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Dec 06

7 Things I learned on my travels – Elaina Norlin

Major lessons learned about her career: you never know where your career will take you… but always think big.

The first thing she noticed (someone yelled out that librarians drink a lot): the stereotype that people applied to her and commented automatically. They included: you must luv to read, you seem pretty smart and I thought you said you went to college your like woo way too sexxxy to be a librarian, dont you check books in and out, you wrote a book, what about?? the dewey decimal system, how to say shhhh? She was forever fighting and defending the profession – but she has now embraced the challenge.

However, the stereotype can work to your advantage and your amusement if you play it right.

2. Flexibility: a restless person such as Elaina finds a home in the variety of opportunities available in the profession. Library will not go extinct, but the positions will adapt and evolve.

3. Global perspective: we are family. A friend of hers met someone in Senegal who had read her book and was thrilled to meet someone who knew her. Life is always bigger than you imagine: find out what other libraries are doing, not just by reading, but by talking to other librarians, both here and around the world. She worked with librarians on the Isle of Yap for a week in 2008 – eye opening experience for her, but even though they didnt have much, they were passionate and giving to their profession.

4. Successful libraries: in 1996 a professor reminded her that libraries would be extinct in 5 years. Library closings are happening more often in the US, as are the threats of closures. In Malaysia, many of the 1384 libraries in the country may be force to closed down for lack of visitors. EPA Libraries closure and then reopened, but as a shell of its former glory. Philadelphia Free Public Library was Library of the Year in 2005, but will be closing 11 of their 54 branches – 200 staff to go. Her observations on this: need to be proactive – not reactive, the most successful libraries operate like small not-for-profit organisations, successful libraries do the little things to make big impacts, marketing is a long term strategy not a short term solution.

5. Commitment to life long learning: passion to keep people relevant, quote: without this training, I quickly become obsolete – Richard E. Ashby Jr – Queens Public Library.

6. Librarians change lives. We are doing amazing work. She spoke about a program she was involved with – the Peer Information Counseling Program, training students to work in the library, so they would learn how all about the library and to encourage students to become librarians.

7. Librarians have a passion to serve: all the things that librarians do to help people, often way above and beyond the call of duty.

In conclusion: always be proud of our title – its an uphill battle but worth it, lets bridge a gap and continue to learn from each other, lets always fight to stay not only relevant but enhance our message… we are vital to our community….