21st Century Librarianship Is Not For Casual Librarians

I commute to work about 30 minutes through city streets and Interstate. I am not a casual driver. My pilot training and experience gave me a sense of driving with precision and purpose, as well as driving defensively and decisively. I like to get where I’m going as efficiently and quickly as possible. That’s why I prefer to commute before the 7:30AM and 5:30PM “rush hour” rather than during rush hour. After six years of commuting in the same city, I have found that during the early hours there are a preponderance of more purposeful drivers on the road trying to get where they’re going, rather than during rush hour when everybody else is commuting – not to mention the ‘flow of traffic’ is much faster. I also know the roads well enough to vary my route depending on the traffic situation, like yesterday when I could see Interstate traffic backing up and lots of flashing lights a mile ahead and took an earlier exit that would keep me out of a traffic jam.

This morning I was running late and ended up right in the rush hour traffic. It struck me again that most people who drive during rush hour commute are what I consider “casual” drivers. A little like Sunday afternoon drivers. Many don’t put 100% focus on driving, consider it a chore they can do while focusing on something else (I HATE TEXTers), don’t anticipate traffic situations and make last-instant poor decisions that put everyone else at risk, and they drive slower. They don’t strike me as serious about driving, even though they are exposing themselves to more risk during rush hour. Most act like this is their first time traveling this route – they’re tentative.

So what? you ask. There is an analogy between casual drivers and casual librarians. (That is librarians with a casual attitude toward the profession, not librarians who work “casual hours.”)

Casual librarians tend to not take their profession seriously, or work with any great purpose. They tend to go along with the crowd and stay in the main stream of everything – technology, customer service, advocacy, etc. Casual librarians tend to not consider the bigger picture of the profession, but just get through the day doing their job.

Casual librarians generally don’t anticipate their circumstances or situation to keep from making last minute middle of the road decisions about what are really important issues. They would rather amble along with the crowd than venture out to find their own route – they’re tentative.

A 21st Century librarian is not a casual librarian.

The 21st Century librarian works with an intense purpose and desire to achieve the higher objectives they envision. They don’t go with the flow, but lead the flow at their own express pace, hoping others will keep up. They work to make things happen, not wait and watch to see what is happening around them, because they know what should be happening – they’re decisive.

The 21st Century librarian knows what is going on around them and is able to make decisions that will improve the situation, rather than make a traditional decision regardless of the implications of a situation. They read and study professional publications, and get involved in stimulating discussions. They take an intent interest in innovations that improve the library’s relevance to its community. 21st Century librarians are so knowledgeable about the profession they are ahead of situations and making adjustments rather than always playing catch up.

The 21st Century librarian performs their profession with precision and purpose, as well as decisiveness. They lead with passion and determination to make a difference. The 21st Century librarian is anything but a casual librarian.


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7 responses to “21st Century Librarianship Is Not For Casual Librarians

  1. Bob Farwell

    Thank you Steve,
    I hope that causal librarianship is an endangered species. There are simply too many challenges to allow for a laissez faire attitude towards the profession and the communities we serve.

  2. Oops please disregard my earlier comment, I assumed you were talking about people who worked casual hours not casual attitudes

  3. angelaS

    what a stretched analogy! I am a casual librarian as well as a part time school librarian. I am anything but casual in my attitude to my different jobs and find that being a casual I can follow my own library interests to the limit. I won’t necessarily get any credit or recognition for this from the hierarchy but I am satisfied that I am keeping ahead of most other staff and am happy that I have done my utmost whether I was asked to or not.There are lots of reasons people work as casuals, not usually because they don’t care.

    • Thank you for enlightening me to that fact. Since I had no idea there was such a thing as “casual hours,” and corresponding librarians who consider themselves as casual librarians (which doesn’t seem like a title anyone would voluntarily take on themself considering the connotation), I wasn’t referring to them or anyone who works casual hours.
      I was describing librarians with a casual attitude toward their profession, just like some people who drive with a casual attitude toward the importance and seriousness of driving. Driving can literally be a life and death activity, not to be taken casually. Librarians with a casual attitude toward their profession can also be dangerous.

  4. Bob Farwell

    Thanks for the distinction! I appreciate the clarification.

  5. I read your post with interest Steve and like your analogy although the contributed comments indicate that it has not necessarily been read with understanding before responses were expressed.

    At a time when library staffing is being reduced and library spaces, particularly in schools, are being deployed for other purposes, it’s more important than ever to be fully accountable and committed to a vision.

    The role of school libraries as resource distribution centres has changed and if they are to survive they must be lifted to a new professional plane. This new role doesn’t always suit those working in libraries who may be there because the hours are convenient and it’s not terribly hard to cover books and make bookmarks. Those days are well and truly over and if school libraries, in particular, are to thrive, they must be staffed by professional, visionary individuals who are responsive to change. The type of tenure is irrelevant, the attitude is critical.

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