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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another Year Over -- What Have We Done?

There are many polls and stats that label certain professions as being the most stressful or the least appreciated. Librarians is hardly ever on those lists. There's plenty of reasons the omission on these lists. One very important one is that it almost always ranks high in job satisfaction. As the year draws to a close and a new one is just beginning, it's time to consider as John Lennon asks of us each year around htis time, "What have we done?" Librarians have been at the forefront of the information age when it began in the late 80's and zoomed into the 1990's with the Internet taking society on the virtual road trip. The places we have been and yet to go on this information highway is surreal at times. The internet has made patrons comfortable on finding things out on their own. It should have been a wonderful moment for libraries, yet the potholes on the information highway proved to be more troublesome than anticipated. For example, too much information, too little attention to accuracy and too much time spent on gaming, chatting and other time wasters. Librarians continue to struggle with copyright issues and validating a persons' work. In the era instant gratification it seems that the Internet has created he illusion that real research is as easy as a few keystrokes. In reality, research on the internet requires boolean searching skills, patient to go beyond the initial first searches to validate data and a professional librarian who can help and teach how to find the back roads of the information highway. There has been much done on teaching about the information highway but there are still problems that continue to nag the profession. The constant need to prove the value of libraries in a digital era is just one out of many that pops into mind. E-readers and tablets like iPad have significantly changed the way librarians deal with the printed word. Many librarians believed that the day would never arrive when patrons would prefer downloading a book to checking a hard cover out. Thankfully there were librarians who saw the opportunity to serve other patrons by providing online databases and digital contents. With all opportunities there are some strings attached. First and foremost the many different brands of e-readers. Librarians are finding that on a daily basis they are working more with electronic gadgets and becoming techie geeks whether they want to or not. Putting that aside, which is really quite a small detail when considering digital content is chewing up more budget dollars than any library director would like. There continues to be a battle for the library to provide patrons with quality information sources while still holding down the bottom line. It is with fingers crossed that librarians are hoping that a compromise can be reached between publishers and libraries. Could authors jump into the fray of the conversation and defend their library friends? Once could hope. One last note on what has been done this year is the role of the librarian in each library. It is a sad to see many young grads coming out of library schools without the opportunities to work in libraries. Budget are tight to be sure but there is something else that is happening that is being ignored entirely by the profession. There are too few full-time jobs and to many part-time positions. On top of that, many of the smaller to mid size libraries are quite comfortable with clerks and non-graduates with a Bachelor's Degree or less do the work required of a librarian. It is dismal and disheartening. While these libraries who follow this practice may not have the funds to pay a professional and mean well. However, for the people that they serve this is a disaster. It cheapens the profession, library services and libraries in general. It would be far better if state libraries and library associations withhold the credentials and state aid of these libraries until they have at least one Library Science graduate on staff. This may seem harsh but in the long run it will strengthen libraries across the board. For those who would argue that every community deserves a library, the response should be that every community deserves access to a library. It's not the quantity of libraries that's important, its the quality. There is good news for the library professionals in the way of finding opportunities to work. Librarians are realizing just how versatile their education has helped them to become. A librarian is at the core knows the value of the commodity called information. Bring people and information together is done at a public library everyday. Yet, that's not the only place this can happen. Not only that, with a little imagination and creativity, there's no telling what librarians can conjure up to help our fellow man and child. Yes, the good news is that we have accomplished much this year. The better news is that the world is waiting for librarians to take charge in navigating the digital information maze. The best news is that there are so many talented librarians who can take this challenge on successfully and creatively! Here's to an exciting 2013!
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