Hey New Technical Services Librarian – Get Out of the Basement!

By Jessica Spooner

What is a technical services librarian?  What do we do? Don’t we, as librarians, just read books all day? Where is the technicality in that?

I am sure many of us have pondered that before entering this field.  Now we all know that the technical service librarians are usually hidden away, preferably in the basement. We are doing jobs that no one ever thinks about.  We are ordering, processing, classifying, cataloging and preparing the books to go on the shelves. We are doing inventory and weeding the library collection.  Most of us are also managing all of the electronic resources that come into the collection.  Everybody knows that this is becoming a bigger part of our job description.

As a technical services librarian, we tend to work behind the scenes.  Does it really matter if no one knows who we are?  Should we emerge out of the basement, and stake our claim around campus for our department?  

I started at SUNY Canton eleven years ago in the technical services department. From a temporary library clerk, to an instructional support associate, then an instructional support technician, and now currently a librarian.  My job has been ever evolving.    

For the first eight years I never left the basement.  I crawled out of the dungeon only to attend the occasional meeting.  I really didn’t think it mattered if anybody knew who I was.  I was happy and content working down there.  Or so I thought…

I finally saw the light. I realized, hey, no one knew who I was.  No one had a clue what I was doing. I started going to more meetings on campus and always got the, “Are you new here?”  At this point, I was a seasoned veteran, and my campus colleagues didn’t even know who I was!

I decided that if I wanted to further my career, it was important that people knew who I was.  If they do not know me, how will they see my value to the campus?  

I knew I had to fix this problem.  I started by joining committees on campus.  I started with the Housing Appeals Committee.  I was venturing out more and, oh, did the sunlight seem nice. Next, I joined the faculty/student Judicial Hearing Board, started volunteering for campus events, and after a few years I was voted onto the Affirmative Action Committee.  These committees have really enhanced the quality of my work life.  My eyes have adjusted to the light above ground, and I am not considered “new around here.”

Currently I can say that the basement is getting along fine without me. I visit the dungeon every now and again.  Who am I kidding?  I have left that place, and haven’t looked back.  I have found a great sense of importance in being a visible faculty member.  Yes, our job matters.

Get out there.  Brush the dust off.  Emerge from the basement, and show the world how great the technical services department is.  

Jessica Spooner is Technical Services and Electronic Resources Librarian at SUNY Canton.