Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

On Being Ambassadors

Megan Ondricek

I think I can safely say now that this will be one tough semester, characterized with lots of work outside the home. My first semester I had to drive to class every Saturday but all of the work and the assignments could be completed at home, on my own time. Not so this semester. This week I will go interview a reference librarian. Next week I will be visiting an archival repository as a researcher. And any day now my archives internship will start up, requiring 60 hours of work over the course of the semester. As an avowed introvert and homebody, I do not relish the thought of all the running around I’ll be doing. But I also feel confident that once the stress of setting up appointments and making arrangements is over, I am going to love getting out into the field, talking to archivists and librarians, and getting the hands-on experience. The museum internship I had so many years ago right out of college was such a formative experience for me and I am sure this semester will be equally as significant.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how librarians and archivists and the work they do is perceived by those outside the profession and how that general perception/stereotype is wrong in most cases and even antithetical to all we do. In my reference class we had a lengthy discussion about the popular notion of the librarian as authoritative, unapproachable, and out of touch. Where did this notion come from, how has it been popularized, and what can we do about it? Some of my classmates observed that there does seem to be a “type” of people drawn to this profession, and that many of us can truthfully be classified as introverts who would rather spend time with a good book than a real person (not true in all cases but the trend is certainly there). But I have not met anyone in library school who remotely fits the stereotypical, popular image of the librarian. I have met lots of caring, passionate people whose professional interests align with a personal mission to reach out to and help people.

Archivists may have it even tougher than librarians, simply because of the nature of the materials they deal with and the way that an archival repository’s mission and objectives differ slightly from those of a library. Archives certainly want to promote and provide access, but because of the sensitive and unique (and sometimes rare and valuable) nature of archival materials, archives must also concern themselves with restricting access. I find it interesting that as I have been researching archival repositories to select a site for my field study, even I – an archives student – have felt put off by some of the strict rules and regulations of some of these repositories. And I have found some archives websites to be much more welcoming than others. The point of the assignment is have us experience using the archives as a researcher, as a member of the public, and already I feel I’m gaining valuable perspective.

In any case, I can’t help feeling that by simply becoming members of this community of libraries and archives, we take upon ourselves the duty to change the way people think about us and our work. We become ambassadors – in the things that we say and do and the way we interact with others – for the true nature of the profession.