Ooh, another mahoosive topic to blog about this week!
As Lauren said, speaking up for libraries has become really crucial in the UK in the last few years. As a bit of an indicator, this was the first topic chosen for #uklibchat, a fortnightly Twitter chat for UK librarians. I'd recommend taking a look at the chat summary if you're interested in this topic.
While I don't greet every new person I meet with "Hi, I'm a librarian,
isn't that awesome?!" (which would be a little strange), when people
find out what I do this generally prompts a "why...?" or "you needed a
degree to do that?" At first I would kind of laugh awkwardly and
go "um, yeah...". After a while I started to take the opportunity to do a
little advocacy and re-education. I haven't exactly got an elevator
pitch to fire back at them now, but I usually explain how rewarding it
is, what I do all day besides stamping books and that yes, most
librarians have degrees, plural.
I work in a university library which seems fairly stable...for now at least. With the trend among a large proportion of the public being that everything is available online, you would hope that students and academics know better than this, right? Unfortunately most students will still head to Google first and won't make the most of the scholarly databases provided by their library. If you can get a quick fix from Google, why bother going to the library? In the future the academic libraries might be the ones needing all the campaigning help they can get.
Meanwhile, many public librarians can't speak up for their jobs for fear of losing their jobs... pretty rubbish really. So most campaigns will need to rely on other library sectors for their manpower. On Save Our Libraries Day last February, I took part in a Read Aloud flash mob in a shopping centre in Cambridge, reading from Roald Dahl's Matilda and handing out leaflets about what the library provides and what cuts are being proposed. This was organised by Emma Coonan, a university librarian and most of us there were academic librarians.
So I do dabble in activism, and I frequently end up speaking up for my profession amongst small groups of people. Of course this pales in comparison to the tireless efforts of some library campaigners! I look at people like Lauren, Johanna, and Ian and then look back at myself and think "must try harder".