Maria Lagasca, MLIS
Dauphin County Library System, Library Manager
The discussion for this month focuses on the importance of promoting librarianship as a career path. The topic was brought about due to fact that the notion of wanting to becoming a librarian is now rarely expressed, especially in the younger generation.
When was the last time one heard someone say, “I want to be a librarian?” My elementary school days featured trips to the school library and local libraries, often meeting the librarians and becoming aware of all their tasks and responsibilities. Given these memories were more than a decade ago and given the changes the library profession has experienced; it might be time to reconsider the need to improve how librarians and libraries promote librarianship as a career path. For instance, look at a local library website and see if the role of librarians is defined? If the role is defined, is the language simplified? While this discussion provided answers to how librarians can better promote their careers, this discussion also highlighted some underlying reasons for the sudden decline in promoting librarianship. Furthermore, the discussion revealed a key fact often overlooked by other professionals: librarians are multitalented, often having transferrable skills to lead in other employment fields.
Do you want to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, and librarian?
Speaking from personal experience, my parents pushed two career choices. I was either going to be a lawyer or a doctor. In the past, I thought this push for two money making careers was only common in Asian households. However, this was not the case, some of my friends endured the same push and some are now actual doctors and lawyers. Since elementary school, I have always wanted to be a teacher or librarian. Librarian became the official dream when I realized my university offered a graduate program. According to some librarians in the discussion, the reason they chose to become a librarian at a later point in their life was because no one offered the choice of becoming a librarian. I cannot recall one time where someone offered me the choice of becoming a librarian and if it was offered, it was offered indirectly, with a brochure. If children and teens are having to wait until college to learn of librarianship, this could prove to be damaging for all libraries. Additionally, while many children and teens can experience libraries, many are unaware of the career path, the servitude to something greater than oneself and the pledge for equity.
We are humans before we are gods
This discussion revealed several ways librarians can improve promoting librarianship. First, one librarian in the discussion mentioned the need to “demystify” and “remove the vocational awe” that comes with being a librarian. While its amusing to think of librarians as untouchables or God-like beings filled with all the knowledge in the world, this thought also evokes tall hills to climb and pain staking treks only people with super human strength and endurance can overcome. The mystified awe also overshadows the notion that most librarians are grounded to not books, catalogs, or spreading good will, but to humanity. Thus, librarians are more human than God-like and for other humans who wish to share their dedication to humanity, this outlook appears more touchable. While many view librarians as God-like beings, many are also unaware of all the tasks librarians complete and all the responsibilities librarians hold. One librarian in the discussion recommended the need to tell people exactly what librarians are doing. A good place to start is on social media. Another suggestion is to reintroduce field trips to local libraries and for libraries to create formal job shadowing programs for all ages. Lastly, public libraries should also consider defining the librarian role of their websites.
Though librarians may not be mythical beings, they are multi-talented, often coming from other career fields. For example, one librarian in the discussion was a travel agent prior to becoming a librarian and another librarian was also a teacher. I have known librarians who were first preachers, bakers, social workers, counselors, musicians, and bartenders. While librarians have a variety of backgrounds and skills, librarians who chose to become librarians also have plenty of skills to offer other career fields. Many of the skills librarians learn on the job such as cataloging, project management, leadership, customer service, and public relations are all beneficial to other industries.
Given the ever-evolving role of librarians and the need for more funding, it seems promoting librarianship as a career path is ever more important. Librarians must continue to seek the best candidates and this begins promoting the field to the younger generation. Rather than push for librarianship, librarians and other school professionals should present librarianship as option. In return, libraries should keep their options open as many aspiring librarians are also unconventional dreamers, who in turn, serve as the guide for everyday dreamers.