In these days of rapidly changing technologies, there is more of a need than ever for skilled individuals to fill library jobs. To many, it may seem that technology and books don’t really go together, but the truth is, libraries are among the institutions that are most exposed to new developments and advances in computers and information storage technology. In large part due to this technological aspect, the role of a librarian is actually much more complex than it may seem at first glance. Consisting of far more than just helping people check out books, a career in library science is both multi-faceted and challenging.
The Changing Role of the Library
Libraries used to be simply places to check out books or do research for school projects, but now they encompass much more. Books are still the main draw, of course, but libraries aren’t just about paper-based tomes anymore. Most libraries now offer DVDs and CDs, audio books, computer labs, Internet access, digital libraries and remote access to offsite information resources. Because of the many hats a librarian wears, they often go by the more recent title of “information professional.”
Duties of Modern-Day Library Jobs
Library jobs today still include many of the traditional librarian duties such as assisting patrons in finding the materials or information they are seeking, classifying and organizing library materials, and performing research. However, now these duties are very often combined with other tasks that involve ever-changing technology. This state of affairs requires librarians to be knowledgeable about recent trends related to publishing, computers and other media, and new information resources.
Those individuals entering into the library sciences who anticipate a socially isolating career will be surprised to find out how much librarians personally interact with others every day. This interaction is not just with library patrons, but with other staff members within the library as well. Head librarians are in charge of managing, scheduling and delegating responsibilities to all the assistants and volunteers in their libraries. Depending on the library’s size, this can often amount to quite a few people.
Main Types of Librarian Positions
There are three main service branches within library work: user services, technical services and administrative. While all of these can be rewarding and challenging career paths, some may require different educational requirements or training, and there are other significant differences as well.
- User Services: These librarians work at reference desks and assist patrons in locating the items they need. Their duties are mainly instructional.
- Technical Services: These librarians are involved more with acquisitions, which includes not only procuring new items for the library, but also classifying and organizing the current collection. They have far less contact with patrons.
- Administrative Services: Administrative librarians deal mainly with the business side of libraries, namely contract negotiation for services and equipment, public relations duties, fundraising, budget preparation and directing activities.
In order to be able to offer knowledgeable recommendations of applicable materials to patrons, librarians will need to be well-versed in their collections. These will include not only books but also magazines and other periodicals, specific articles, pamphlets, AV equipment and any electronic resources available. They will also need to be familiar with less common items the library may have to offer such as rare books, genealogy records or sheet music.
Most libraries nowadays are not self-contained, but are instead connected to remote databases. This makes more resources available and allows for more comprehensive searches by patrons and librarians alike, allowing for materials to be requested from other locations if not kept locally. Some libraries currently offer search capabilities that allow searching multiple libraries simultaneously by default. Librarians must become familiar with the tools they have to offer so they, in turn, can teach other users how to best utilize these additional resources.
Most libraries offer programs to their local communities. One good example of this is having a story hour for smaller children or a reading rewards program to encourage reading in school-age children. Classes for adults on travel, computer use, and many other subjects may also be offered. Additionally, libraries may allow others to use their space in order to teach their own classes.
Is Being a Librarian Right for You?
Careers in the field of library science are growing, and that growth is projected to continue at a steady pace for the foreseeable future. Librarians experience interesting and varied days, particularly in smaller libraries where they handle several different aspects of information technology simultaneously. For those who are interested in becoming librarians, a Master of Library Science degree is required. However, keep in mind that there are many other types of library jobs besides librarian; one of them may be right for you.