Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Point

I have worked professionally in libraries for almost ten years. I understand that is not a long period of time yet I have gained some wisdom during my employment over the years. I began this path when the internet was starting to become a part of our every day lives. Email was a new and exciting means of communication. Take a moment and reminisce. Okay enough of that back on topic. I have learned that defining the role of a librarian has become complicated. You can't put your finger on one definition and say "Yep, that's what they all do." No. Not any more. The traditional library setting is hardly what librarians find themselves working in now. Librarians are doing many, many nontraditional library things. And because of that I think that this profession is fantastic. It's fluid and imaginative and exciting.

If you were to look up the word librarian in the dictionary you would be surprised by the diversity of the definitions. I was quite baffled by some and disappointed with others.

There are several colorful definitions in the Urban Dictionary many of which are clearly written by people trying to be funny. Given that lack of reason I tend to disregard those sort of definitions. Although one of them is rather good....Information Master. One to be worshiped.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary online defines librarian as a specialist in the care or management of a library. Hmmm. Dreadfully broad and I can understand why.

The Free Dictionary has a slightly more descriptive definition of a librarian as being 1. A person who is a specialist in library work. 2. A person who is responsible for a collection of specialized or technical information or materials, such as musical scores or computer documentation. Yet not quite satisfactory.

The ALA definition describes the profession of librarians as helping:
people with homework and research questions, decide what items to purchase and to discard, offer programs and training, help people use the internet, build websites, and more. Specialized librarians may run computer systems, work with seniors and non-English speaking populations, become specialists in a specific subject area, or maintain the records for the online catalog. Librarian jobs are often full-time, although most libraries also rely on a core of part-time and "substitute" librarians to help cover all of the hours many libraries are open. The average starting salary for a full-time new librarian was $37,975 in 2003, with the average for all librarians at $43,090 for 2002.

The U.S. Department of Labor goes into great detail to describe the librarian profession. Their site also includes information about salaries for the industries employing the largest number of librarians.

Ultimately there is no one all encompassing definition that describes our jobs, what we really do. We are a dynamic bunch providing all sorts of services to our client/patron base. What matters is how you define yourself in the profession. Are you an electronic resources guru, an access services master, a creator of all things.....? It is about what you do every day and how you provide a service in this profession. It is something that can be static or indeterminate and that my friends is wonderful. That aspect is a source of my passion for this profession. A reason why I am going to pursue my Master's in Library Science and finally become an official Librarian. I figured that I should have a degree to go along with all this experience.

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