The Role of a 21st Century Librarian

The Atlantic recently posted an article on the evolving role of the 21st Century librarian.

There’s a stereotypical image of a librarian in popular culture: someone older, in thick-rimmed glasses and overly modest clothing, guarding the silence in a room full of books with all-powerful shushes.

But as the internet has largely replaced brick-and-mortar libraries as the go-to resource for information gathering, librarians’ purview is no longer confined to just books. Libraries have had to evolve from providing the internet as a service, to being responsible for interacting with it, to indexing and archiving a rapidly increasing amount of information. Though the occupation is only expected to grow by 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, many librarians have forgone bookkeeping and cataloging for specializing in multimedia and taking on research- and technology-oriented projects such as digitizing archives.

The author of the article interviewed Theresa Quill, a research librarian at Indiana University, Bloomington, who specializes in the relationship between geography and cultural behavior, and digital mapping. Theresa provides an overview of what it's like to be a 21st Century academic librarian who has a strong professional identity while fulfilling both the traditional and evolving roles of a librarian -- and also performs her own research!

The interview is enlightening for many reasons. I particularly appreciate the part about the new "library school" curriculum. While getting a master's degree in library & information science (or library science or information science or any number of iterations), Theresa mentions that the curriculum is intended to give you an introduction to librarianship as a profession, because we do have a pretty strong professional identity and a lot of people say it's a calling to be a librarian. [Theresa] took classes on website development, library management, strategic intelligence, and how information itself is a commodity. [She] took a class on international information issues, which dealt with the flow of information across different cultures and library culture in different parts of the world. Now, tons of people take classes on programming languages and it's becoming much more tech-focused.

This article is a great read for anyone interested in the library profession. It's the closest article I've seen to capturing the true essence of what it means to be a modern librarian.


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