Thursday, April 12, 2012

It Is a Global Profession... If You Want It to Be, by Jan Holmquist

One of the things I have learned about this profession in recent years (but wish I had known when I was brand new to libraries) is that it is in fact a global profession. The economy is global, information is global, and a lot of (popular) culture is global too. It makes sense, then, that the people navigating all of this are part of a global profession too. How can it be anything else? The good news is that I don‘t think it makes you a bad librarian if you don't get in the global loop. Being a good librarian is about other stuff - but I think you have a lot to gain professionally and personally by making the effort since you are on the global internet anyway. It really doesn’t matter where people are from anyway, does it?

It’s a choice - and it’s yours to make. You can get up in the morning and make awesome stuff in your community without ever wondering if there is a world outside your city. But if you choose to look a little further you will learn that most library core values are the same across the globe, and that there are a lot of people to inspire you, but who live in other cities and other countries. And hey... if intelligent life forms are discovered in space, I will be the first to claim myself a universal librarian and connect with those green librarians out there.

But wait - isn't it about the local community? Yes it sure is. If you don't focus your library towards your community, you are missing the point, but acting locally does not rule out thinking globally. Even though we share lots of the same questions worldwide, our answers are different - but lots of them are transferable. This is where it gets interesting. You can learn from awesome projects, make some of them fit your community, and you will have a globally crowdsourced library program for your local patrons wherever it makes sense. When it makes sense to build everything from the ground yourself, do that, and make sure to share. You never know when it could be transferable to people elsewhere in the world.

You (probably) can´t make a living of it, this global sharing, but if you figure out how, please let me know. Think of it as a tool to learn, develop ideas and be inspired. Make new friends, learn more about people, libraries, librarians and the world. And while you can´t make a living of it, it’s free to get involved (at least virtually).

It’s so easy to get involved because we have so much in common.  I have library friends from all over the globe. I think public libraries share the same values and face the same problems worldwide. I learn a lot from librarians in Australia and New Zealand, USA and the UK. I also learn a lot from academic librarians and teacher librarians. These people are so inspiring. I value them and their professional opinions and like I said, some of them have become my friends.

If you want to get started, you can read about and participate in the next Library Day in The Life.  Round 8 had participants from 20 countries, so that makes it a great way to learn about global librarianship and libraries. You also need get into the virtual loop yourself. Are you on Twitter? It is a great way to get inspired in the first place, and an easy way to find librarians from other countries. People are (generally) very friendly and share lots of awesome stuff. Who to follow then? There are too many inspiring people to mention here, but you could find inspiration in two lists I curate:!/janholmquist/librarians-world-wide and!/janholmquist/librarians-world-wide-2.

You can also connect on other social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest. My personal experience is that it is harder but it might work for you. Another suggestion, if you want to connect in person (and you are not planning to visit me in Denmark this summer), is to think about an international conference like IFLA, Cycling for Libraries, or NEXT Library 2013.

I have been involved in projects with people from all over the globe. Right now a library is being built in India crowdfunded by librarians from all over the world via Buy India a Library project. Another crowdfunding project with a worldwide team, Help This Week in Libraries, made a huge difference for that knowledge sharing library show. I am working on another global project with an American librarian right now. I can’t share details just yet, but you will hear more soon.

Make the best of it. Let’s make the world's libraries even more awesome together. See you out there!

Jan Holmquist is a Global librarian. He works as Head of Development at Guldborgsund-bibliotekerne in the south eastern part of Denmark, Europe. Jan tweets as @janholmquist and blogs at janholmquist.


  1. Great post. I look forward to hearing more about your projects.

    I want to give a shout-out to Jacqueline, a medical librarian in the Netherlands, who made me realize how much I was missing by not thinking more globally. She blogs here: I've learned a lot from her about how to search PubMed, a database that's funded with U.S. tax dollars and is freely accessible around the world (something our government is doing right, IMO).

    How much great knowledge are we missing by being dumb Americans who only know English? Hmmm...

  2. Hi Alison
    Thank you for your comment and for sharing Jacquelines great blog too. I am glad you liked the post.

    I always get a little surprised when I discover some Denmark related stuff via an American or Australian but I think it proves the point that ideas are transferable. I also think your example of knowledge being shared across continents is a very good one.

    I wish I could speak Spanish and I know I miss knowledge by not knowing other languages as well but English is working great as a global library language for me. (... And I have not met a dumb American librarian yet)