The latest article from the Library Networking Group just popped into my inbox, and it really resonated with me. The article is by Catherine Baird (who I’ve blogged about in the past), the Marketing, Communications and Outreach Librarian at McMaster University. The article discusses librarians’ need to “Exert Your Inner Expert“, and how librarians are seldom alongside the doctors, lawyers, journalists and media experts who are in the public eye, sharing expert opinions on key issues within our field.
I’ve totally noticed this myself, and it’s always bothered me. I listen to CBC radio and podcasts a lot and librarians are on the air to talk about events at the public library, but little else. It’s too bad, because there’s such robust conversations going on within the profession, but we aren’t talking to the broader community.We don’t have a real presence within the broad civic conversations taking place in the media.
My knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Well who cares? The public doesn’t decide my collections budgets for next year, or care if I executed an awesome workshop on academic integrity”. Catherine acknowledges that librarians are, “consumed with day-to-day talks… [and] focusing our energies on our key stakeholders” but that overall, this is a terrible PR strategy. By engaging with the general public, librarians can help amass support for issues that affect us — budgets for public libraries and universities; concern around things like copyright, information literacy, and the stewardship of special collections; and of course breaking down the librarian stereotype that we all love to hate.
The only way to do this is to go where people are listening, and talking, and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all those other experts to voice our opinions. Yesterday Jian Ghomeshi had a segment on Q about banning books — with the tagline, “what’s a librarian to do?”…. but without a librarian being present among the interviewees. Those sorts of missed opportunities prevent librarians from becoming a part of the established community of experts that the media draws from to get authoritative, informed insights about pertinent issues. And it’s a cryin’ shame because we have a lot to offer to those conversations.