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Hi! I’m Your Audience Development Officer!

Supposedly everybody loves libraries and librarians. We hear this all the time from the desperate among us who find our worth in the opinions of the masses. Until now, I really did think everyone except librarians was at least happy with the title librarian. After all, I’ve never heard anyone outside the harried ranks of librarians suggest that librarians should be called cybrarians or (shudder) human search engines. I suppose there’s the general category of information professional, but I don’t think anyone would really go into a library and ask to see the information professional. That would just be weird. It’s always librarians who want to add pizazz to their sad lives by pretending they’re something they’re not.

Until now. All I can say is, I’m glad I’m not a librarian in Edinburgh, Scotland. Check out this article sent on by a kind reader: Librarians to be renamed ‘audience development officers.’ There’s only one word to describe this. Yuck! Why, oh why would anyone think this a good idea? Progress, that’s why!

"Council chiefs in Edinburgh want to re-brand librarians in the city’s network of 25 community libraries with the title of "audience development officers".

People who work in libraries have been known as librarians since the first library was created in the Middle East around 2,700 years ago.

But council chiefs in Edinburgh have decided that the job description, although it appears to "do what it says on the tin", needs to be updated.

They want to re-brand librarians in the city’s network of 25 community libraries with the not very catchy title of "audience development officers".

The proposed move is part of a widespread shake-up of library services which the local authority says will bring the service into the 21st century."

(One would think that a nice conservative newspaper like the Telegraph would allow paragraphs longer than a sentence, but alas even conservative British attention spans are apparently not what they were.)

So far, it doesn’t seem to me there’s much good to be said about the 21st century, so I’m not sure why anyone would want to bring their service into it. If the 20th century hadn’t been more or less of a moral disaster,there’d be no reason at all to say anything good about the 21st century. The Edinburgh council chiefs obviously disagree.

Would this mean that libraries would be renamed "audience development centers"? That would seem to be the logical implication, though the article doesn’t mention it.

The union dislikes the change, of course, though unions dislike everything. They also oppose self-checkout centers because of their overwhelmingly negative effect on service to the "audience." No, wait. "The union Unison fears this proposal could result in 40 librarians losing their jobs over the next three years." A union guy also said "there were real concerns that the changes would lead to a drop in the level of professional services provided." I don’t know anything about these Scotch libraries, but if they’ve got librarians checking books in and out, they’ve got too many librarians giving low levels of professional service anyway, so what would it matter if they now have stupid job titles.

How long until something like this leaves the rural backwater of Edinburgh, Scotland and moves into the cosmopolitan communities that dot our American landscape? I know trends usually move from America to other countries, which explains the increasing number of Big Mac eating, Coca Cola drinking obese people in the world, but it’s possible something Scottish could make its way to America and have an effect on libraries. Andrew Carnegie did, after all.

I’m sure you can all guess my sympathies. I think librarians should be happy being librarians and stop giving themselves high-falutin’ titles. I also know nobody listens to me because I’m not hip enough. Surely we would have no "audience development officers." That’s just silly. But I can see some of thebusinessy librarians asserting we should all be customer service officers. Maybe "officer" sounds too Scottish. Customer service representative is more our speed. It sounds just as stupid, but adds two additional syllables, and American bureaucrats are prone to multisyllabic affectation.

Maybe we could take a hint from the twopointopians and call ourselves 2.0brarians. No, that’s just dumb. Webrarians? Internet facilitators? Social software gurus? They’d probably like that one, since they tend to think that all true librarians spend their time Twittering and posting videos on Youtube.

What might the gamey librarians suggest? We could perhaps be known as Dance Dance Revolutionaries. Yay!!

Better yet, let’s just hope this Scotch nonsense stays on the other side of the Atlantic. Then we, quiet reactionaries that we are, can remain librarians. It’s a dull job, but not a bad profession if everyone would just keep their radical ideas to themselves.

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Comments

  1. librarydude says:

    Must be a slow news day.

  2. Don King says:

    The Illinois governor should be impeached for failure to maintain a reasonable hairstyle.

  3. librarydude says:

    I think all librarians should have their titles changed to my own personal title, i.e. “librarydude,” dude.

  4. Brent says:

    APO almost sounds as impressive as CEO or CPO (except the pay and respect part).

  5. Brent says:

    I meant ADO and CFO. I can kill a joke fast. Coffee please.

  6. librarydude says:

    That’s ok, it wasn’t that funny anyway.

  7. Vegans For Meat says:

    Everyone is on Heroin in Scotland, that’s the problem.

  8. Richard LeComte says:

    Newspapers underwent similar nomenclature gymnastics a couple of years ago. Newsrooms became “information centers,” and we got “data editors” and “audience development teams.” Why use one word when you can use three? Of course there’s always the new University of Nevada “Knowledge Center.” Just for once I’d like to see somebody build something on the periphery.

  9. PublicLibGirl says:

    Much ADO about nothing?

    Seriously, the city council could decide to call them Green Men From Outer Space, and the public will still call them librarians. Because, er, that’s kind of what they are.

    That said, if you’re going to ”

  10. Elisa says:

    This was posted on PUBLIB-L not too long ago. Rather odd.

  11. dork says:

    Will ADOs now make a fuss about who can be called an ADO like they do now with the issue who can be called a librarian?

  12. male librarian says:

    I want to be a ‘Libratorr”, like in the Penny Arcade comic.

    (Stupid LJ blog software not even letting me post a link… That’s very 1.0 of them. :-( )

  13. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    How’s about an ADOn’t?

  14. one librarian and one page says:

    Jim, you really didn’t need to repeat yourself. We got it the first time. If you’re really looking for a laugh look at the current presidency of the ALA.

  15. one pigeon and one dove says:

    This blog stopped being funny eons ago. I see know hope for it in the future to change.

  16. one typo and one correction says:

    opps, “know”…no

  17. publiclibrarEwoman says:

    All of that chilly wind blowing up their kilts must have gotten to them…

  18. hoots mon says:

    The “rural backwater” of Edinburgh, Scotchland (sic)? Best laugh all day.

  19. Danny Partridge says:

    The “rural backwater” of Edinburgh, Scotchland (sic)? Best laugh all day.

    Why is that funny?

  20. Cecilia says:

    As an American librarian living in Scotland, I have been following this story closely, and read with interest AL’s take on the news.

    Although calling librarians “Audience Development Officers” might seem like cosmetic rebranding, the issue that concerns many librarians is the downgrading that is associated with the restructuring of library services. I don’t work for Edinburgh Council, but many other authorities have introduced changes that have resulted in pay cuts or redundancies for school and public librarians.

    The Telegraph article (and others like it) alluded to these changes, but by choosing to focus on the “high-falutin’” job title change, they made library staff out to be laughing-stocks instead of addressing the real issue. Not that I really expect anything more from the mainstream press.

    What this article (and subsequent comments) did do is highlight the fact that many people are unclear as to what librarians do or to what the job title refers. The article made it seem as though 40 librarians would lose their jobs as a direct result of the installation of self-issue machines. I don’t know the full story, but I would be surprised if that were the case. 9 out of 10 (totally made-up statistic, but probably accurateJ) visitors to the public library I worked in believed that the circulation staff were librarians. Many PhD candidates, teachers, and other professionals I have met are also unaware of this distinction.

    I’m used to the fact that the majority of people I meet socially will be shocked when I tell them that I have a Master’s degree, and I can accept that. If I wanted to wow people at parties, I would have become a crime scene investigator. Nevertheless, I think it can be very difficult to do one’s job effectively when even colleagues are unaware of the responsibilities of librarians or the qualifications needed to become one. As a profession, we probably need to do more to highlight our functions (without sounding like we’re whingeing or boasting, of course), but changing the title of librarian to “Audience Development Officer” is unlikely to have the desired effect.

    I’m waffling now. I’m hardly saying anything original here, but I do think this is an important topic in both the States and the UK.

    By the way, AL, the term “Scotch” is considered offensive (as I’m sure you know). Scotch is a drink. I’ll buy you one next time you’re in town!

  21. Andersonian fan says:

    I don’t know about Edinburgh, but Glasgow has some d*mn* awesome librarians in it. The people at the Andersonian library at Strathclyde U. are awesome. Oh, and they are by the way *librarians*. I was not their audience, nor did they develop me. I was the audience of the materials they curate. That’s because I was a researcher visiting their *library*, where they helped me find and let me use the materials they curated. That makes them librarians.

    Also, the people at the National Library of Scotland answer research inquirires compentently and promptly – like *librarians*, not “audience development officers”.

  22. Andersonian fan says:

    Oops, just realized that I said I didn’t know about the case of libraries in Edinburgh, but then ended up referring to NLS which is obviously there.

  23. jj says:

    Why do they call them fishing poles?

  24. Librarian says:

    I don’t get it. What does audience development have to do with being a librarian? I think that will confuse people even more about what librarians do.

  25. Anti-Kat says:

    I thought Librarians was ohriginly from Atlantis? Thats what it say in Wikipeedier?

  26. hoots mon says:

    … Why is calling Scotland’s capital city a “rural backwater” funny?

    It just is – maybe if you ‘re not from the USA. Or if you’re from Glasgow.

  27. Skipbear says:

    Yes indeed and the term “Domestic Engineer” really caught on as well. Me thinks they been smoking the salmon, chewing on the haggis and hittin themselves in the head with the kabers way too much. Anyway sounds like a job title in for a community theater volunteer

  28. Bibliona says:

    School librarians were changed to ‘Media Specialists,’ and their jobs are being systematically eliminated and taken over by volunteers or clerks in many American schools.

  29. librarybabe says:

    That trend has nothing to do with their title change. Volunteers or clerks can do the job just as effectively for much less money, so it’s a no-brainer.

  30. benny says:

    Cecilia’s insight was…um, interesting. nah, seriously, i didn’t see that angle. thanks.

    Still, the name change was wide right.

    I’m no librarian. but i agree with the comment that library staff don’t seem focused on “Audience Development”.

    “Info Chef” makes more sense.

  31. jt says:

    Better than the “Information Evangelist” titles appearing on business cards here in the western U.S.

  32. Betty says:

    When I was promoted from pole dancer and became a lapdancer, the title was Audience Development Officer. That was one sweet gig!

  33. Betty says:

    When I was promoted from pole dancer and became a lapdancer, the title was Audience Development Officer. That was one sweet gig!