So You Want to be a Librarian by Lauren Pressley

Introduction. Librarianship is a field of helpful people. Everyone spends most of their waking hours at work and we should find a career that is interesting and meaningful. Being a librarian will also allow you to grow and become smarter. You have to help someone every day. Creativity and innovation is needed in this industry. The book will help you decide whether this is the career for you. In academic libraries, you may need to know a lot about a particular field. There needs to be experts in different subject matters. If you are switching careers, you can provide subject matter expert in your previous field. You need to be a specialist in one field and a generalist in others. It is one of the most exciting fields today. You should enjoy research, information, education, how people communicate etc. It also requires new innovations. The industry has ethics. The success is measured by how the library meets the need of the community. If you like academia or learning, this is a possible field to enter. Professional librarians require that masters degree. You can see the impact of your work on others. There are also positions which are not public-facing. This is a field that is changing due to technology. There is plenty of knowledge sharing going on. There is a huge diversity of people in this field. The book has 4 sections; (1) different types of libraries; (2) types of jobs; (3) current issues in librarianship; (4) things to keep in mind. Special libraries also exist. Librarians actually engage in a wide variety of work. This book covers librarianship in North America. Many people find librarianship to be their perfect fit.

If you like helping people, delving into challenging research questions, trivia, using the Internet skillfully, working with students, or teaching, you will likely find something to love in librarianship. – Lauren Pressley

Types of Libraries. There are differences in every librarians’ role. It is difficult, but not possible, to move from one specialized library to another. The four types are (1) school; (2) academic; (3) public; (4) special. The main aim is to collect, organize, preserve and share information. There are varying users among the 4 libraries. School libraries are media centres. Librarians will need to work with teachers to make sure their needs are met. Popular reading materials are also introduced to encourage reading amongst others. There are also sensitive and censorship issues to be aware of. Users from academia have more complex research needs. Librarians help students with their information needs on projects etc. These libraries collect a wide range of text and information for faculty use. Public libraries cover the broadest scope of work. Special libraries help the organization to get their work done. In this case, librarians often need to do research and write articles. There are no recreational materials kept for special libraries. Almost all are moving towards electronic resources. When studying for the masters programme, know which skills are sought after by employers.

School Media Centers. You have the ability to shape the reading habits of others for life. These are for elementary, middle and high school. The work is very diverse in nature. The size of the team is also fairly small. The fact that it is small gives you the whole spectrum of work ‘Selecting and ordering books, the technical work that goes into the running the library, reference, and circulation.’ You will feel a sense of ownership. You might be able to know the entire school collection, without referring to a catalog. There may be opportunities to teach and know more students. With knowledge of reading habits, you can pick better books for your collection. The selection process is one of the most rewarding aspects. For most of school librarians, they also need a teaching degree in addition to having a masters. You need to pay attention to censorship issues, for instance, books that are challenged. Librarians can also befriend students and connect in a different way as compared to teachers. You can recommend materials that will suit students’ needs. There is also a lot of communication needed between librarian and the teacher. Student parents’ may also use the library. You should be well versed in ethical values. With more volunteers, librarians can focus on more complex matters. There might be funding issues in a school library. Depending on the schedule, you may or may not have a fixed schedule. The teacher may not be around to supervise the students that much.

Academic Libraries. You will have likely used the academic databases in school or chatted with a reference library librarian. They appeal to those who liked college. You will be able to help students with their research needs. In addition, you may have to engage in other professional duties. It is wise to choose an institution that can meet your needs. Some of them are on tenure track while some are just professional staff. Learn about the academic institution and how decisions are made. You need to be able to communicate well with faculty members. There are community colleges. These are more about teaching and disseminating information. Then, there are also liberal art school libraries. These are also very small set-ups. In such a setting, librarians get to do everything, from repair damaged materials and negotiate deals with electronic vendors, catalog incoming materials. Next, there are mid-sized college universities. You may have to specialize in a specific type of work only. Research Universities have a huge number of staff and have expansive collections. Even old books may be relevant for research in cultural artifacts. Space is a big issue here. There are different levels of hierarchy. There is a need to work with faculty to design assignments etc. The five types of users are: students, faculty, staff, administration and community members. Staff members may need to use the libraries to find information too. For academic libraries, you need to pay attention to the latest trends. There may be potentially cheaper publishing models around. A trend in online learning opportunities is emerging. Some people are interested in information literacy. It can be a rewarding place to work. If you like academia, this is a place for you.

Public libraries. Public libraries also provide valuable resources for everyone. The central library usually has the best collection and widest clientele. A wide variety of material is available. They are also a form of entertainment. Their role is also to organize book clubs and strengthen community values. The city councils control the budget and affect the way the library is run. Librarians may also need to work with community members to strengthen the library services. Board members may also provide much needed funding. They are models of customer service. The branch libraries can serve as incubators for up and coming projects. Workshops, presentations, displays etc are all very useful. An example of a specialized program is a book club. Some offer opportunities for rotation so that someone else can lead. There are many literacy initiatives too. Some librarians also help foreigners learn the native language better. Often, libraries will conduct computer literacy classes, especially for the elderly. Travelling libraries is also a great idea. The users are the most diverse here. There are programmes to groom the reading habit amongst the young. Young adult librarians create the environment to foster fun. There is also a reference section in the library to aid users. Depending on your community, the budget may be cut or expanded and you need to deal with that. Public libraries usually have the best form of customer service. Of greater importance, is the role public libraries play in the community.

Special Libraries. They allow you to be a subject matter expert and know that your work impacts the organization. Librarians also carry out the actual research. Examples are law firms, hospitals, large corporations etc. Some are corporate libraries etc. They will subscribe to appropriate journals and databases. They work with employees of the organization. There is a joy to performing research on your own. Medical librarians are an example. These are more for people with a science background. Most law libraries need to hold a JD so that they know more about the law and legal practice. They also serve the community. There are also librarians who work for newspapers. Many other special libraries are out there, such as toy libraries etc. Special librarians do a lot less education work. You do not have colleagues to turn to for support. This might cause a higher stress level. It is challenging and is fast-paced. The work here is definitely more fast-paced and hectic in nature. Changing collections from physical to digital might affect the way things are run. Streamlining research is the key to keep costs low. The implementation of knowledge management systems help as well.

Types of Jobs. You will be able to find a particular job that suits you. This book will show what are the available jobs out there. Understand the hierarchy of a larger library staff. The support staff are crucial in how the librarian functions. Librarian functions typically pay more than non-librarians. There may be middle management positions as well. Even those with management duties need to perform some specialist work. Some libraries have a shared governance model. They all take part in the decision making process. The Masters of Library Science is basically a management degree. The larger the library, the more focused a job will be. In here, public service members answer queries from the public. There are circulation staff who checks books in and out. Many reference librarians require the masters degree. Reference librarians are specialist in finding information. Sometimes, this involves roaming around and not just stationing at the reference desk. Reference librarians love helping others with their research requirement. After a ‘reference interview’, you will be able to find out what the person needs. You must be able to offer scholarly articles. It is necessary to know how to conduct research using databases and books. Information is everywhere but librarians need to track down only high quality information. Librarians teach others how to use subject-specific databases. There are both fixed and flexible schedule librarians. Children/Young adult librarians are required to give specialized instruction. They may focus on child development. Pairing up with school librarians may be an option. Access services combines different areas of library work. The collection needs to be shelved in the right place. Interlibrary loan is one of the features available. Reserves are important to. Circulation staff deal with the in-out of materials and fine people if necessary. Entering the ‘access services’ realm is one option. Everyone works with library patrons to create positive experiences.

In public services librarianship, you can get to know people from all different ages and walks of life, and get to see a measurable impact that you can have on another’s life. If you feel your calling is working with real, live people, and you enjoy directly helping them out, public services could be exactly the type of work that you would enjoy. – Lauren Pressley

Technical Services and Collection Management. Tech services help to add records to catalog, create policies and purchase materials. They do not interact much with users. There may be a lot of support staff members here. Cataloging books can be fun too. People in collection work to develop polices for purchasing or licensing and to remove/add material. Doing this will allow you to know things in the field. To do well, you need to be well versed in publishing trends. As there are many different forms of content, it is necessary to choose the most suitable one. Acquisition staff work to source the best deals for librarians. Many libraries have an approval plan. Big librarians have serial librarians. Serials are publications with recurring issues. Cataloguing is necessary because you would not be able to locate information if not for it. For rare materials, librarians need to key in the MARC records. It is possible to buy MARC records from OCLC. For electronic resources librarians, you need to work with vendors, contracts and technical issues. Technical services is the core of all library work. Libraries are looking to streamline their ordering process. Rare books are artifacts in nature. These may go a long back in history. Archives are records of an institution. Some libraries help to digitize materials. Archives give people the chance to understand an organization better. Preservation is the key for archives/rare books. This involves book binding and replacing pages etc. This is form of apprenticeship. It involves physical work and specialized training. People can start work in the National Archives. There are efforts to digitize many parts of the collection. This allows a broader audience to appreciate the work. The Google Book Search is one such project.

Technology. Technology plays a big part in modern libraries now. This area is exciting if you want to see how far library services can improve. Library systems usually include the integrated library system. A computer science background plus an understanding of database administration would be useful. Try to get an internship while studying. It would be good to know about networking, Linux, security, data normalization, migration etc. Some librarians need to be well versed in web design and the use of programming. This is a fast-changing area. Someone needs to maintain the library website too. The key is to enable the website to be used in different environments. Many libraries have dedicated staff that will train people on issues. There are a lot of open source technology that libraries can tap on. Technology helps to facilitate work too. For some people, the aspect of technology is very attractive.

Administration. They are indispensable people that help to keep the library running. If you can see a library heading somewhere, this is the direction you should take. Budgeting is one aspect of it. You can fund the areas which require more funding. Many librarians also perform fundraising. Most libraries have to partake in strategic planning too. This helps it to stay nimble. There needs to be a mission statement etc. In middle management jobs, you can groom others and this can rewarding indeed.

All-in One. In smaller libraries, you may play different roles. In this case, you must be good at multiple aspects of librarianship. Public librarians need to be able to write proposals well. There are many known as ‘blended librarians’ now. These mean that librarians need to have the skills of an educator and technologist too. These librarians can help evolve the library processes to greater heights. Another kind is known as instructional design librarianship. These are when they create games to teach literacy ideas. Many one-stop portals or information commons can aid users to pull information. An up-and-coming field is where one focuses on the user experience. Such work involves the use of focus groups, interviews etc. Some focus on the online user experience too. It is important to understand what works and what doesn’t. Now, there is an increasing trend of 2.0 positions. This involves the use of web-based collaboration work. Try to read about what librarians do and their blogs etc.

In general, librarians tend to be curious, have a general knowledge about a number of subjects, and have an interest in learning. – Lauren Pressley

Professional Issues. Some people want all books removed from shelves. The ALA is a professional body for all librarians. It provides a code of conduct for members. There is also a code of ethics for all librarians. Everyone should have free access to information. Most people can recall a positive experience the first step they stepped into a library. Are libraries needed in this digital age? Although we have a place in culture, we have to constantly re-invent our image. You have to learn and love information in general in order to be a good librarian. You should also need to be curious over a number of subjects. They are all generally helpful people. Stereotypes are not helpful at all. The first level of staff who will attend the public are usually para-professionals. If you are granted faculty status, you have more power to make decisions. All this translates to hierarchy in the library. In the past, people felt that libraries were a magical place for learning. A core activity of a library is community building. It is a community where people can come together and share information. Libraries have to reinvent themselves to stay relevant to meet the needs of the community. As a common source of information for all, libraries could be said to be the cornerstone of democracy. The work a librarian does may be more meaningful.

For many people, this work is more appealing and ethically congruent with their worldview than work that is directed primarily toward financial gain. – Lauren Pressley

We make a difference to the quality of community’s life. There is also a great emphasis placed on customer service. You must be motivated by a desire to serve the community. The better you know your community, the more you are able to help them. The aim is also for people to conduct research without having to purchase something very expensive. Librarians will be involved in teaching the community in some way of another. They encourage reading and literacy amongst others. You should offer materials to support literacy. Libraries also provide access to information technology to the less fortunate who can’t it elsewhere. They are also gathering places for people. Intellectual freedom is an interesting topic for most. It basically means that’ everyone has to seek and receive information. This means all information, even if it is unpopular or counter to a community’s way of thinking.’ This may come in the form of censorship. Since there are many copyrighted works around, IP plays a big part in this world. In general, libraries fight censorship as much as possible. Some librarians seek out banned books on purpose. Internet filters might be mandated by the government to prevent children from accessing inappropriate information. Filters are not fool-proof though. Some libraries engage in borderline copyright violation in a way when they show movies in a public setting without collecting a fee. Only digitize a collection when it’s legal. There are new models in copyright, one of them being the Open Access publishing model. Librarians need to be well versed with IP and copyright rules. Let technology aid your work. Study how users interact with information. Even conducting focus groups require some knowledge of technology. Many librarians are paying attention to Web 2.0. You must be able to write information. Sometimes, the libraries will introduce new technology to participants. Some libraries employ the use of ‘roving reference’, where a librarian goes around helping someone in need. Librarians can also be seen as advocates of community values. Libraries need to market their collection too.

It is wise to become part of the field, to begin establishing yourself, and to look at your possible futures during the time you spend pursuing your master’s degree. – Lauren Pressley

Getting the MLS. You will need to take it. Practical work experience is very important if you want to be a librarian. Consider the quality of the school programme. Most of the applications can be done online. Make the most of your education by attending talks, scholarships talks etc. Get a better sense of what the job is like. Put in effort in your programme to get the most from it. Find a graduate program. Not all schools are accredited. There are also online programs available. This may not be as useful as the actual degree, but it does help. The course will introduce you to different areas. Get the basic qualifications for as many different types of libraries as possible. Professors are a good bunch to approach as they usually have connections. You can also talk to the graduates. Find out more from the alumni group. You may even ask the librarian about internship opportunities. You can consider doing a practicum too. Build up a network of colleagues. Read and find out more about the faculty. You will need your relevant transcripts. A librarian is essentially a generalist who knows a bit of everything. Include relevant work experience in your application. Even dealing with difficult people in your previous jobs is a bonus. Some schools require you to take the GRE.

You may be required to write an essay as well about your personal views and goals. For recommendations, try to get someone who is already from graduate school. Tailor your resume such that it will be suitable for you to be a librarian. Look through the resumes of current librarians. Reflect on why you want the role. Review your materials to make sure they are error free. The masters is no guarantee for a job and you will still need to compete for a job. The masters programme is a professional one. It is not an academic programme. Internships are a great way to gain exposure. Read through what people say on discussion threads. Read about the profession through trade publications, blogs, wiki etc. Start a blog on your educational development. Join some online networks. Join professional organizations too. Volunteer your time and show interest in what you’re doing. Another way is to attend conferences. Develop leadership programs through talks. Monitor job related websites in school.

Conclusion and Possible Challenges. Try to get relevant work experience in the job. There are three characteristics of a good job: ‘the job of your choice, the location you prefer, or the salary you would like to earn.’ At the start, you can settle for 2 of the 3. But once you become more experienced, getting all 3 is possible. It also isn’t easy to move into management as vacancies are limited. The financial health of libraries might be an issue too. Librarianship is still a great career choice. If you don’t want to be a librarian after taking the course, the masters can still benefit you Firstly, it teaches you how to perform good research, how to organize information and how to find it. You will have the skill to manage information and to find the most relevant ones for decision making. People in businesses, agencies or those in market research will find it handy. There are also computing classes you can consider.

At any point along the way you are likely to find that librarians are a helpful bunch. People would not choose librarianship if they did not enjoy helping people. – Lauren Pressley

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