What Makes Librarianship Exciting To Me
So now that I know what makes librarianship exciting to you, here\'s what makes it exciting to me.
I\'ve given this some thought, well, more than some thought, alot
of thought. I wandered around at the ALA
Midwinter meeting, surrounded by thousands of librarians
looking for inspiration, and answers. I sat and thought. I
pondered, postulated, theorized and waxed poetic, looking for the
perfect answer. I looked at other
peoples answers. I even asked jeeves what
he thought.The question itself implies that I find librarianship exciting,
and I\'m not sure that I do. After all, what is librarianship?
Most people think it\'s sitting at a reference desk, shushing
people, and stamping books. Of course WE all know it\'s more than
just shushing people, it\'s cleaning up after them, scolding them
for looking at porn, going to conferences, and complaining about
OK... so it\'s more than that, but it seems like that\'s about it
most of the time, doesn\'t it? So what is it that a librarian
does, what is librarianship? Ask 10 librarians and you\'re likely
to get 10 different answers.
Librarian\'s like Dan Chudnov of OSS4LIB.org
write code and do "geeky" things most of the day. Solo
librarians like Rory Litwin do
everything from ordering books, to dusting the shelves.
Librarians like Jessamyn West...
well I\'m not sure what she does, but she seems to move around
alot. Librarians like me aren\'t
even in a library any more, I write code for an internet company
all day. Other librarians like me do cool stuff like information
architecture, and they aren\'t in a library either. While still in
the field of "librarianship", are we still librarians
if we don\'t work in a library?
Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville founded Argus Associates
"the premier provider of professional information
architecture consulting services". They are part of the new
branch of librarianship called "Information Architecture".
Information Architects figure out what a web site will do and
then they construct blueprints and plans before the site is
actually put together and used. It\'s really a perfect job for a
"librarian", since it\'s all about where stuff goes, how
it\'s organized and how stuff is used. Since we are all obsessed
with organization and perfection (let\'s just assume the
stereotypes are true), librarians fit into this detail oriented
job perfectly. I\'m not sure if we are still librarians, those of
us who left the library behind.
You can take the librarian out of the library, but you can\'t take
the library out of the librarian, it\'s really a lifestyle, a way of
being, not just a job for many of us.
Most "librarians" are still working in what we
currently consider a library. You know... a big building full of books, and
now, computers. There may even be a card catalog somewhere,
though I doubt it\'s being used. Smaller libraries need folks who
are jacks of all trades. With fewer staff members you need to
know cataloging, reference, systems and management. If you\'re
lucky enough to work in a big fancy research library at a big
fancy college like Harvard,
or the University of Oregon,
you can specialize in one
special thing or another.
Since these jobs need special skills, they tend to pay better (note:
I didn\'t say they pay good, just better) than the smaller
libraries. It almost seems like the less you know the more you\'re
paid. We also have an unprecedented number of jobs available to
us outside of the traditional library setting.
For me it\'s the jobs outside of the libraries that are most
exciting right now. That doesn\'t mean I won\'t return to a library
some day, I actually hope to, sooner than later. It\'s really
exciting being apart of something new, something that didn\'t even
exist 5 years ago. It\'s exciting being in a company surrounded by
22 year olds that make more in a year than I made in 3 years in a
library. It\'s exciting to never know for sure if I\'ll be paid on
Friday, or laid
off on Monday. The internet revolution (beware
of the buzz) is being driven, in part, by librarians. It was a librarian that coined the
phrase "surfing the net". Being part of the hype is
cool, and exciting while it\'s happening, though painful and
almost embarrassing when it\'s over.
The time we (as librarians) are living in now is really exciting.
The past 7 or 8 years since the
web took off has been an unprecedented, and most likely never
repeated, time in our history. The WWW/Internet has changed our
profession more than most others. I doubt there is a profession
that hasn\'t been impacted in some way by the internet, but ours
has been moved and shaken like few others. We must now deal with filters, porn, legislation,
job cuts, obsolescence, and misconceptions
like never before.
One of the most dangerous misconceptions is that libraries are
useless and outdated. Everything people need can be found on the
internet, why the heck do we need a library? This is so far
untrue, but it could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. People
think like this... they then vote like this... they don\'t support
the local (or campus) library... and all of a sudden, there are
no libraries, and everything everyone needs IS on the internet,
because they have managed to kill libraries. I hope we are
decades from this point in time, but it may come some day. That\'s
just one more thing that makes this time so exciting, and
librarianship so exciting.
Things have changed in ways we are not even aware of yet, and
this pace of change will continue for the foreseeable future.
With the internet and other technologies rapidly evolving and
competition from the private sector (questia, etc...)
starting to pick up, we could be in for even more excitement in
the years to come. I hope it\'s not my lack of
historical knowledge, but this seems to be the most amazing
and exciting time to be a librarian, more exciting and scary than
at anytime in the past.
Our jobs as librarians will continue to evolve around us, and in
spite of us, at a pace that has never been, or will never be,
matched at any point in our professions history. It is indeed an
exciting time to be a librarian, or part of the profession know