04 June, 2010


Yesterday I mentioned, in passing, a post entitled Does every librarian need to be an involved expert on everything? Well, without worrying about the actual direction that that post takes, I thought I would ask myself if as I librarian I am (or should be) an expert on everything.

Firstly, I must state that I am (obviously) an expert on everything. That is not in doubt. But I need to know, is it a required skill for my job? As the chemist said to the incontinent customer, the answer is depends.

If you are the librarian in the BP library of oil leak fixology, then obviously you don't need to know very much about the current state of Chick-Lit. Although, it is possible that the current BP library of oil leak fixology is stocked with nothing but chick-lit. It certainly seems to be refreshingly untainted by books on the correct operation of; diamond bladed, robot operated, underwater saws.

But, while the BP librarian may be expected to know a bit more about petroleum and engineering than I do, I don't think it is too much to expect them to also have knowledge of metadata, search strategies, online privacy issues and such things. Some understanding of social media could be good too, although I would assume BP have a slightly bigger budget than my school and as such can probably afford to hire a social media douchebag to work on their free 2.o online stuff. (although, do they really want a facebook site with only 752 people who like them? And, do you think it is smart that they still have a 'Related global posts' feed which puts every whiny comment about their recent little technical error onto their front page?).

But that wasn't the point I started to make. My point, is that if you are a public librarian, school librarian or academic librarian (well, other than those faculty librarians) you are much better at your job if you are a generalist rather than a specialist. Sure in a big library system you know who is a fan of obscure 1940s Jazz musicians and who is the aspergers type librarian who knows everything there is to know about trains. But you don't want to be ducking out to the tea room for help every time there is an enquiry which doesn't fit into the exact subject area of your undergraduate major.

Confession time, I am not an expert on everything. I just appear that way to others due to a wonderful mix of overconfidence and a reasonable general knowledge. So, no I don't think a librarian should be an expert on everything but I think a good librarian in a Jack of all trades. While a great librarian is a Jack of all trades and a master of one or two. Should we all be social media gurus? Probably not, but we should all be good enough to be able to follow the online prompts at a pinch. We should be more than just literate, more than multi-literate, we should be mega multi meta-literate. We should be able to adapt our skills to most any situation and know enough of what we don't know to know that we don't know it but know how to find out what it is in this context, then use our knowledge of our lack of knowledge to fill the gaps in our knowledge for our clients.

(shouldn't we?)


Ghylene said...

Hear Hear! That's what I like most about our profession - the fact that we are able to adapt our skills to any situation.

Kim said...

I am definitely a generalist... the things that I know most about aren't on any curriculum where I work :o)

Penny said...

I tell people I'm not a know it all, I am a know it some. Having said that it is most gratifying when I can amaze and delight with my knowledge of obscure things.

NomesD said...

Great links! I met one of those social media douchebags yesterday. *has hot shower*