Today on The Midnight Goose, I’m starting a new series of blog posts. Have you wondered what it’s like to do a particular job or have a particular profession? If so, you’re a lot like me. No matter how much we wish it–we can’t always try all of the different jobs we want to in a lifetime. Maybe you’re currently working as a mechanic, but you always wanted to try being a florist. Or you’ve been a florist your whole life and wish you could get your hands covered in grease and gas and fix a big machine. We’re all complex individuals with multiple layers and facets to our personalities.
However, it’s kind of hard to drop the wrench and pick up the pruning shears in the middle of your life and career, right?
So…in order to help us all live vicariously through others, I’ve wrangled up a few poor, unfortunate souls, and asked them to be interviewed about their chosen careers. They’ were all great sports and extremely accommodating–so I’ve done my best to do them justice in these posts. In these posts, I hope maybe some of our collective curiosity can be satiated by having others answer questions about their professions.
Sometimes a “dream profession” can be less glamorous than we think–or maybe it’s even better. But there’s only one way to find out.
Today…let’s talk about being a librarian. Or more specifically, Library Services Administration. Before delving into this interview process, I thought a Librarian was the head person in charge of a library. This may come as a shock to you all–but I was wrong. Apparently, that’s someone that is a librarian but has actually taken on the role of administrator as well. Of course, I’ll mess it all up and give all kinds of inaccurate information if I try to explain everything about professions in a library, so let’s let today’s interviewee explain:
Library Services Administrator
Question: Did you always want to be a librarian?
Answer: When I was little I would pretend to be a teacher and a librarian. Growing up, I thought I would be an artist.
Q: If so/If not, what made you interested in the profession?
A: I love to learn new things about varied subjects. I also enjoy helping people find the resources that they need.
Q: What education/qualifications does one need?
A: Many libraries require an MLS (Master of Library Science) to work in a librarian position. Many libraries will hire a qualified library professional who has worked in the library field without the degree and still use the title librarian. This has caused some debate in the library field. There are also paraprofessionals who work in the library who may not have the training or interest in a long-term library career.
Q: What skills are most important for a librarian to possess?
A: The ability to search for information is important. Even when searching the Internet, knowing what terms to search and which sites are best and trusted can make a difference. Having patience and the ability to get along with everyone helps, too.
Q: Where did you go to school? What degree(s) do you hold? What type of ongoing education do you receive?
A: My Bachelor’s is in Applied Technology & Performance Improvement (ATPI) from the University of North Texas, which is part of the College of Information. I am working on my Master’s in Library Science now. I also frequently attend other types of continuous education: webinars, conferences, and classes, in order to stay on top of current trends. I have worked in the same library for about 14 years, starting in genealogy and assisting at all of the desks. Later I worked as a secretary, then Assistant to the Administrator. My current title is Library Services Administrator.
Q: Briefly walk us through a normal day of going to school to receive your undergraduate degree.
A: When I started my degree, I would go on campus. The majority of the classes can now be taken online. Depending on the degree plan, it can take as little as 5 years to get both the undergrad and graduate degrees, when going full time. The great thing about my major was that they were able to apply the various classes that I had taken years ago so that I could finish relatively quickly. For years, I have worked during the day and either gone to school or worked on classwork online in the evening and on weekends.
Q: Briefly walk us through a normal day of going to school to receive your graduate degree.
A: Graduate degree classes work well with the schedule of a working adult. Since it is a Master’s program, the classes are all library related. At the end of my program, there is an internship, which students can be excused from and there is a series of 3 papers to write in a week. There is no end of program exam since the essays serve that purpose.
Q: How long did it take to become a librarian?
A: It has taken me about 8+ years of schoolwork and the work experience that I mentioned. Many librarians finish their degrees much more quickly.
Q: What is the most fulfilling aspect of being a librarian?
A: I like being able to connect with people who are not current library users and make them feel like they belong in the library. Many people don’t want to come in if they are not avid readers. It is always nice to be able to help someone find something they are looking for or have kids enjoy a library program.
Q: What is one thing you would change about being a librarian if you could?
A: Less Human Resources/Management type tasks: payroll, reviews, scheduling. There are always so many tasks that need to be done. I don’t mind the budgeting and ordering.
Q: What is something most people don’t know about your profession that you wish they knew?
A: There are so many things to keep up with: policies, public, human resource issues, safety, training, advertising, equipment, programming, boards, fundraising, budgets, statistics for reporting, education, accounts, and ordering, to name a few. I am constantly making lists to make sure I don’t miss anything. I don’t know that people realize that there is so much involved.
Q: What changes do you see happening with your profession in the future with advancements in technology, shifting public needs, etc.?
A: Librarians, like many other professions, are having to become more tech savvy. Employees who have trouble typing a document in Microsoft Word fall behind quickly when it comes to troubleshooting printing problems and other common issues. Libraries are becoming more than a place to check out books; they are a community center. Libraries are expected to connect people with the resources that they need.
Q: What resources/services do librarians/libraries provide that the public needs to know about?
A: There is no charge for most services. Besides checking out books, audiobooks, and movies, there are newspapers and magazines. Books and magazines are available from home online with a library card. The online databases are great and many are available online from home: TexShare (consists of many databases), Mango Languages, WorldBook Encyclopedia, and Ancestry (only in the library). Programs for kids and adults are offered at no charge. Computers with printing capability (for a charge) and wifi are available in the library. There is a copy machine, fax machine, laminator, and die cut machine, all for public use for a nominal fee (no charge for die cut).
Q: What is an incorrect assumption a person may have about librarians/library sciences/libraries that you would like to clarify on?
A: We still get a few people that expect the library to be quieter than it is. On the other hand, there are those that avoid the library because they have kids and know that their kids are not quiet. Libraries are busy places. It doesn’t help that media portrays librarians as an angry woman shushing people. There are outdated stereotypes of libraries and librarians, so we are having to reinvent and recreate what a library should be for our users.
Q: Do you know what the outlook is for growth in your field over the next 5-10 years?
A: The field is growing, but the scope of the job is changing. Even with the added automation in the field, there are so many more things that require organization. Library skills are ideal for organizing collections of all types. Since many libraries have meeting space(s) and all types of programming, there are also needs for people for those jobs.
Q: Other than becoming a librarian, what is a profession/job that a person can do with the degree(s)/qualifications that you have?
A: Librarians work in many types of fields: schools, museums, hospitals, corporations, lawyer’s offices, science labs, video game companies, computer fields, and clothing designers. Basically, any company that needs to organize information. Information is everywhere. There is always a need for people to find ways to harness all of the data to make it manageable and accessible to the people who need to use it.
Q: Walk us through a typical day of working as a librarian. (i.e. duties you routinely perform, how many hours you work in a typical day, etc.).
A: As a line level employee, I would typically only work my 40 hours unless there was a special event. As a fairly new Administrator, I work at least 8 hours day, but usually more. In the morning, I often work on reports, type articles, and correspondence. I often take a deposit over to finance, along with any invoices. Since our building is under renovation, I frequently have meetings, research, and communication with others regarding this. A large part of my day involves paperwork and emails.
Q: What particular challenges do librarians and libraries face currently?
A: With online resources, many people don’t feel that libraries are as necessary as they once were. Yet, there are people who use the library daily. The challenge is to make sure that people who are not library users realize what an important resource the library is to others. Recently, I read an article that talked about young adults feeling nostalgic for the library, but don’t feel like it would impact them much if it were not available. The library is a wonderful way to provide equal resources to people from all backgrounds. When budgets need to be cut, often these types of services are the ones that are the first to go.
Q: What was the most surprising thing for you once you started working in a library?
A: I was surprised that there are people in the field that let their personal views impact the things they order or catalog. I realized all the books were on the shelf, but I didn’t think about anyone having to pick each one out to order and that their bias might play into that. Of course, this should not happen, but it does.
Q: Is there any additional information you want to share about libraries or being a librarian?
A: It is tempting to want to provide all types of services for everyone, but it is necessary to decide what the mission and goals are for a specific library. With so many needs in the community, it’s tempting to try to help everyone. It is important to try not to duplicate what other organizations are already doing.
Q: Lastly, what advice would you give someone looking to get into the field of library services?
A: Getting a job in a library, even if it is entry level, is a good way to get a foot in the door. Many employees start out as volunteers. If a person can volunteer a few hours a week and get to know the staff, that can make a big difference when a job is available, even if it is a neighboring library. References are important. Use the library, read library articles, and know what the trends are in libraries. If the person wants to get a degree in the field, just about any major is fine for the undergraduate degree. Depending on the type of library, the person might want to pursue classes in that area. For example, there are medical libraries, law libraries, and art libraries. Someone might want to focus on medical, legal, or art classes before moving on to the library classes. There is no one right way to do it. Library employees do not have to know everything, they just have to know where to find it (I remember hearing a quote along those lines).
Side note from Allen: I have to point out that all of the interview questions and answers were entered into this blog post by myself, without MeLissa’s help–so if there are any inconsistencies, grammatical errors, spelling issues, or incorrect data, it is solely my fault–not MeLissa’s. I want to thank her for her time and graciousness in participating–and putting up with my disorganization. Maybe I need to take some courses…
Anyhoozles, if you want more information, such as salary ranges for librarians and other library employees in the state of Texas, you can visit the Texas Library Association (TLA) online.
Until next time…