March 23, 2018

Feedback: Defending the Title Librarian, Library as Refuge, and More Letters to LJ’s July 2014 Issue

“The profession suffers enough with defining itself; we don’t need to denigrate ourselves further by allowing everyone to call themselves ‘librarian’ ”

No qualifications, no title

I’m writing in response to Sylvia ­Spiva’s “Call me ‘librarian’ ” (Feedback, LJ 5/15/14, p. 9). Why do people think it is acceptable to appropriate the title “librarian”? The profession suffers enough with defining itself; we don’t need to denigrate ourselves further by allowing everyone to call themselves “librarian.” Why can’t we be proud of our professional qualifications and the title that goes with that? I’m fed up with people who seem to think that not only can they take on the title, but that in so doing they are somehow perfectly qualified for the job. I know first aid, but I don’t call myself a paramedic. I don’t understand why people think if they interact with a bit of information, it makes them librarians.

—Natalie Meggison, MLIS, MA Libn., Heritage Coll., Gatineau, Quebec

No education, no title

MLIS student Sylvia Spiva states that she felt like a librarian when she worked in Apple Retail and that “we should be more flexible about letting people call themselves librarian, especially if they have a cool job in high-tech” (“Call me ‘librarian,’ ” Feedback, LJ 5/15/14, p. 9).

To that I respond by saying that my daughter “feels” like a doctor when she is working as an EMT. Should we let her call herself a doctor? There are no other professions where a master’s degree is required that let nondegree holders “call themselves” what they aren’t. I worked as a library clerk, a public services manager, and an information specialist (which is the same as a librarian but without the degree), and I did not call myself a librarian until I graduated with my master’s in library and information science. Let’s not join the majority of uneducated people out there and apply the title to people who do not have the education or the expertise.

—Clara Strom, Reference Libn., Spokane P.L.

For a quiet place

I read Peter Gisolfi’s “Designing 21st Century Libraries” (Library by Design, Spring 2014, p. 24). The elements of a modern library he lists are certainly those of which we who manage libraries and library building projects are increasingly aware—the need to shift our “temple of knowledge” approach to include more spaces for community gathering and engagement, to be sustainable socially and environmentally, to be fully equipped to provide our communities with the tools for digital ­literacy.

I would remind us all of the important role of the library as a reflective space, a retreat from the noisy, busy world to read, think, study, write, or even just sit in some place warm, dry, and quiet. Increasingly, as our library has become that noisier community gathering place, the most consistent message we get in surveys and patron feedback is the desire for quiet spaces….

—Deb Thomas, Deputy Chief Libn. & Branch Mgr., Bob Prittie Metrotown Branch, Burnaby P.L., BC

Disservice to diversity

I feel compelled to respond to John Berry’s “Trapped in Orlando” (Blatant Berry, LJ 5/1/14, p. 10), because it does a disservice to the commitment of the ethnic affiliates and ALA leadership to confront the issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion in ALA, our profession, and our communities. We made a joint decision to form a presidential task force to develop strategies and tools that can be used by libraries and librarians across the country. We agreed to use the Orlando 2016 ALA annual conference as a platform to take an active and public stand to promote our shared commitment to a comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges that face us professionally and within our respective communities.

We are looking at the issues broadly to confront discrimination in all its forms, including racial, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and age. We offered an explanation of our thinking in an open letter to ALA membership.

I believe that it is incumbent on each one of us to push back on the discrimination and injustices we encounter in all of our communities. We cannot cause the change that we want to see by avoiding the problem or boycotting a conference. We must exercise our voices as individuals and as an ALA community. I invite all members of the library community to join us in speaking in support of equity, diversity, and inclusion in all forms….

—Barbara Stripling, Pres., American Lib. Assn., 2013–14, Chicago

Orlando doubts

Thank you, John Berry (“Trapped in Orlando,” Blatant Berry, LJ 5/1/14, p. 10)! That needed to be said. I, for one, would think twice (or more) before asking an author of color to attend.

—Michael Rockliff, Dir., School & Lib. Sales & Mktg., Workman Pub. Co., New York


Opinion: Rethinking How We Rate and Rank MLIS Programs” (LJ 6/15/14, p. 38ff.) attributed to the University of Washington a head count of 746. The correct figure is roughly 350, which would remove the program from the table of ten programs with the longest time to degree.

Peter Thornell’s job title, Collection Development Librarian, Hingham Public Library, MA, was incorrectly cited with his article “Heroes for Our Time” (Collection Development, LJ 6/1/14, p. 52–54). LJ apologizes for these errors.

This article was published in Library Journal's July 1, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. 24 years, 6 libraries, no MLS says:

    In my long library career, I have never tried to pass myself off as a librarian. But I just don’t know what to make of the following bona fide true events:

    1. A relative who is an attorney (and thus would be expected to understand the concept of educational credentials) once insisted to me that I *am* a librarian, and went on to assert that the reason I “deny” being a librarian is because I’m ashamed of it. Yes, this really happened.

    2. My boss, a librarian, has on several occasions (social, not professional) introduced me as a librarian. I correct them every time, but they have persisted in doing it.

    The perception problem has many facets.

  2. Kay Moore says:

    Calling people without MLIS librarians . . . it indicates that in the environment outside the library field, whether one has an MLIS or not is important. It is only important to librarians who got their masters’ degrees. Historically, an MLIS was required to be called a librarian but librarians have hardly commanded a salary as high as that awarded to other professions that also required graduate degrees. Doctors deal with life and death situations, but librarians don’t. I feel that some who comment here think being a librarian is a religion.