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Musings of a librarian, former archivist, musician, bibliophile, and tech-obsessed.

Entries in Museum Curator (1)


Defining Your MLIS

What can you do with an MLIS? Librarian, Archivist, Records Manager, and if you tweak it just right, Curator. You've decided which direction you want to go based on your specialization, but how do you explain this to the world? That's they first step in explaining yourself to anyone else, making it sound like library and information science is an actual career (not a career to be snubbed), or even keeping your job.

When most people think "librarian" they think of the little old lady with a tight, gray bun, a cardigan sweater, and sensible shoes. There's also the hot librarian. I think we have all seen the "She blinded me with library science" T-shirt (from TopatoCo), which has been posted and re-posted on so many library-related blogs:

And then there's The Librarian, my own personal hero:

(Don't forget that there are three movies now!!! )
People know you work with books, can help them research papers, and if their knowledge is a little broader, they'll know you can help them with databases, new research technologies, and media far beyond books.
And if you're a curator or archeologist professor, there is Indiana Jones to live up to, but people know you work with old objects and create exhibits.
Archivists aren't as lucky to have a sterotype or "hero" so that obviously means no one has heard of us. I live in Washington, DC, the city where what you do is more important than your name. When I introduce myself, I say, "Hi, I'm Robin. I'm an Audio Visual Archivist."
They answer, "A what?"
"An Archivist."
"A Librarian, for old stuff."
My boyfriend is an aspiring politician who works for the government affairs office of a defense contractor so I meet A LOT of people and have had this conversation MANY times. Only one person I've met outside of my field has known what an archivist is, and that's because he was a guy in politics that volunteered for his local museum.
When no one knows what you are, how do you define yourself (without boring someone and killing the conversation)?
Step 1. Start with a reference point of something they know (librarian), and explain what you do as an archivist within that context. It's easier if they know history, which they should if they're in politics, or if they work for a corporation, they understand records management. It sounds too simple, but if you really break things down into overall concepts, it's a lot easier for most people to grasp.
Step 2. Please act normal (not like a normal anti-social archivist).
And you're in. Conversation flows from there. Just don't get into metadata...