Are we just “the help”?

Over at the Carnival of the Infosciences #8, several librarians discuss the role of librarians in academe. Are we faculty? Or, faculty status or no, are we just &#8220the help”? If we are just “the help”, is that a problem? Are we just as guilty as professors in the way we treat our own library support staff?

Go on over to the carnival and read all of the posts and comments. Even if you are not an academic librarian. A commenter on the Random Access Mazar post points out that special librarians face similar issues:

I think it’s easy to know where an engineer stands, where a designer stands, where a lawyer stands as whole companies are created for them. But a librarian mostly works within these industries so from the get-go is an outsider. I think this must be the problem.

I work at a major research university where librarians have faculty status. However, I am not employed by the university’s library. I am support staff in a research institute. My peers at the institute have a range of education, from bachelor’s degrees to doctorates, and provide technical support to faculty researchers. Because most librarians in academic or special library settings are doing just that, providing technical support to subject specialists, we are inherently outsiders. Yes, faculty are (ahem) difficult to work with, on occasion. But so are engineers, doctors, lawyers, and yes, even librarians.

I think maybe I have a little more perspective on this, too, because my husband has a staff job in an academic library. I know that he doesn’t like to be thought of as “the help” (or in his words, “trained monkeys”) by students who are still pursuing the degree he already has.

Perhaps I can lend a little DIY perspective to the discussion as well. While I do often collaborate with others at work, I also take a certain amount of pride in being able to do things myself. If I were a professor, might I not take a certain amount of pride, justified or not, in being able to complete my research without a librarian’s assistance? The Filipino Librarian asks, “why is it that some students are proud of the fact that they graduated from school without ever setting foot in the library?” and I think that pride may be part of the reason. [Filipino Librarian post also via Carnival of the Infosciences #8]

2 thoughts on “Are we just “the help”?

  1. hi! my reaction to your post is that i’d have a different answer if the word “just” were not in the title of your post. because the truth is, we are “the help.” but are we “just” the help? i’d like to think that we’re more than that. part of the problem is that not too many people know what it is that librarians can do. and not too many librarians, at least in the philippines, aggressively market themselves or their libraries.

    ps i think we met the sla conference in toronto because i have your card but i don’t remember exactly how we met.

  2. The word “just” does make a difference. I, too, like to believe that while we are the help, we are not “just” anything.

    We did meet in Toronto, at one of the receptions, if I recall correctly.

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