Tag Archives: Libraries of the future

Librarianship and semi-Professionals: De-professionalization or middle management promotion?

So over the last two years I have seen increased discussion online at conferences and in classes (when I was still in school) about semi-professionals in libraries. Many librarians or people who are in the process of becoming MLIS/MLS accredited argue that semi-professionals are stealing jobs and cheapening our degree; at the same time they argue employers are looking for cheaper labour as budgets become tighter and funding is drying up. The other side of that coin is semi-professionals are arguing that MLIS grads are applying for semi-professional work that is making it hard for them to find work…blaming librarians for crowding in on their jobs. The problem is not that simple, but I would like to open up a discussion about it in 1000 words or less.

Focusing more on the librarian side of the coin. Over the years what used to be work done by librarians is now becoming (or has become) the area of work given to college Library Technician graduates. Many positions posted for cataloguing, reference work, circulation, etc. does not require a Master’s degree. This work was once the realm of master’s (or previously Bachelor’s) degree in Library Sciences. So because Library techs are now the “cheaper” option for many libraries they have taken on the grunt work of librarianship in the past, and are being trained to do it.

In Library School I had 1 semester class on reference services, and one semester class on cataloguing. That was it. I got one day (maybe 2 in a week) on each type of cataloguing: MArc 21, AACR2, Dewey, Library of Congress, etc. This compared to a friend of mine who went through the Library technician course whom recieved a class devoted to dewey, a class devoted to Library or Congress, etc. Full 8 week courses devoted to types of cataloguing. This is just one example of where the Library technician program was given ground work duties, compared to my MLIS.

So what do they teach in an MLIS? It really varies dependant on the program. My own program focused more on Technology, and management based skills. I took a reference class, I had a cataloguing class, I took some technology classes. The core classes focused on giving you the basics. So I learned how to generally do AACR2, Dewey, and Library of Congress. This was taught so that one day I would be able to oversee someone else doing it, and know what they were doing/offer assistance/training/guidance.

Probably the best courses I took were my Management course, which at the time I thought was a waste of time, issues in librarianship, and my Special Libraries course. All three focused on project management, team building, types of volunteers/employees and issues in real world librarianship. They were all basically priming us for middle management issues: how to deal with different demographics involving employees/volunteers, how to make a proposal to refresh/build a new library, are libraries neautral, etc.

It wasn’t just the way things were taught in school, but a few professors argued it was the future of librarianship. There was a meeting between faculty and students, this annual meeting allowed students to voice concerns or opinions on the program. Student concern was pretty central on the topic of practical skills. The response we got was one that we didn’t want to here. We basically got told that the landscape of librarianship was changing. The librarians of the past who stamped books, catalogued the magazines, and answered reference questions had gone the way of the card catalogue. We were told that the skills librarians needed were to act as middle managers for those people who chose to go the library technician route. Next question…

We weren’t too thrilled about that answer but it got me thinking. This allows librarians to move up in the theoretical corporate ladder in libraries. So instead of having a long chain that starts at Library Page and goes up to Library CEO, we start at middle management. This may be a dreamy eyed approach, as many others see it as cutthroat and driving wages down by allowing cheaper, less professionalized people do the work, but as I see it the wages were gonna go down regardless, as it has in all other professions as well. This allows Librarians to try to maintain some form of medium waged salary in a professional field that we love. Regardless of what you think of all this, the professors were right about one thing. It is the future of librarianship, whether you like it or not. You have just got to make the best of a not so great situation.

Genealogy at the Library

Libraries are so much more than books these days. Libraries are culture centers and one group of culture seekers that frequent libraries (particularly public libraries) are family genealogists. These people are often seeking help and information in both digital and personal forms. This is how a library can help a amateur genealogist or family historian.

The Librarian

So Librarians are professionally trained to help you find all kinds of information. This goes beyond finding the latest Faye Kellerman novel. Librarians are usually specialists who hold a bachelors degree in something. The most common bachelor’s degrees I have come across are  English, History and other social sciences majors. The background in a social science (regardless of type) allows us to help conduct research and find relevant information. I myself have a degree in History from Western University.

When combining the social sciences background with a Library sciences background we begin to compound our knowledge. Librarians are specialists in navigating the internet. Some of the classes I took in Library school can be of great assistance when looking for family history or genealogical files. I have taken classes on Government Information, Database Searching, and Archival studies. What all this means is a librarian is very well equipped to help guide you in your search. This does not only apply to me but all librarians.

The Library – Physical

Many libraries have genealogical sections in their library. This will sometimes include archival records, books and guides on the how to of genealogy or local history books. At the Point Alexander branch of the Laurentian Hills Library I have taken it upon myself to rebuild our genealogical section of books. Most the titles we had had been neglected for a few years and I am in the process of restoring that section of the library. Currently there are 3 titles in the genealogical section. One is a Beginner’s Guide to Online Genealogy. This is a great resource for those just delving into online resources and whom are unsure what is available and where to find good information. Another resource is Family Photo Detective by Maureen Taylor. This is a newer book that also looks at how to find genealogical clues in old photographs. The third book is an older book from 2004 that has been kept for its staying relevance – “Digitizing your Family History” a guide to maintaining family heirlooms and other relevant documents so that future genealogists may enjoy them.

We also carry a good selection of local history books. These local history books can be a general guide to finding more about the places your family has been and can sometimes give insight into the person you are looking at in  your family tree. We carry several local history books/series and magazines including: Carol Bennett’s series of books about the Ottawa Valley which includes Peter Robinson’s Settlers, The Lanark Society Settler’s, and Eganville. We also have Renfrew County People and Places, as well as Tamarack Magazine: a history of the Valley and Your Genealogy magazine a monthly publication that is a great guide for genealogists.

These are just current offerings. On back order for the new year I plan on expanding the Genealogical offering’s including: Online Genealogy for Dummies, Genealogy Ontario: Searching the Records and Who Do You Think You Are: The Genealogy Handbook.

The Library – Digital:

So now for the good stuff. Most of the offerings in the library are the how, I’m going to talk about resources. Many people are under the assumption that everything is online now. This is an incorrect assumption. Only %2 of human knowledge is available online. In the case of genealogy it may be slightly higher. Online genealogy makes it easier for the family genealogist to just sit at home in front of a computer and do genealogical research. Like everything online there are good places and bad places to look…I’m going to focus on the good resources.

Ancestry.com/.ca/library edition – The Laurentian Hills public Library subscribes to Ancestry.com library edition. It is a collection of most of the best parts of Ancestry.com/.ca without you having to shell out money to use it. All you need is a library card. Ancestry.com as off June 2014, reported having access to approximately 16 billion historical records. User-submissions included more than 70 million family trees and subscribers have added more than 200 million photographs, scanned documents and written stories.

Family Search – Family Search.org is a free to use genealogical resource. Familysearch.org is the genealogical arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). It is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch maintains a collection of records, resources, and services designed to help people learn more about their family history.

Library & Archives Canada – Library & Archives Canada is Canada’s Archive. It has many records recently uploaded online and freely available including Birth records, death records, immigration and military records. All of this is available through the Genealogy and Family history section of the site. You can also peruse the site by type of record your looking for such as Home Children and Old Census Records.

Canadagenweb.org – this is a volunteer database of Cemeteries across Canada. You can find records for over 18,000 cemeteries. It is a great resource if you are looking for a family plot. It includes gravestone pictures, and markings.

Torontopubliclibrary.com – The Toronto Public Library has a great resource of information on genealogy and local history. They have a section called digital archive. In here you can find a vast resource of documents under the genealogy and family history link. In this section you can find a guide to Census records, as well as local Toronto Local history collection as well as guides to Aboriginal genealogy, Irish and British Genealogy, Jewish Genealogy, Immigration Records, Adoption Records, Land Records and more. This is not just for Toronto many of these records are Canada wide inclusive.

Libraries are places of knowledge and community and can serve the genealogical community quite well. There is so much that can be done with this aspect of librarianship that I believe every library should have something ready for when the local family historian steps into the library. be it a small up to date physical collection or large databases and knowledge for the family historian to access. We are guardians of history and knowledge, we should be prepared not only to preserve it, but distribute it to our respected communities.

Doom and gloom in the field of Library and Information Sciences: A rebuttal

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)