by Dean Duane Strojny
I collect job descriptions. It has been a hobby of sorts since I found myself on the hiring end beginning in the early 2000’s. As you can imagine, there is quite a variety of librarian titles out there and that is what I find very interesting. We continue to keep ours simple: reference librarian. Where I work, a reference librarian is expected to be on the cutting edge while still being able to provide traditional services. Not much has changed with that need over the past few decades.
The title is simple. People know the heart of what you do. You help others connect with information. Simplicity aside, there latest trend is to include some sort of technology related word in librarian job titles. I am not sure if it appears to legitimize the position more easily, but maybe depending on who is approving the position. Many positions have added faculty titles of some sort to them. This is more prestigious sounding, but at many institutions, even reference librarians had faculty status of some sort. It is just clearer with a more descriptive job title. I often abbreviate my job title to Associate Dean for Library. It is just easier. Most people know I deal with technology and if they do not, they usually do after interacting with me for a few minutes.
So, as you might expect, I am going to list some of the more recent job titles posted on listervs that most of us monitor. Actually, none of these titles have the word reference in them, but all have a number of reference related components in the job descriptions. Some of the terms used are a little vague. I will let you decide what some of these titles might mean.
- Head of Special Collections/Legal Research Faculty
- Emerging Legal Technology Specialist/Legal Research Faculty
- Head of Cataloging & Acquisitions & Metadata Services
- Research Librarian/Analyst
- The Assistant Director for Outreach & Community Engagement
- Faculty & Scholarly Services Librarian
- Technology & Engagement Librarian
- Librarian in Residence for Engagement and Inclusion
- Subject Librarian for Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, Cybersecurity, and Criminal Justice
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager
A number of years ago, we tried the “reference and something unique librarian” titles. The lines were blurred quickly, and people were always afraid of stepping on others’ areas of responsibility. If I am the reference and faculty support librarian, can I make collection development suggestions? Can I use new technology on a test basis if I am not the reference and electronic resources library? It was just easier to have a similar title across the board with each person handling a specialty area of some type. However, everyone is involved in reference, collection development, and teaching. Those are mainstays of what an academic law librarian does.
So what about the trends in job titles? I say it is a phase. In addition, some of these titles are just a waste of white space on a business card. We know what we do. Most often, faculty and administrators know what we do especially in these of more engagement with our patrons. If we need to define more specific areas of responsibility, then we should use our elevator talks to let others know of unique projects we are working on or skills we possess. Law librarianship is constantly evolving and in the past decade has likely done so more quickly than usual. This tends to make job titles even less valuable. How many business cards do you have from your current employer with different job titles? My practice has been that until three items on the business card become obsolete, the card, with a few additions or deletions, is still usable.
I will continue to collect job descriptions. It is a fun hobby. It is likely the next person who has my position will reorganize and give everyone a new title. I am not expecting that change to occur soon so the team that works with me will have to deal with more traditional job titles. Reference librarian is valuable as a job title. Maybe I should ask that it be added to my title. Sadly, the job title with Associate Dean of Library and Reference Librarian takes up more space than I want to use on the card! Anyway, a director of a library should already know how to do reference, right?
(Post note: Take a look at this interesting post about firm librarians that I found in my email this morning. There is a great paragraph about librarians needing new titles! More thoughts on law firm research and librarianship)