I read a post on linked in about the bleak future of librarianship, and as the thread continues a post about the bleak future of the world. A MLIS student was asking whether society really needed librarians and even posed the question in such a way as to ask if librarians would be useful or existent in 50 years. This thought pattern seems to come up quite often, and even I am guilty of second guessing myself. I would like to take a more positive approach to the topic. What follows is pretty much my response that I posted in the thread on Linked in, with some minor tweaks.
First of all, since libraries were a thing (Ancient times) most people have viewed them as not essential to their life. In many societies the average person has no real need for the library, so spouting the doom that people don’t think they need us is just hogwash. The masses have generally speaking not really seen a need for us and yet we are still here. Most people in history either didn’t care for libraries or had no access in the past as they were closed to the public and only for academics up until the late 19th and early 20th century.
Another point that was raised was that most people think they can find everything online, the truth is you can’t find everything online. I can’t tell you what the source is but in one of my classes it was explained that only 2% of everything ever written down is actually online. and of that 2% very little of the useful stuff is available without a pay wall or knowledgeable person to guide you there (enter libraries and librarians) this makes librarians extremely valuable (especially to civil rights of the people and businesses). Knowledge is power, and whats online that will bring power to businesses in particular is knowing more about you and how to use that to sell their product. This makes MLIS grads valuable assets to have.
There is also a concern that has been raised since the advent of the modern publicly accessible libraries:”Technology is going to end the printed book or libraries. People have been fretting about this since the mid 20th century and we have adapted. When “automation” came along it was the end of librarians(50’s-70’s?), when computer’s (70’s-80’s) and the Internet (1990’s) became big things people said it was the end of librarians and libraries, yet here we stand.
a person responded to the thread mentioning a prediction made by scientists of a 30 to 50% job loss within 50 years. When the world became mechanical, outsourced, and technological, similar presuppositions were made, yet here we are as a society without a 60% jobless rate and riding out a long recession to boot. Change happens, progress happens, and society adapts.
Someone proposed that if you don’t believe in librarianship use the degree elsewhere. I totally agreed; If you don’t believe what I say use your degree from the other side of the coin: Information. There is more to Library and Information sciences that just the library part (see the proceeding 3 words after library) use your degree to your advantage. Don’t box yourself into that library category if you don’t think it will fit. You have the knowledge and power to use the information side of it if you so choose. It is up to you how you use your degree. You can be all doom and gloom or you can go out there and make the best of what you got, because frankly with the information age just dawning…we as information professionals will likely see a boom in our need…we just have to keep an open mind (and not listen to all the downers out there who are stuck in a rut currently)