Hello, and welcome to my blog!
My name is Rebecca Stout. I recently graduated from Calvin College with an English degree and now I am continuing my education at Wayne State University, studying library and information science. My interest in and love for libraries began at a young age. I was homeschooled during elementary school using a literature-based curriculum, which was a lovely introduction to the joys of learning and fostered my life-long love of reading. (I suppose it’s a bit laughable for a twenty-something to speak of her “life-long” anything, but consider it prophetic.) I have fond memories of biking to the library nearly every week to empty and refill my backpack with as many books as I could fit, and of tracking my progress toward the library summer reading challenge program by coloring in another little box for every fifteen minutes of reading.
I began to consider librarianship as a potential career in middle school. One summer, I think when I was eleven, I decided to gather all the homeschool books that were scattered around the house and organize them. I spent the summer combing the house for books, comparing them to the curriculum catalogs, dividing them up by grade and attaching spine labels indicating this, and arranging them on a bookshelf by grade and size, as any self-respecting, mildly-OCD eleven year old would. (My future employer will be relieved to know that I have since developed an appreciation for alphabetization as an organizational strategy.) I didn’t settle on a career at eleven, of course, but this project got me thinking about being a librarian, and now I’m earning my MLIS.
The combination of my childhood library experiences and my more general love of children has led me to focus my studies on public libraries and youth services, with the eventual goal of working as children’s librarian in a small public library. I look forward to helping kids learn to use and love the library like I did by doing things like summer reading programs, story times, and helping kids with research for school assignments.
This blog is a component of my first class at Wayne State, which is a broad introduction to the MLIS degree and the library and information profession. Every week or two over the course of the semester, I will be ruminating here on topics pertaining to the class. The focus of the first post is the assumptions and beliefs about the profession that I am coming in with. It will be interesting to see how my assumptions are confirmed or challenged over the course of my studies.
Assumption 1: The modes and methods of librarians have recently been changing drastically and will likely continue to do so, but the underlying function of the librarian has remained fairly constant, and will likely continue to do so.
The internet has changed the library and the jobs of librarians. Often, the first reaction I get when I tell someone I want to be a librarian is a question about e-books or other internet resources and whether libraries are on their way to extinction. However, while librarians have had to become proficient in technology and shift to helping patrons use online catalogs and databases and improve their internet searching, they still help people find the information they need. If anything, the easy access to excessive amounts of information that the internet provides bolsters the continuing importance of assistance from a librarian to help narrow the search and find the needle in the haystack the user is searching for amidst the million hits their search returned on Google.
Assumption 2: A good librarian doesn’t only do research for a patron, but also tries to guide the patron through the research process in a way that will teach the patron how to more effectively use library resources on his or her own another time.
This is more or the less the “teach a man to fish” approach. Obviously, a brief session at a reference desk is not enough time to offer comprehensive instruction, but helping people begin to use library resources and find information more effectively on their own is important. People don’t always have the ability to run to a librarian for help every time they have a question, and the more able people are to satisfy their own curiosity and educate themselves, the better. Education and learning have been American values from the beginning. Thomas Jefferson was expressing a commonly held sentiment when he said “Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day” (as cited in Spalding, 2002, p. 149).
Assumption 3: The library will always have print books.
Always might be too presumptive, but I don’t think paperbacks and hardcovers are going anywhere anytime soon. Yes, more and more books are available on various e-readers and that medium offers several conveniences, such as not packing 30 pounds of books in your luggage for a vacation. However, in my own very unscientific anecdotal observations, plenty of people still like “real” books. And while that may eventually change, the fact remains that if we want to get rid of physical books without losing untold resources, we need to first digitize the entire physical collection. This is an almost incomprehensibly large project, and one that I expect to take a great deal of time to complete. Even once more and more sources become digitized, I have a hard time envisioning the destruction of physical books. I think that completely digital libraries are about as likely to occur as museums with only digital images of the artifacts that used to be physically on display.
Assumption 4: The library profession is a satisfying one.
I certainly hope this assumption is not one that changes during my studies, since I’m planning to have a satisfying career as a librarian soon. As someone who likes reading, learning new things, and helping people, helping people learn new things and find good books (without having to write lesson plans or grade papers) sounds like a pretty fabulous job.
Spaulding, Matthew (2002). The founder’s almanac: A practical guide to the notable events, greatest leaders & most eloquent words of the American founding. Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation.