Your Life Work: 1947 vs. 2016

I recently watched a short video from 1947 about librarianship. In it, they briefly discuss some key attributes of a good librarian, as well as the different roles librarians may fill. Watching this instructional video seemed to highlight the differences between then and now, as noted below:

1947: The various tasks of a librarian can be summed up into five categories: cataloguing, reference, circulation, children’s librarian, or school librarian.

2016: There are more tasks for librarians than I even know (granted, I’m still quite new to the inner workings of the mysterious library). There are all of the above—though the positions may no longer look the same—plus countless others. There are librarians with managerial roles who work on budgeting and planning, or who focus on collection development. There are tech librarians, archivists, and media coordinators. It is not easy to sum up the role of a librarian into five simple categories these days, as the library itself is no longer what it used to be.

1947: Librarians are mostly white females, with the odd male librarian filling a upper managerial role or possessing a specialty of knowledge that isn’t considered womanly.

2016: Libraries everywhere are ethnically diverse, with a near even split between male and female and a solid mix of all types of people in every type of role! Okay, maybe not. Librarianship is still a female dominated career (my cohort within my MLIS program alone has about a 1:4 male/female ratio, and I think that’s on the better end of things). This aspect has not changed a whole lot over the past 69 years, though it has improved. Just this year, Carla Hayden was nominated to lead the Library of Congress. Now I know what you’re thinking, “this is just another female filling another librarian role. Whoop de doo.” But, I would like to point out that not only is she the first female to fill the position, but the first African-American! Double win! (Also the first official librarian…weird) Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that it is no longer expected that only women fill the bottom ranks of the library, but there are now mixed genders in all the roles.

1947: School librarians are there to “direct the young reader’s interests into approved and worthwhile channels.” (5:19-5:26)

2016: School librarians are supposed to help supply “worthwhile” materials, but not to the point of taking books out of a child’s hand and replacing it with another “better” book as seen in the video. Now, I haven’t spent much time in a high school library in recent years, but back in my day my school librarian let me browse at my leisure and helped me find the things I asked for.

1947: The cataloguing room looks something like this:

your life's work 255

Film Still, 2:55

2016: Cataloguing today is mostly done on computers using the system of choice. While the room may not necessarily be all that much neater, gone are the days when thousands upon thousands of cards are needed to be filled out and meticulously filed under author, title, or subject. Cataloguers today need only to type the information into their system. As an added bonus, there are no longer space constraints, so cataloguers can include as much information as they deem necessary. On the down side, there is a lot more information that is expected to be included for every resource.

The library has changed a lot in the last 69 years, though some aspects have remained the same. I am happy that libraries have made the advances they already have, and I am excited to see how it adapts into the future.


Breaking Stereotypes

One of the most common questions I get after I tell people what I am going to school for is “So you’re going to be a librarian?” generally followed with “Isn’t that a dying field?” Well I have ground-breaking news for all of you doubters: the library isn’t what it was before. It’s changing and adapting to our changing times, and it isn’t going to go extinct as quickly as one might think.  On top of that, to be perfectly honest, I did not enter the program with hopes and dreams of working in a public library. I’m not even sure I want to work in an academic library. No, I entered the program thinking more along the line of special libraries or even (gasp!) not working in a library at all but rather taking the skills I am acquiring over this year and applying them to some other job. Just check out the list of possible careers I could look into found here. Go ahead, check it out, I’ll wait.

Did you look? Did you read? All of it? Yeah. Those are a lot of options and not one of them resembles that “traditional” librarian role of someone shushing patrons while wearing a cardigan and horned rimmed glasses with the chain that goes around the neck. I don’t even wear glasses. On top of that, these are just jobs that were available five years ago! with the amount that things have changed since then, I’m sure that plenty of new opportunities await me.

In a nutshell, who knows where I’ll end up. I may find a job in a public library running children’s programs and stacking books, or maybe I’ll wind up with that neato burrito wine librarian job (who wouldn’t want that job?). Moral of the story—stop making assumptions about my degree.


Welcome to my blog.

Here in these digital pages I will share my exploits, initially as a student, and later as a professional. I am currently a Master’s student studying at the University of Western Ontario in the Library and Information Science program.

I am currently working under an alias of Biblio Savant (Biblio: book, Savant: intellectual). I’ve made a note that I am indeed in training, and I doubt that I will ever cease to be in training, as there will always be more for me to learn about books before anyone could actually call me a savant.

My choice books to pick up are fiction, primarily fantasy and science fiction. There is something about a story that can transport you into another world and set your heart pounding as you experience thrill and adventure in the safety of your own comfy chair.

But there is so much more that books can do than just take you on a journey.

“…Words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts. There are seven words that will make a person love you. There are ten words that will break a strong man’s will.”
Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

I hope to one day understand all there is to know about books and the secrets their words hold, but until that day I will faithfully remain,

Biblio Savant, in training