For someone who has been trained in organization and classification, I am sometimes frustrated by labels. I see it in the genealogical world and in the library world. We are sometimes quick to label people or — what really frustrates me — reserve labels because a person doesn’t quite fit the mold we have constructed in our minds.
When I was first hired at Archives.com as Genealogical Content Manager, a few of my friends and acquaintances said, “Huh? I thought you were going to be a librarian.” Apparently, to them “librarian” is a title reserved for those who work behind a desk at a library.
They apparently haven’t been to a library or a library website lately.
When I worked at Archives.com and later at Ancestry.com, on any given day I could have been evaluating a new potential collection, working with the engineers to prepare a new collection for publication, writing collection descriptions, or writing educational content for the site. Hmm, that sounds remarkably like selection and acquisition, organization, metadata creation, and instruction.
I had to have an understanding of the users, what they are looking for, and how they expect to interact with the materials. In my freelance work, I have to have those same skills. I need to figure out what it is that someone is trying to find, which isn’t always as straightforward as it might sound. (People don’t always ask the question they want answered.) I need to be able to find meaningful sources for people and explain how (and why) to use them.
In short, I’m doing things that I was trained to do in grad school.
I do not work in a traditional library setting, but for those who say, “Huh? I thought you were going to be a librarian,” I relay one of my favorite scenes from The Mummy. Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) is talking with Rick (Brendan Fraser) and trying to tell him a little bit about herself, which is not an explorer, a treasure-seeker, or a gun-fighter:
Evelyn: …but I am proud of what I am.
Rick: And what is that?
Evelyn: I <pause> am a librarian.
(This post was updated after my attendance at the 2015 American Library Association annual conference.)