So for one of my courses we were recently asked to watch this video from the 1940’s. It was an information video that was advertising what a librarian job entails, the various niches of the occupation and the kinds of people who are attracted to the profession.
Watching this in video in 2015 it was hard not to smile at some of the things that were being said. While at the time it may have been very relevant and accurate, watching it today it almost seems like satire. Seriously, go back and watch it and imagine your favourite stand up comics playing the roles that are being shown on the screen and it does almost come off as a comedy sketch of the stereotypical librarian. If nothing else the line about job security should make you chuckle as I think we all know that, no matter what your profession, those days have come and gone.
One moment that I found particularly weird was when the video showed people calling in and asking for the librarian to give them sources over the phone, with one person specifically saying that he wanted the librarian to put together a bibliography for him.That particular one sounded like the caller was asking the librarian to do his homework for him which was kind of odd.This is a role that is still performed everyday by librarians, patrons coming to them to ask for assistance in finding a resource, these days these services can often be done via an online chat meaning that patron and librarian may only ever meet through the medium of 1’s and 0’s.
I think what I found so odd about the exchange was the idea of not being able to immediately show the resource to the patron, especially in a time before computers when the only way for a person to view a resource would be to physically pick up the item themselves. When I have interacted with working librarians either in person or online, we have never moved onto the next step of information without both being on the same page and either having the resource in front of us or knowing exactly how we are going to locate it later, otherwise what is the point in this conversation. Maybe this discussion of where to find the resource happened after the camera stopped rolling but to me, what a reference librarian does can be very involved and complicated and it seemed that they was being presented as some sort of oracle of knowledge who can just reel off relevant information at the drop of a hat.
While books are at the heart and heritage of most libraries, they have become so much more as both technology and society has advanced and changed over the past 70 years. We no longer use that fabulous old card catalogue, unless it’s to artfully decorate a space and organize craft supplies at the same time. The library is now a community hub with event areas for organizations to run programs. It contains makers spaces that the patrons can mould and shape into what they need to most. Above all the library holds technology, items that may be vital to the patron who needs internet access or word processing but does not have it readily available to them.
As the spaces themselves have changed, so have the people who run them. In this blog post from Librarian By Day, many of the things that she is doing are still closely related to bits that were shown in the video however the vast majority of the tasks she engages in look nothing like they would have done in the 1940’s. It’s funny to look back at where the profession has come from but to be honest I think I prefer the idea of us being educated human beings with access to whatever fabulous current technology is currently the favourite instead of magical knowledge wells that people call mysteriously to demand a bibliography from.