The Prospective Librarian: Then and Now

In class this week I came across this short informative film from 1947. While at first glance it just seems like a source of entertainment, I found it to be an interesting source of comparison between how librarianship has been presented to prospective librarians over time. Perhaps surprisingly, not much has changed in the 66 years since this film was created.

Prospective Librarians

The film begins with the two most important characteristics that a librarian should have: a love for all kinds of people and a love for books. This was because it considered the primary job of librarians was to link people with books. Firstly, loving to work with all kinds of people is still true in librarianship today. One of the first things we were taught in our reference and management classes was that every type of person uses the library. This makes your job as a librarian both challenging and exciting. Secondly, I would also argue that a love of books is still a key characteristic for a prospective librarian to have. During the first week of classes, approximately one third of my fellow MLIS students cited their love of books as having drawn them to the field. However, while linking people with books is still a major part of librarianship, linking people with information is the common description of the field today. This is mainly a result of technological advancement since 1947; information is no longer only available in print form but digitally through the online databases, eBooks, etc. Despite this, the librarianship’s core values of being user-centered and providing free access to information have not changed.

The 1947 film also positions librarians on the forefront of technology and media relations. Whereas in 1947 this constituted microfilm, film, radio, and print advertising, the reality now is DVDs, CDs, eBooks, online articles, and a social media presence. I think these points hint at a larger concern of librarianship both then and now that in order to provide users with the materials they want and for libraries to stay relevant in an ever-changing world, librarians must be adaptive, knowledgeable of new technology and creative in order to incorporate them into the library.

Yet another aspect of librarianship that has remained the same since 1947 in the MLIS degree. Both then and now, not all library positions require a master’s degree. Many technical library positions require college degrees and small or rural library branches often hire people without any LIS education but provide extensive training instead. What I found during my research from a previous assignment on this topic is that both then and now, what sets the MLIS apart from a college diploma is that you are more likely to advance in your career and hold management positions.

Librarianship is for you! Or is it?

In his blog post “Do I Really Want to be a Librarian?” Andy Burkhardt addresses the doubts that both library students and experienced librarians can feel about their chosen field. Many people are in an MLIS program or working in a library for some time and feel unfulfilled. The most important suggestion that Burkhardt makes is to ask yourself ‘what do I love most about librarianship or my job as a librarian?’ He makes the point that whatever those reasons are, there is probably another branch of librarianship or position within librarianship that is more suited to your interests and/or strengths. Librarianship has been, and continues to be, a large and diverse field. As the 1947 film notes, there are many different types of libraries, subject specialties, and job types within librarianship that require librarians with different skills, knowledge bases and strengths. Whether you are still considering librarianship or have already entered the field, chances are there is a place, or a new place, for you as a librarian.

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You Can Help This Prospective Librarian

As an MLIS student, I am still finding my own place in librarianship. If you are a librarian at an institution that is looking for a co-op student, please look at my resume, available for download in my Work Experience, to see if my strengths and interests are a match for your institution’s co-op opening.

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