Starting off the new school year with a good simile…How a librarian is like a waitress

What does a girl, who has spent the past four years of her life getting degrees in English and French, do for grad school? Why, go to library school and emphasize in information technology, of course!

While it may not make sense at first, having someone from the humanities who is very curious about technology can sometimes be just what the masses need to access the constantly changing, increasingly important world of technology. Here we have a person to easily bridge the gap between the concrete world of IT and the subjective needs of a given population of patrons. In this way, a librarian is not unlike a waitress.

Imagine how a restaurant works. There are the customers in the dining room and the chiefs in the kitchen. The dining room is a refined area. It is quiet and relaxed. Everyone is enjoying his or her meal. In the kitchen, however, hell has been unleashed. Knifes are flying. Sous-chefs are swearing. The whole scene is straight out of an Anthony Bourdain book.

The customers are library patrons. The food is the information the patrons need from the library/restaurant. The chefs are technology developers and maintainers of the Jobs/Gates variety. These are two completely different worlds that somehow have to meet for society to function. The diner and chef are in no place to meet up and interact gracefully though. The chef can’t stand there all day and help the diner understand the menu. Sometimes, too, the food comes straight out of the kitchen in need of a garnish or the plate to be cleaned up a little. Neither the chef nor the diner cannot do these little jobs. That is where waitresses/librarians come in.

I have to give all credit of this metaphor to Jill, my Help Desk supervisor. It really is an accurate metaphor though. It is the goal of technology-driven librarians to bring technology to the masses in an accessible manner. At the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, this is my job as a graduate assistant and teaching assistant. I am both because my co-workers and I at the Help Desk and Instructional Technology and Design make it our jobs to answer to the tech needs of GSLIS students and the rest of the university student population. Consider us your go-to middlemen.

As this is the first week of classes, I wish all my Illini and all other fellow college students a good, productive semester. Us middlemen will be there for you!

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