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#59419 - 07/18/02 09:30 AM Being a Librarian
VegetarianOnHiatus
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 1089
Loc: Somerville, MA, USA

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I've been a lurker for a while now, and I'm not sure if this is the right place for my first post. It is related to being a bookworm, though somewhat tangentially.

Recently I have conceived the idea of becoming a librarian, since I love books and I believe in libraries and I'm pretty organized. My hope is that there are librarians out there who might be able to share some insight. What are the challenges of being a librarian? What are the rewards? Would you do it again? I've heard that the money isn't good...not that I would choose a career based on how much money I'd make, but would I be able to support myself?

I haven't been able to think of anything that appeals to me more than being a librarian, but I don't want to make such a decision and go back to school without having gathered all the information possible. Thanks.

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#59420 - 07/18/02 09:47 AM Re: Being a Librarian
hopper
Gráinne ni Mhaille


Registered: 06/04/02
Posts: 8

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Do you like working with people? You'll work far more with people than you do with books, particularly if you go into an academic library.

The pay isn't great, but you can certainly live on it. Benefits are usually good though.

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#59421 - 07/18/02 10:17 AM Re: Being a Librarian
dazey
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/25/01
Posts: 941
Loc: Edinburgh, Scotland

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Yeah, it's a bit of a myth that library work involves lots of working with books. I'm not a librarian, but one of my part-time jobs is as an assistant in an academic library. Day-to-day, it's all about people and hooking people up with the information they need.

You also need to be able to deal with the horrible abuses that even nice, educated law students (in the case of my library) inflict on books. Yes, somebody did just decide that they wanted a paper from one journal so badly that they would just tear it out. The excesses of selfishness of a minority of users is just flabbergasting. On the other hand, teaching somebody to use an online database that opens up a whole vista of information to them is really satisfying.

The qualified librarians I work with are in senior positions, dealing with a lot of personnel, budgeting and library management things. There are very book-y jobs to be had, but they're not the majority where I work.

[This message has been edited by dazey (edited July 18, 2002).]

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#59422 - 07/18/02 11:41 AM Re: Being a Librarian
TraceyB
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/06/00
Posts: 1483
Loc: Minneapolis, MN

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My mother and aunt are both librarians in a public library system. I've been listening to them rant for years.

Public librarians must deal with, well, the public. Anyone who's ever been a waitron or a sales clerk can tell you what fun that is. There are members of the public who believe that your being a "public servant" means that they can treat you like dirt. There are members of the public who believe that they are perfectly justified in ripping pages out of books and magazines, or just stealing them. There are members of the public who are, not to put too fine a point on it, stupid. (True quotation from a patron in my aunt's past: "What do you mean my books are overdue? No one told me I had to bring them back!")

That being said, I think my mom and aunt do enjoy the work. They get to do great programs for the public. They sometimes get wondeful patrons, like the young boy who came up to my mom and said, "I just read Into Thin Air and I loved it! Can you show me some more books like that?"

The pay's not great, but as county employees, they have wonderful benefits. They can afford to own their own condos, and take great vacations (like to China, Italy, and Egypt). So you can do well enough.

Edited because that's what I do.

[This message has been edited by TraceyB (edited July 18, 2002).]

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#59423 - 07/18/02 01:49 PM Re: Being a Librarian
voiceofreason
Ching Shih


Registered: 04/27/02
Posts: 1257
Loc: Brookline, MA, USA

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I've actually been thinking about becoming a librarian myself, mostly because I really like helping people find things. Seriously, when I think about the jobs I've had in the past (mostly in science labs and retail stores) the parts that I like the best are when someone wants something, and I know where to find it, or how to figure out exactly what they want. I've known how much I like helping people find things for a while, but I somehow didn't connect it with an actual job (librarian) until quite recently.
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#59424 - 07/18/02 02:22 PM Re: Being a Librarian
SallyBee
Gráinne ni Mhaille


Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 1
Loc: UK

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I am a fellow lurker, but I was also a librarian in the UK for a while. I think the job itself is good, I relate to the comments about the ideology of the library and the rewards of helping people find things.

You get people who are difficult to deal with, won't pay fines etc etc. Then every now and then someone comes in with a query and after much effort on your part the problem is solved for them. Those are the moments when the job seems really worth it.

Unfortunately they were few and far between in my experience!! The main drawback, and this may only be a UK thing, or it may only be an academic library thing, is the 'red tape' that surrounds everything in a library. If you want to change a dot on a book you have to form a working party. In my job there was very little room for creativity or proactivity. I found it too stifling and thats why I gave it up.

Don't go into it because you like books, thats not what it's about!! On the other hand, you do get to pick up the new titles as soon as they come in!!

Best of luck

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#59425 - 07/18/02 02:58 PM Re: Being a Librarian
hopper
Gráinne ni Mhaille


Registered: 06/04/02
Posts: 8

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If you like books and organizing but not working with people, you can always become a catalog librarian. I think many folks tend to think of "librarian" as synonymous with "reference librarian". Catalogers are quite sought after and usually well-compensated (for librarians).

There is also a great demand for children's librarians and media specialists. It's a very flexible degree. I worked student library jobs at state and federal institutions while finishing my MLS. Many large private companies employ librarians as well, though you'll likely find them called "information specialists" or some such.

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#59426 - 07/18/02 03:12 PM Re: Being a Librarian
Library Girl
Ching Shih


Registered: 01/22/02
Posts: 50
Loc: North Carolina

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I am a reference and instruction librarian at a university. I love, love, love my job. I worked for about a year and a half in a large public library, and would never do it again. I felt much more like a social worker than a librarian. If you are outgoing, don't mind speaking in front of a class, and like to sink your teeth into research questions, I highly recommend looking into library schools in your area. In library school, you will be exposed to all areas of librarianship through your classes--cataloging, reference, public, acaemic, media center, etc. and you can make your decision about which area you want to be in.

If you want to know more about the day-to-day parts of my job read on...

At most universities, reference librarians are heavily involved in instruction. I teach course-specific or discipline-specific instruction sessions a few times a week. In the fall, I do a few orientations (50 minutes each) per day for the first few weeks. Additionally, I serve on various library, university, state and national committees. The workload for those committees varies by time of year. I also have to research and publish for tenure/promotion. Then, I have different academic departments on campus that I work with in purchasing books and serials to support their curriculum. And, finally, I work at the main reference and government documents reference desks. We do one night a week and trade off weekend days. So, even though we are faculty, librarians are usually treated like a lower class.

My big piece of advice, if you do go to library school, is to get a graduate assistantship to gain experience while you are in school. I supervise the GA's in my reference department and they all get great jobs because they work alongside experienced librarians and their experience is invaluable.

Wow. Long-winded, aren't I?



[This message has been edited by Library Girl (edited July 18, 2002).]

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#59427 - 07/18/02 07:35 PM Re: Being a Librarian
Luthien
Ching Shih


Registered: 03/08/02
Posts: 76
Loc: Canada

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I am currently a student at a library school at a Canadian university. Having just finished my first year, I can tell you that being comfortable with technology is absolutely vital for being a librarian. I am working for the summer at an academic library in both reference and document delivery, and I use computers, databases, online catalogues, etc., constantly. Technologically-impaired individuals would have difficulty enjoying the work, I think. Books and printed material are still a big part of the job, but I hardly ever get to read anything I find interesting because it's rare to have a spare moment. I absolutely love my work and can't wait to enter the field full-time after I graduate, but it's very different from what I thought it would be when I enrolled in the program.
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#59428 - 07/19/02 09:29 AM Re: Being a Librarian
grandefille
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/19/01
Posts: 69
Loc: below the Mason-Dixon polling ...

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Y'all's wonderfully helpful explanations have convinced me to take the plunge. One of our state's MLS programs has just expanded into distance learning, and I've made some tentative inquiries there because I'll need to continue to work full-time while I'm studying.

Thank you.

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