A Blast from the Past and Back to the Future

“These racks and shelves contain a lot of books. Tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Perhaps millions… How do you feel about them?” so begins this 1947 vocational guidance video on librarianship. You know where I’m going with this. A blast from the past for a little wincing and amusing. But the more things change, the more things stay the same I find.

Yes, the gender stereotype in the video, where all but one librarian is a male while another male represents the library upper management, is pretty disheartening. Yes, although it’s not obviously spelled out, the assumption of top-down management style would be a safe bet given the organizational culture at the time. And yes, books are falling off the shelf across public and academic libraries, while new demands in service, technology and knowledge management along with the unstable economy have shaped and reshaped how libraries operate. Change is the only constant, right?

“Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators,” said Stephen Fry. The saving grace for librarians under all the external pressure of change will always be their love for people as the vocational guidance video points out. Whether or not you are a library user, everyone has a preconceived notion of what a librarian job is about. Libraries, in a broader context where the currency du jour is knowledge, are essentially one type of information organization. As a new MLIS student, I too have my own ideals and ambitions for becoming a successful information professional.

library space

Being the first Canadian Library to be named Library of the Year by Library Journal magazine and Gale Cengage Learning, Edmonton Public Library’s “We are bigger than our buildings” Community-Led Service Philosophy sums up nicely that reaching out, teaming up and sharing resources will be the way forward for any library settings. Depending on the user’s needs, books are just one of the many amenities he or she can take advantage of from a library. Behind the scene, the core value of librarianship is always about people’s connections, much like the 1947 video depicts.

To be completely honest, reading was never a big part of my childhood and I only started frequenting my high school library to take naps between classes. So, books may not be my best friends to begin with but wait, don’t kick me out of MLIS just yet! I do have a passion for knowledge and learning after all. As Emma Cragg and Katie Birkwood write in Beyond books: what it takes to be a 21st century librarian on The Guardian, there is a whole lot more to a librarian job than stamping due dates. At the end of the article, there are a few brief case studies showcasing some intriguing librarian job responsibilities. Check it out!

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