What does a librarian do?

When you start looking towards the future and digging into career exploration, a great way to get to know a job or profession is to ask someone what their day is like. Do they work in an office or do they travel a lot? Do they meet with people face-to-face or can parts of the job be done remotely? Is it a day filled with meetings or a day filled with solo design and problem solving?

If you know what kind of career path you’d like to follow, these questions can help prepare you for what lies ahead. And if you don’t know what you want to do next, these conversations might lead you towards careers or jobs that you find exciting and fulfilling.

If you’ve ever been interested in becoming a librarian, I thought I’d outline an example of what librarians do all day.

I’m the Instructional Services Librarian at Bell Library, so that means I focus on teaching folks how to use the library’s resources and I serve as a resource to other librarians who do instruction. Other librarians have different focuses, like cataloging books or helping faculty and students publish their research. We all have slightly different jobs but there are a few things we have in common here at Bell Library.

Liaisons

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One of the things all librarians at Bell Library have in common are liaison responsibilities. We’re each responsible for one college or a few departments and we work with that area to help faculty order books for the library, we teach the library sessions for those subjects, and we get to know the resources we have for those areas really well.

I’m the liaison to the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, so I teach most of the library sessions for them and I work with them to make sure they can access all of the books and databases they need.  I also do one-on-one research consultations with the graduate students and faculty members to make sure they’re comfortable getting the most out of the library’s resources. Sometimes I get to meet new students in the CONHS programs at orientations or meet and greets, which is always fun! I love getting the chance to see students in their first semester go all the way through to graduation.

Reference 

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Many libraries have what’s called a “reference desk.” It’s a place (physical and virtual) where you can ask pretty much any question and whoever’s at the desk will help you find an answer. Bell Library’s reference desk is called the Ask Us Desk and it’s located on the first floor by the printers. Most people ask questions about how to access books or journal articles, or they’ll ask what hours the library is open, but sometimes we get really in-depth questions and we get to do a bit of digging with the person who reached out to us.

At Bell Library, we do a few shifts on the Ask Us Desk each week. This gives us the chance to interact with folks in the library through chat and phone calls, and it gives us the chance to get to know the library’s resources really well. Since I’m usually working with folks in CONHS, I don’t always get the chance to dig into resources for Business students, for example, so the Ask Us Desk shifts are a chance for me to see what else is out there!

Instruction

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Like I said, I’m the Instructional Services Librarian, but all of the librarians at Bell Library do some instruction. We teach hundreds of classes a year, so it’s all hands on deck during the peak instruction times. Especially in September and February, when faculty want their students to start thinking about midterms and final projects, librarians are asked to pop into classes and teach students how they can most efficiently find resources and build up some research skills to prepare them for future assignments and classes.

When we teach, it usually involves not just the hour or so we spend with a class, but it involves lesson planning, digging into any assignments the professor sent us, and working closely with the professor to make sure we communicate the objectives they’re after. Sometimes we’re just trying to show students how to use a database, but sometimes we get to have great conversations with students about bias in the news or finding voices that are left out of scholarly conversations. It involves a lot of work on our parts to get ready for these sessions and teach them, but it’s a great way for students to get to know the library and make sure they’re comfortable using the resources available to them.

Committees, Committees, Committees

One last piece of the job that the librarians have in common is serving on committees. The library has lots of committees that focus on things like service excellence or the annual budget. These committees give us time to focus on just the library to make sure we’re running efficiently and doing all that we can to make Bell Library a welcoming and effective place.

We also serve on University-level committees like the Academic Integrity Committee or the University Technology Council. These opportunities give us the chance to make sure the library is represented at campus-level conversations so we can give our opinions or lend expertise when needed.

Finally, there are lots of national conferences and professional organizations where we can serve on committees. Texas Digital Libraries is state-wide organization and one of our librarians is serving on the planning committee for their conference. The American Library Association gives out annual awards and one of our librarians used to chair a committee that reviews applications for those awards.

There are lots of opportunities to work with folks across the library, the campus, and the country!

And everything in between!

With whatever time is left, we spend it working on projects like strategic planning for the library, or brainstorming ways to engage students, or presenting at conferences. There are always lots of things going on at Bell Library and more generally in the field of librarianship, so there are tons of ways to get involved and never a dull moment!

If you’re exploring careers and jobs, or just want to poke around and see what’s out there, check out our research guide on career exploration: https://guides.library.tamucc.edu/career

Happy hunting!

Emily Metcalf

Instructional Services Librarian

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