Present Yourself as an Expert in the library

The Libraries Transform campaign is itself transforming.

As the campaign continues to focus on libraries turning outward and engaging their communities, it is also turning inward as well by emphasizing the “expert in the library.”

The initiative by American Library Association (ALA) President Julie Todaro aims at getting libraries to shine a light on their bushel basket – to put the daily transformative work they do front and center before the public.

Todaro said the public doesn’t always understand or appreciate librarians. In fact, the public often takes them for granted. Speaking from personal experience, she said that after she started as a children’s librarian, she was struck by how, even though she had prepared herself for the job with an extensive education, “People routinely asked me because I would be sitting at a public desk, ‘Would you babysit for my child while I look for a book?’”

Others, she said, would tell her, “I wish I had your job. I would love to read all day.” She said she encountered the same prejudices in an academic library setting. Todaro is optimistic, saying that people’s perceptions can be amended. The Expert in the Library campaign is in that sense a market correction that librarians themselves can achieve.

Todaro said, “I want librarians to build on the transform campaign, highlight the expertise in their library and think broadly about what makes an expert in the kind of environments that we're in.”

She thinks it is important for people to get the message that librarians as well as libraries transform. She said, “I would hope that people see and identify what is transformative about not only the location or the destination but the person who connects you to resources. “

The Libraries Transform campaign messaging reflects the new emphasis on library expertise, with such messages as “Because the expert in the library is you,” and “Because the best search engine in the library is the librarian.”

The ALA Store also offers Libraries Transform expert badges that allow librarians to insert in the window of the vinyl badge their area of expertise. These badges have proven effective at the Marshall Public Library in Pocatello, Idaho, where the librarians are identifying their expertise in such areas as “City Creek Trails.”

Todaro said librarians should also tout their credentials in speeches and outreach situations, inserting their expertise into the conversation.  Librarians, she said, can also include their areas of expertise on their business cards, in addition to the standard information they usually contain.

The expertise of librarians can also be included on library websites and regular blogs. She said that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries website features its librarians on a link to “Research guides & expert librarians,” informing the viewer, “We have smart people who know how to find the best information. Use their guides or contact them.”

In addition, Todaro said, “future-driven human resources content,” drawn from both new and existing materials will be available for managers in all types and sizes of libraries on the ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR) website.