Part 1 I’m not An Archivist, but I’m The Archivist
Rarely a day goes by without someone asking me, “Are you the Archivist?” or referring to me as “The Archivist”. I could reply, “I’m a professional librarian not an archivist, but I manage the archives at Bradford as part of Special Collections so I am probably the best person to help you”. I do mention this when it seems appropriate, but not when it would appear pedantic – often they just want to know who is in charge.
However, this is not to deny the value of an archivist to the service, and in the longer-term I hope we will be able to employ one again. Special Collections includes complex modern records which need the skills of a professional archivist. I’m working on it.
Part 2 I’m a Librarian but not The Librarian (or indeed The Librarian)
My original title at Bradford University was Assistant Librarian (Special Collections). I thought this was misleading to users, giving the impression that there was some other more senior librarian in Special Collections.
In the traditional university library, such job titles came about because the person in charge of the whole library was “the Librarian”. Other professional staff were subordinate, hence Sub-Librarians (actually pretty senior people) and Assistant Librarians. And indeed Senior Assistant Librarians, a title I once held.
These titles survive to some extent at Bradford, but have tended to be dropped by subject librarians and managers – Assistant doesn’t convey that we are responsible for and expert in our own areas. In any case, there is no longer A Librarian – our library services are superconverged, with IT, Careers and many other services. We share buildings and work with many other services, in response to student needs and the more complex nature of modern resources.
Of course, plenty of librarians, in higher education and out of it, don’t have librarian in their job title at all. Katie Birkwood (Girl in the Moon) recently asked tweeting information professionals for their non-librarian job titles: check out her fascinating list and word clouds.
Part 3 Librarian it is then
My all-time favourite job title is Keeper of Rare Books, Manuscripts or whatever. What a picture that conveys of a magnificent library with a great key. This title shows that caring for the collections is fundamental. But it doesn’t cover the other important thing: sharing them. So something about engagement or discovery might be good. Keeper and Sharer? Keeper and Discoverer? Or maybe Librarian conveys both aspects anyway …?