“So, did you go to school to earn a Masters” degree on how to arrange books?”, “Exactly what do you do as a librarian?”, “Why do I need to come to the library when I can use the internet for everything?”. These are some of the mind-boggling questions that I have always been asked time and again ever since I began my career as a librarian. Do I get angry at the people who ask me that? Nope, but with a smile, I give them some library and information studies 101 briefs. There has been a misconception for a very long time of why libraries exist, what our work as librarians entails but with time, people come to realize the positive and immense impact that the library and librarians have in the community.
Here comes a graduate student to the university. Let’s call him Mo. On the first day of class, the teacher gives out an assignment. “Discuss the impact of social media in marketing”. The guidelines given are to use at least three peer-reviewed articles, two books and at the end, provide a reference list in APA format. Mo is a busy man as he has a family and an 8-5 job to attend to. He is experiencing such kind of an assignment for the first time having last attended school ten years ago but he seems relaxed. At the back of his mind, Google exists and can provide all answers. With four days to the due date, he discovers that though Google has information, it does not adhere to some aspects as per the required guidelines and therefore he is stuck. He calls one of his classmates to know whether he has finished the assignment. “Yeah, I finished it in two days. I went to the library and asked for help, a librarian showed me how to search for the articles but the coolest thing was this application he showed me called Mendeley. Dude, that thing did all my referencing for me after some few clicks”. His friend responded.
Mo requests an off day from work and rushes to the library and finds me, the librarian. “Hallo, my friend called you an angel, lifesaver…..” He greets me as I chuckle and offer him a seat. We go through the databases but he seems so anxious about this thing his friend called Mendeley. At the end of it all, he is one satisfied user. He leaves and promises to keep using the knowledge acquired and pass on the message to other friends. I sit back at my chair, legs on the desk (at least that is what I imagine I’m doing in my head) as I wait for the next patient (user) in the hospital (library).
In this day and age of fake news, frequent technological changes and overwhelming information available especially in online platforms, one requires the necessary literacy skills to sieve through all sources of information and get the correct information. Libraries and Librarians, therefore, play a crucial role in instilling these skills and organizing knowledge for ease of access to the community at large. So yes, our duties go beyond arranging physical books in the library. Such kind of experiences bring joy as I am not only impacting an individual but the community at large. Neil Gaiman sums it up perfectly with this saying “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”.
About the Author
This post was authored by Moses M. Munyao. He previously worked as a Librarian at United States International University-Africa and currently pursuing PhD studies in Library and Information Science. Connect with Moses on Twitter.
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