Not an easy question to answer. Do librarian-y stuff? Don’t know what that means? You obviously do not have a parent or spouse who is a librarian. What a shame. Let me educate you.
Faculty at small institutions, like mine, wear many hats. Usually one big one (my professional title), and a number of smaller ones (no title available or short enough to put on small hats). My ‘ten-gallon hat’ reads REFERENCE and SPECIAL COLLECTIONS LIBRARIAN.
SPECIAL COLLECTIONS librarians typically oversee a collection of books deemed by their owning institution as rare and/or special by virtue of their contents. At Logan Library Special Collections include both our books we keep behind lock and key, as well as unpublished materials, usually labeled as ‘archival’, which we keep behind a heavy metal door and lock-and-key. I also try to wrangle the institutional records that randomly end up in my office. Depending on the year and my availability, I manage the ‘digital library’ side of things. This is an ‘on’ year, so I should be working on this oh-so-effortless project in the coming months.
Technically, though, the first half of my title is REFERENCE LIBRARIAN. Where do you typically find a reference librarian? Well, at the reference desk, of course! Doing reference duty! That, of course, is the least helpful description written. In my world I divide this title into three duties: the instructor, the planner, and the huntress.
The most challenging is the instructor duty. While librarians actively “teach” every day in almost every aspect of our professional lives, I define this portion of my job to be the time that I get up in front of a class and instruct students to be good researchers. Many people have this idea that since you can type a series of words into Google, you can search the web effectively. Oh, contrar!
<mounting soapbox> Good research equals effective, accurate, and relevant results. No, Google does not do this for you. If you type irrelevant terms into Google, you will get irrelevant results. Sorry. What makes it worse is that most non-librarian professors and teachers feel like ‘these kids today grew up with Google’ and therefore should know how to get it done. This means that many of my colleagues see me and my service as irrelevant and outdated, and it’s a hazard that comes with the job. </mounting soapbox>
The least impressive of the REFERENCE librarian duties is ‘the planner.’ I help identify good books for purchase (acquisitions), get rid of the irrelevant items (weeding), and work with faculty to make sure that I get what they need (collaboration).
The most fun is the last, the huntress. I like information. A lot. I love getting challenging questions, and I enjoy the hunt. A lot. I take pride in filling my knowledge gaps through in-depth searches, obscure breadcrumb trails, and just outright luck-of-the-great-Google-query. Yes, I can geek out about finding information. Unfortunately, this is only a sliver of what I do – but I like to think I do it well!
That’s my job in a nutshell. I’ll stop there and won’t talk about my other hats – that’s a whole other post.