This topic this week in the MOOC : Atlas of New Librarianship is all about community and credibility. I was pondering the thought of what exactly makes a community and how the boundaries are defined for different environments. And what are the factors that make a librarian credible? There are certainly some things to think about and most of the discussion in the lectures and the text are about serving the library’s users. Librarians as a profession are a community, and librarians who work together are a small community, serving at least one community.
The first word that comes to mind when thinking about what credibility is, is the word “believability.” Like, is the resource or the link or the information I just gave the person on the phone believable? The information and resources people get from the reference desk or the library’s website, or from the librarian chat box, should be reliable, trustworthy, evaluated, and reviewed. The information and programs should be beneficial, not bullsh*t. Very often the first question a person will ask a librarian behind the reference desk is not the question they really want to ask. But what they are doing is first testing the librarian’s credibility and his or her overall power to be believable. Once a trust is established, then the real questions are asked and a dialog takes place. During the entire transaction, the librarian is establishing and having to maintain credibility and included in this credibility is a genuine concern for the needs of others. Which also gets me thinking, roving librarians seem to have more credibility than ones who sit at a desk.
As I read through the text and then some of the discussion, I found myself looking for the word love. This is the bridge that connects the community to its librarians. Librarians cannot serve their community effectively unless there is an element of love for it and its people. Love establishes credibility. When a librarian is genuine and sincere, he or she will do whatever it takes to meet a need. People know when they are loved and they know when they are being patronized. In a library group on Facebook, there was a post from a librarian making fun of the way a person pronounced the word ‘library’ and mocked the fact that he wanted a library card but his only form of identification was a jail ID. This librarian’s disregard for the community was evident and resulted in justifiable chastisement from her peers.
I’ve always thought that libraries are kind of sacred institutions. Michael Gorman said this so well in his book, “Our Enduring Values.” There is another book written on the sacredness of libraries, and I cannot remember the title. In a sense, librarians minister to the needs of the community. They listen and they seek out for a person what they could not find on their own. “The mission of librarians is to improve society though facilitating knowledge creation in their communities” (Lankes). When librarians are credible and when they love their community, they make the world a better place. The librarians that get lots of love from the community are the ones who love their community the most.