Back in September, an acquaintance of mine blogged about an activity he’d done with a group of students at the University of Texas-Arlington. I tried a similar activity in a research seminar I’m participating in this semester. Participants are mostly faculty (with a smattering of grad students) in the sciences and humanities. Nominally, we’re all there to talk about information visualization and the intersection of the arts and science. Having them draw a picture of what they think a librarian looks like seemed like an interesting idea. I had hoped to avoid the buns-and-glasses stereotype, but I guess it’s a hard image to shake. Here are a few of the drawings:
In addition to the drawings, I also asked them to list examples of what a librarian does and what you can find in a library. Though their drawings are disappointingly stereotypical, their written answers showed a deeper understanding of the role of librarians and libraries in fostering teaching and research at our institution. Their answers indicated that they understand the basic duties of many librarians on our campus (even for folks outside of public services positions), the wide range of material we collect, and even the changing use of our physical space.
I’ve often heard fellow librarians (particularly those of us in academe) talk about how few of our users understand what we actually do. But perhaps they know more than we give them credit for. Even though I’m disappointed that buns and glasses still predominate, I am heartened by the fact that my fellow seminar participants think of the library as more than just a place to check out books.
Anyone else out there soliciting feedback about what our users think of us? If so, let’s chat about it in the comments below.