisbane, full-time study. I currently work full time as a Document Controller .

“You have to have a degree to be a librarian?!” is the common question I get when people ask me what I’m studying and my response is “ummmm, yes”, well not just yes but then I start telling them about Librarians and explain that we do a lot more than shelve books. Have you had a similar response when you tell people what you are studying? A lot of people I find have a very stereotypical view of Librarians and what it is we do. It doesn’t help that the media portray us as an owl like, conservative spinster who wears a drab suit, big glasses and has no sense of humor there is also the opposite of this when Noah Wiley starred in the franchise “The Librarian” portraying an Indiana Jones style librarian off to save the worlds treasures. Well I guess I have the big glasses but I don’t like wearing drab suits, I’m not that conservative and I have a fun sense of humor. What defines you as a librarian? What views or ideas did you have of librarians before you decided to become one? How would you describe what it is a librarian does?

I guess we can’t be too harsh on people when they don’t understand what it is a librarian does or why it might be that we need a degree to carry out our work. When I think about my perceptions of a librarian before embarking on this journey I originally thought of the local library I visited in my youth and the school library. When I visited my local library there was a library assistant/technician but to me she was simply a librarian. Managing the front desk, answering enquiries, taking fines, helping people join the library, providing basic training in how to search the catalog to find what you are looking for and helping you if you couldn’t find something on your own and also shelving books. When I reached my adult years, I was looking in the catalog for information on a particular subject, I can’t remember now what it was but I noted the number and then went looking, after a while I gave up and asked the staff for help and was directed to the door at the back of the family history section in the room adjoining the main library. I was intrigued as I hadn’t thought of the library being beyond the main room. I was uncertain what it was I would actually find beyond the door but I discovered the room of forgotten books. The room was small with a row of compactus shelving, it took some muscle but I managed to get the shelving moving and started searching the dusty shelves for the book I was looking for. I was intrigued because there was an open door at the end of the room with desks and librarians working away, I had no idea all that was located at the back of my local library and it was the first time I really thought about the mechanics of running a library.

My other experience with a librarian growing up was in senior high school. Our librarian was the stereotypical picture of a librarian, if she caught us quietly talking to each other she would yell at us to be quiet which I thought was more disruptive than our quiet whispering. I used to learn the flute and often would have my flute in my bag with me and it would always set the alarm off at the front door of the library, our librarian would descend upon me in a great flap demanding me to open my flute case, I’m not sure if she though I could squeeze a book in there to smuggle out or if she thought I was carrying a loaded weapon, she reacted as though I was carrying a machine gun in there like some Mafioso out of the ‘Godfather’ movie. I’m surprised with the example she gave me of a librarian that I want to be one at all, luckily I had many other positive experiences after school.

Today libraries are more than places to borrow books but community hubs providing access to the internet, meeting rooms and centres for learning. You can access your library by visiting, via the mobile library, postal library and via overdrive, an app that allows you to borrow digital books with no more worry of overdue fines. Brisbane City Library has lots of events on for people of all ages and backgrounds, it’s not an elite club, everyone is welcome and that’s why I love it.

Lisa Schofield