Since the beginning of modern librarianship there have been many arguments about what makes a “real librarian.” Is it only someone with a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science? Or is it anyone who works in a library? By calling any and all library workers librarians, does it “water down” the meaning for those who have greatly committed to earn a degree? This argument lends itself to both sides getting super-defensive which at least proves that everyone taking part is passionate about their work.

I’ve weighed in on this topic before and it has been frequently on my mind ever since I became a degreeless library worker around seven years ago. Furthermore, the way the public library world is now, it mainly promotes a not-so-diverse group of people who are willing to go into sometimes deep financial debt for the chance at getting a better paying job. I believe that the focus on elevating the profession through a Master’s degree alone has done a great deal of damage to our profession (and I’m speaking about public libraries here – there are other very important types of libraries out there that rightfully demand a higher level of education).

And then late one night a few months ago I had a profound realization: instead of continuing this debate, I should do something about this situation. Thus Punk Rock Book Jockeys was born. Ever since then I have been almost obsessively contemplating what being a part of this movement would mean. And I think that I’ve come up with its basic underlying principles (though I fully expect that it will change over time).

The Punk Rock Book Jockey Mission Statement:

Punk Rock Book Jockeys rebrand their library personas, foster incredible Learning Communities, and both sparkle and shine with the goal of transforming public libraries.

I plan on thoroughly exploring each part of this mission statement over the next few months within posts that I’ll be sure to link to on this page. Those posts are where I will detail my ideas for those who want to take part in this movement. But for now, let me break it down a bit to give you a clearer idea of what I mean.

Rebrand Yourself

Let the MILS earners keep the term librarian for themselves – they’ve chosen a tough path and have earned it. But then by doing so, this allows you to call yourself whatever the hell you want. And I want to be a Punk Rock Book Jockey. And my new business cards are going to confirm that title right next to my Assistant Library Director and Creative Director credits.

Read more about rebranding yourself.

Foster Incredible Learning Communities

For those of us who want to be kick ass library workers, but hate or cannot afford to jump the financial and educational hurdles for an MILS? Learning communities are key – and don’t need to be accredited by the ALA. There are already a great number of these out there, so let’s join, support, and be active within them.

Sparkle and Shine

This has been a game-changer in my professional career. Once I began to really focus on helping others and making them shine, their light reflected back onto me and made me both a better person and Punk Rock Book Jockey. To really simplify this idea – it’s about advocacy (for yourself, your team, your library, and your community).

Transform Public Libraries

The ALA currently has a fantastic marketing campaign about how libraries transform. But what about within libraries themselves? This is my ultimate goal with Punk Rock Book Jockeys. I truly believe that if we don’t transform public libraries through their staff, then libraries are likely doomed to irrelevancy and/or being something that only wealthiest of communities can afford.

Overall, I truly hope that this idea catches on not only with non-degree-ers, but also with librarians. During my time within this profession, I have made wonderful connections and developed relationships with amazing librarians who have inspired me to be better at everything. I can truthfully say that I wouldn’t be attempting something like this without their support and encouragement.

With that in mind, if we all work together to transform U.S. libraries, then I truly believe that there will be a golden age of libraries for years to come.