law
LIBRARY SCHOOL FAQ
Note from moderator:After several years of reading Live journal postings for groups like Library Grrls and LibrarySchool I noticed that many questions about becoming a librarian came up again and again. This FAQ attempts to answer some of those questions. Please feel free to add or edit to this wiki

  1. I’m an undergraduate but I’d like to be a librarian someday. What should I major in?
  2. How can I get started working in a library?
  3. How does one become a professional librarian?
  4. What are the requirements for getting into library school? How important are grades, GRE scores, and other qualifications?
  5. How long does it take to get an MLS?
  6. How much does it cost to get an MLS?
  7. What’s the difference between the MLS, MLIS, MIS, etc. degrees? Do librarians ever have other degrees?
  8. I don’t have an MLS and don’t want to (or can’t) get one anytime soon. How far can I go without one?
  9. What are the different types of librarians?
  10. I’d like to be a librarian, but I don’t have any experience working in libraries. Should I get experience first, or go to library school now and worry about work experience later?
  11. I work as a library paraprofessional but want to get an MLS. Should I go to library school full time and get it over with quickly, or keep my job and go part time?
  12. When choosing a library school, how important is “reputation?”
  13. Are distance MLS programs as good as live programs? What are the pros and cons?
  14. How can I finance my library degree? Are there scholarships?
  15. What kinds of activities can I do as an MLS student to improve my chances of landing a good job when I graduate?
  16. What is the job market like for new librarians?
  17. Where can I look for library job postings?
  18. How much do librarians earn?
  19. Is librarianship a dying profession? How is it evolving?
  20. What are some of the major issues librarians are interested in today? [needs content]
  21. I need some general information about how libraries are managed today -- how do they keep track of books and circulation, for example? [needs content]


1. I’m an undergraduate but I’d like to be a librarian someday. What should I major in?

  • The best advice is to major in something that interests you. Because there are so many different types of librarians, almost any major can translate into a valuable qualification later in your career. That being said, there are a few points you may want to consider:

  • Undergraduate library degree programs are not likely to get you a job as a professional librarian. Almost all librarian positions require an ALA-accredited MLS (see How does one become a professional librarian below). Having a broader background in the sciences or humanities may serve you better.

  • Having an undergraduate degree that relates to the type of librarianship you wish to do will help you later. For example, if you want to be a school librarian, you may want to major in education. If you want to be a medical librarian, a major in biology would be good. An art librarian may want to major in art history... and so on. General reference librarians for public libraries probably have the widest latitude for relating their majors to their work. Some possible majors for them might include—but aren’t limited to—English, history, foreign languages, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, religion, biology, psychology, etc.

  • Although English and history are probably the two most common degrees for librarians, having a degree in another field will help you to stand out from the pack. Similarly, though most librarians get a B.A., depending on your field, a B.S., B.F.A., B.S.Ed., etc. may be just as good or better.

  • There are certain fields that are likely to be useful to you no matter what type of librarian you become. You should probably consider taking courses in:
    • Computer science – Introductory programming and web development classes are useful
    • to almost all librarians and will help you get ahead in library school.
    • Writing and research – The ability to write clearly and succinctly, conduct thorough research, and produce reports are skills that all librarians need to master.
    • Foreign languages – Having a foreign language is a plus for almost any librarian. For some fields, like cataloging, it is almost required. It will be much easier to put in the hours to learn the language now than it will be when you’re taking classes in library school, so take advantage!

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2. How can I get started working in a library?

  • It’s very common for librarians to have had their first library jobs while they were undergraduates. Part-time student jobs working as a page (pulling and shelving books), on the circulation desk, or as a special project assistant are commonly available at many colleges. Full-time summer jobs are also frequently posted. If you are an undergraduate, check with your central campus library or online student jobs page to find out about openings.

  • For those who aren’t students, finding an entry-level job can be more difficult. In some of the more competitive library systems, your best bet will be to start out as a volunteer and make it known that you are looking for a permanent position. You should also check the human resources department web pages for the libraries in your area. Look for job listings under “clerical” “technical” or “support” staff. Don’t forget to look at the full range of libraries: school, public, academic and business. If you can’t find a regular library job, consider working as a file clerk, records manager, or book store manager.

  • Tips for your application: Try to send your application to a specific contact person rather than a generic address. Writing to the “manager of human resources” or "jobs@somebody.edu" may land your application in a huge database that no one will ever examine personally. Look closely at the job description and tailor your cover letter and resume to it. Specifically describe any relevant experience or skills you may have. For example, don’t just write under experience, “Administrative assistant.” Write, “Administrative assistant: Maintained contact and calendaring databases. Tracked correspondence for staff of 15. Restructured and maintained complex filing system. [etc.]” Don’t forget to mention how interested you are in libraries and how much you want the job! If you aspire to become a professional librarian some day, say so.

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3. How does one become a professional librarian?

  • Most professional librarian positions require a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree, or its equivalent, from a program that has been accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). (See the Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions for details.) The complete list of schools with ALA-accredited programs is available at the ALA web site: See the Directory of Institutions Offering ALA-Accredited Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies and the Searchable database of ALA-accredited programs. This database has at the top of the page an instant sort of the list by state; click on a state’s name to get a list of the universities there with ALA-accredited library science master’s degree programs. This online database version can be searched by various options, including "100% online program available."

  • For school library media specialists ALA policy 54.2.2 states: "The master's degree in librarianship from a program accredited by the American Library Association (emphasis added) OR a master's degree with a specialty in school library media from an educational unit accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is the appropriate first professional degree for school library media specialists." For further assistance on school librarianship, please see the following web pages set up by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL, a division of ALA): List of nationally recognized NCATE/AASL reviewed and approved school librarianship education programs and Recruitment to School Librarianship.

  • See the ALA's Guidelines for Choosing a Master's Program in Library and Information Studies for help in selecting the master's program that is right for you.
  • Libraries also recognize degrees granted by accredited programs in other countries. Across the Anglo-American world, librarians generally do not encounter problems with having their degrees recognized internationally. Recognition of a degree from continental Europe or elsewhere may present more problems; research carefully before investing in a degree from abroad. Non-accredited American degree programs are usually not worth the investment. The only exception might be if you are currently working in a library that will pay for you to attend a local institution so that you can be promoted. Beware of spending your own money on non-accredited programs! Also be sure that any school you attend is not on probation with the ALA. You would not want to invest a year in the school, and then have the program fall apart before you graduate.

  • Other qualifications for becoming a librarian vary depending on the position, and may require expertise in certain technologies, languages, or subject areas. Some specialist librarians require additional degrees. For example, law librarians usually have a JD in addition to the MLS. Depending on state law, school librarians may need an education degree or a teaching certificate. Archivists may need specialized certification. Many academic librarian positions require an MA in addition to the MLS, in a subject area relevant to the position. To find out more about qualifications for your chosen career path, consult job listings sites such as ALA JobLIST.



4. What are the requirements for getting into library school? How important are grades, GRE scores, and other qualifications?

  • Entry into an American MLS program requires that you first have a bachelor’s degree. Most library schools will not require a specific undergraduate coursework, with the exception of a few specialized programs. For example, the University of Texas at Austin’s Conservation program requires two semesters of general chemistry and one semester of organic chemistry. In most cases, however, any major is acceptable as preparation for a library degree. (See What should I major in above.)

  • Library schools are generally not as selective as other types of professional schools. Some schools seem to accept virtually everyone who applies, as long as they meet minimum qualifications. If you had a grade point average above 3.0 in your junior and senior years, you should not have a problem getting into at least one library school, though it may not be your top choice. Of course, the most selective schools will be more difficult. If your grade point average was below 3.0, look for schools that allow you to show other evidence of your academic fitness.

  • Many, but not all, library schools require you to submit GRE scores. Some schools allow you to skip this step if your grade point average was above a certain limit, or if you can show other qualifications. Others, like the University of Illinois or Simmons, don’t require the test at all (and these are well-regarded schools). If you are applying to a school that requires it and are wondering exactly what score you need, unfortunately it’s not that easy to find out. Schools don’t usually have a minimum cutoff score, and very few post their average scores. The University of Texas at Austin is one exception: as one of the highest-rated and most selective schools in the country, their MSIS students’ median GRE score “has typically been slightly above 1250” according to their website. For most schools, a combined score above 1200 will be quite safe. However, a score above 1000 will probably be enough for most people, particularly if you are a strong candidate in other respects. According to anecdotal accounts, the writing sample score does not appear to be as important as the quantitative and verbal scores.

  • International students whose first language is not English usually have to submit scores from the TOEFL. They also need to supply translations of any degrees or other documentation that are not in English, and evidence that they have the funds to pay for tuition and other costs. Look at individual schools’ requirements for specifics.

  • Other requirements for admission typically include three letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. Some tips for how to complete these may be found here:

5. How long does it take to get an MLS?

  • Library school can take as little as a year if the number of credit hours the school requires is low and you take a full load, spread over fall, winter break, spring and summer semesters. However, most people take 1 ½ -2 years to complete the degree if they are going full time, and 2-4 years if they are going part time. The exact length depends on how many classes you are willing to take per semester, and how many extra sessions you take during summer and winter break periods. If you need to get through school quickly, look for programs with low credit hour requirements, extra sessions, and tolerance for high credit loads per semester.

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6. How much does it cost to get an MLS?

  • The total tuition cost of a library degree ranges from about $10,000 on the low end to around $45,000 on the high end. The cheapest option is usually to go to a public school in a state where you qualify as a resident. Some states that have no library schools of their own have made reciprocal arrangements with other states, so check to see if there are any such agreements in your case. In addition, some distance learning programs cost the same for all students, regardless of residency. If you are a particularly strong candidate and are lucky, you may find that some out-of-state library schools will offer you resident-level tuition as part of their admittance package. There are also other ways of cutting tuition costs: see How can I finance my library degree, below.
  • Some examples of estimated total tuition costs for the MLS at 2005-2006 rates:
    • University of Alabama
    • Resident $ 9,728
    • Non-resident $ 27,032
    • California State University, San Jose
    • Resident $ 10,735
    • Non-resident $ 23,923
    • University Of Michigan
    • Resident $ 21,123
    • Non-resident $ 42,750
    • Simmons Graduate School, MA
    • Resident or Non-resident $ 30,600

  • More cost comparisons for distance education programs can be found at http://www.becomealibrarian.org/DistanceEdComparison.htm. Please note that these costs don’t include room and board, health care, books, or many of the assorted “fees” that are often charged. Because of these per-semester added costs, the faster you complete the degree, the cheaper it will be. On the other hand, if you can work while completing the degree part-time to cover your room, board, and health insurance, then speed is less critical.

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7. What’s the difference between the MLS, MLIS, MIS, etc. degrees? Do librarians ever have other degrees?

  • Originally, most graduate-level library schools offered a Master of Library Science. At a certain point around the early 1990’s, however, many schools began to question whether the term “library science” fully described what they were teaching. Some believed that the term was too narrow or too old fashioned. Schools wanted to market their programs not just to future librarians, but also to various other kinds of information managers. [Link to more information.} Thus, many schools changed names from “School of Library Science” to “School of Library and Information Science”, or even just “School of Information.” They changed their degree names to go along with this: the “Master of Library Science” became the “Master of Library and Information Science,” “Master of Information Science,” and so on.

  • So what’s the difference? Schools with the MLIS or MIS often emphasize computer science more than those with the MLS, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Generally speaking, as long as a degree is accredited by the ALA, it won’t matter very much what the initials are.

  • There are some alternate degrees for professional librarians. Archivists can get a Master of Archival Science; some libraries will also accept archivists with M.A.’s or Ph.D.’s in relevant subject areas, though this is becoming rarer. School Librarians may have a master's degree with a specialty in school library media from an educational unit accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

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8. I don’t have an MLS and don’t want to (or can’t) get one anytime soon. How far can I go without one?

  • In most libraries under normal circumstances, not having an MLS means that you will not be able to enter the "professional" librarian ranks. In practice, not being a professional librarian usually means that your pay will be lower and your responsibilities will be restricted. For example, in many academic libraries, only professional staff can make library policy decisions, do original cataloging or manage the reference desk. In some libraries (especially where budgets are very tight), paraprofessional staff are given duties roughly equal to those expected of professional librarians, but without the same status or pay. Career paraprofessionals have to be prepared for the possibility that someone with far less practical experience but carrying an MLS will be hired as their supervisor. Some paraprofessionals have seen this happen to them multiple times: a new librarian, fresh out of library school, is hired to manage their department; the paraprofessional staff has to train them into their job, while being paid less than the supervisor. Two years later, the supervisor is promoted up the ranks, a new library grad is hired, and the process starts again. This can be very frustrating.

  • Paraprofessionals are usually given fewer opportunities to contribute to library policy decisions or participate in national causes. If you are interested in influencing the direction your library is headed or want to be involved in "big issues" -- promoting literacy, changing metadata standards, increasing the number of minorities hired in libraries, etc. -- it will be far easier to do so as a professional librarian.


9. What are the different types of librarians?

  • There are a few ways to look at this question. One way is to look at the types of libraries there are; another way is to look at the functions that librarians do.

  • Using the "types of libraries" approach, one might divide the profession this way:
    • - School Librarians (elementary & secondary)
    • - Public Librarians (adult, young adult, children's)
    • - Academic Librarians (community college, 4-year college, university, research institution)
    • - Law Librarians (law schools, law firms)
    • - Other "Special" Librarians, including Archivists, Medical Librarians, Art Librarians, Rare Book Librarians, Music Librarians, Government Document Librarians, Corporate Librarians, Non-profit Institution Librarians (including churches, NGO's, charities, etc.), Prison Librarians ... almost any institution might have a librarian!

  • Using the "functions of librarians"approach, one might divide it this way:
    • - School Media: supporting elementary & secondary classrooms
    • - Instructional: teaching information-finding and library skills
    • - Outreach: marketing the library, leading tours, arranging exhibitions & lectures, etc.
    • - Reference: assistance with research or other informational needs (this is what most people think of when they picture librarians)
    • - Systems: handling the IT needs of the library
    • - Cataloging: description of library resources
    • - Archives: arranging and describing unpublished material (can range from single manuscripts to archives of millions of documents)
    • - Preservation: extending the usable lifetime of library materials
    • - Circulation: handling intra- and inter-library circulation of materials
    • - Acquisitions: buying materials and handling vendor relationships
    • - Managerial: overseeing staff, budgets and policies
    • - AND others...
  • Not surprisingly, most librarians take on more than one function within their jobs. However, most have a primary function related to one of these areas.


10. I’d like to be a librarian, but I don’t have any experience working in libraries. Should I get experience first, or go to library school now and worry about work experience later?

  • Over the years, the general agreement in groups like Library Grrls and LibrarySchool has been that work experience in libraries is the NUMBER ONE most important factor in getting a job after the MLS.

  • If you are still an undergraduate or have just recently graduated from college, go that extra mile to get experience in a library (see How can I get started working in a library, above). Not only will it help your resume, it will also give you a better idea of the range of options within the profession. You may discover that you love working with young adults, or that cataloging is where it's at. It will also help you make sure that librarianship is the right choice for you. Getting a few years of experience in between college and library school is generally a very good idea.

  • That being said, you do not necessarily need to get experience before library school. If you are working full time outside the library world, you might find it very difficult to break into the library job market at an acceptable salary level (see How can I get started working in a library, above). You could try volunteering for a few hours a week in order to get a better sense of what librarianship involves. It will be easier for you to find meaningful internships and part-time work positions while enrolled in an MLS program. If you are planning to start the degree without substantial library experience, never fear: many others have done the same before you. But you should make absolutely sure to get experience while you are a student. If necessary, take longer to finish your program so that you can work part-time. The experience will be well worth it when you hit the job market.

11. I work as a library paraprofessional but want to get an MLS. Should I go to library school full time and get it over with quickly, or keep my job and go part time?

  • Since work experience is so important to getting a job after library school, it can make sense to take an extra two or three semesters to finish school while keeping a paraprofessional library job. Keeping your job may also give you a nice cushion of time after you finish your degree to find a professional position. This decision is highly personal, though.
12. When choosing a library school, how important is “reputation?”

  • On a basic level, reputation is not that important. Library School is not like Law School or Med School, where the name is everything. As long as your MLS comes from a library school that is accredited by the ALA, it should not make a huge difference where you got it from when it comes time to look for a job. This probably has something to do with the competitiveness of LIS programs: since few of them are highly selective about who they admit, it does not make sense to discriminate. For a variety of reasons, MLS students often attend the school that is closest to their home without regard for its reputation. Most hiring committees understand this, and do not exclude job candidates based on which school they attended.

  • There are ways in which going to a school with a better reputation will help you, though. Even if a school's reputation does not perfectly reflect the quality of the education it offers, it does shed some light on its expectations for academic performance. If you want to get something more out of your time in library school than just the piece of paper that the degree is printed on, you should be looking at the quality of education being offered. Going to a school with a good reputation probably (though of course, not always) means better professors and a more stimulating classroom environment. Going to a good school may also give you internship and networking possibilities that would not be possible at other schools. To get a good handle on this issue, however, you should look beyond the U.S. News and World Reports rankings. Ask librarians at institutions where you might to work about their opinions of library schools. For opinions about specific schools, you might try posting on Library Grrls, LibrarySchool or another online community to get the latest news.

  • Take an especially hard look at schools that you notice have bad reputations. Certain schools, which here shall remain unnamed, have reputations for extreme administrative sloppiness and inattention to their students. Others have only marginal commitments to maintaining their MLS programs, and may not be funding them properly. Even if hiring committees do not care whether a library school has a poor reputation, no one wants to go through the pain of being a student at a place with these sorts of problems.

13. Are distance MLS programs as good as live programs? What are the pros and cons?

  • General opinion in groups like Library Grrls and LibrarySchool is that hiring committees are just as happy to hire people from distance programs as live programs. In that regard, they are "just as good." A better question to ask is whether they are "just as good" for you. Some things you need to ask yourself include:

  • - Is the nearest ALA-accredited MLS program too far away, and moving isn't an option? (This is probably the number one reason people choose distance programs.)
  • - Do you need to keep a full-time job? Can it work around the schedule you would need for distance, live or hybrid classes? (Different programs have different requirements.)
  • - How motivated are you to work independently?
  • - Are you interested in the social aspect of library school, and think you need that face-to-face time?

  • Some of the advantages of distance learning are obvious: you can take classes anywhere, and depending on the program, can probably fit them into your existing schedule. You can also take classes that might not be offered at your local school, an advantage if you are interested in an unusual specialty. Some people report that distance programs also help them to get a better handle on technology and force them to study harder.

  • The main disadvantage to distance learning is that you won't have as much live interaction with your peers. This can make a big difference not only in the quality of your education (less interaction may mean less meaningful discussion), but also in networking after you graduate. Just like most people recognize that there is a big gap between attending a "virtual conference" and going to a live meeting, there is a difference in how you will interact with people in online classes versus face-to-face ones.

  • You should also keep in mind that there are many gradations of "distance" within distance learning. There are 100% online programs like Drexel and San Jose State; programs that require a few days residence per semester like Pittsburg and Washington; and then there are schools that offer most of their classes online, with the option to take them in person, like Southern Connecticut. There are also programs with satellite campuses, where you can take classes affiliated with the parent school at another institution. Simmons, for example, has a satellite campus at Mount Holyoke and allows students to take classes at either the Boston or Mt. Holyoke campuses. There are a range of possibilities to suit students' needs.

14. How can I finance my library degree? Are there scholarships?

  • There are several ways to finance your degree, including government loans, getting a fellowship or assistanceship through your library school, winning a national scholarship through the ALA, getting tuition assistance from an employer, or working your way through. Since the MLS is a professional degree, merit-based financial awards are less common than in Ph.D. programs. A few schools, such as the University of Illinois, do offer a substantial number of graduate assistanceships and fellowships. These programs can be very competitive but can help you to get out of school debt-free.

15. What kinds of activities can I do as an MLS student to improve my chances of landing a good job when I graduate?

  • 1. Get a paraprofessional job, ideally in an area related to your interests. Previous experience is the number one factor in getting a good job.
  • 2. Take advantage of any internships that are offered at your school to broaden your resume. This can be useful even if you are working as a paraprofessional. Try to get internships at the most prestigious institutions in your area; it will help to have their names on your resume. Working at a top library will likely also introduce you to the movers and shakers in your region's libraries.
  • 3. Some of your classes will probably assign you to do interviews or job shadowing exercises. Choose to do them in institutions similar to where you would ideally like to work. You may be able to use the connections you make as networking contacts later, or they may help you to understand the informal professional connections between libraries in your area.
  • 4. Many of your classes will assign final projects like papers or presentations. Don't just do the assignment for the grade: research an area that truly interests you, and that might apply to a future job. That way, when you interview, you can speak knowledgeably about topics that might come up. You'll be able to say, "I wrote a proposal for a similar project, and I think ...[etc.]."
  • 5. If you have a professor you really like, ask them out to lunch or email them about something that's on your mind. Having a good relationship with a professor can lead to a mentor-mentee situation, where you can ask job advice, ask for pointers towards finding good positions, ask for recommendations, and so on.
  • 6. Attend library conferences, even if they are just local meetings. This can help you to meet people and will also help you to learn about some of the most pressing issues in your area.
  • 7. Join the professional organization for the specific type of librarianship that interests you, such as the Society of American Archivists, the Western European Studies Section of ACRL or the American Association of School Librarians. This will put you on the mailing list for the organization. It will also help your resume by showing that you plan to be professionally active.

16. What is the job market like for new librarians?

  • There has been much discussion of this topic recently in professional circles. Try googling "librarian shortage myth" to see some of the debate over whether there are likely to be more, less or the same number of jobs for entry-level librarians in the future.

  • One important point is that the job market varies considerably from one region to another. The most difficult areas to find a job are usually those that are located in desirable metropolitan areas where many people would be willing to move, or are located near library schools. This makes places like Seattle and San Francisco relatively difficult, for example, because they have both of these conditions. Some factors can offset these problems, however. Boston and New York are different because they have a very large number of academic and public libraries, so they can absorb more new librarians than many West Coast metro areas. On the other hand, some areas are in need of qualified librarians and may have very few applicants for their positions. Job-seekers who are willing to move to smaller towns in landlocked states may have an easier time finding work, although they should expect salaries to be lower than in big cities on the coasts.

  • The job market also varies based on the type of librarianship. Entry-level reference positions in university libraries are some of the most sought-after positions for a variety of reasons: they have qualification requirements that most MLS graduates fulfill; they are (usually) interesting jobs with varied duties; and the pay is for the most part good. They are also difficult to get because classical ready-reference jobs, where the librarian sits at a desk and answers questions, are becoming less common. (See Is librarianship a dying profession? below.) Behind-the-scenes jobs such as cataloging are typically somewhat easier to get than those involving working with the public; however they also require more specialized skills.

  • Some fields have recently gone through booms and busts. Government Documents Librarians are in a serious decline right now, because of changes to that the documents are deposited and accessed. Archivists went through a boom in the late 1990's-early 2000's as the Internet allowed a major expansion in how archives are described and accessed; this boom seems to be slowing now, however, especially as Archives has become a popular field for new MLS students.

17. Where can I look for library job postings?


  • Also try looking at the job boards for your local universities and municipalities. Many jobs, especially paraprofessional ones, are never publicized on national boards.

18. How much do librarians earn?

  • The median wage for librarians as of 2009, according to the ALA-APA Salary Survey: Librarian - Public and Academic, is $54,500. The most current ALA average salary surveys and information, for both librarians and library support staff, presently come out of ALA-APA (American Library Association - Allied Professional Association): the Organization for the Advancement of Library Employees. See the most recent librarian salary figures in the 2009 summary, Librarian Salary Survey reports mean librarian salary $58,860, median $54,500 in 2009.

  • Entry-level professional librarians earn less than the median, of course. The typical salary range for beginning librarians in job postings, based on informal checks of library job sites, is usually between $30,000-$50,000. Factors that might increase salary include:
    • - Job is located in an area with a high cost of living
    • - Job requires additional degrees or certifications beyond the MLS, such as the JD for Law Librarians
    • - Job requires skill set that is in demand in other industries, such as computer programming
    • - Employer is a wealthy institution that wants to draw top talent
    • - Employer is in a sector that typically pays higher salaries, such as: the federal government, corporations, and law firms

19. Is librarianship a dying profession? How is it evolving?

  • Over the last few years, quite a few people have announced the imminent demise of libraries and/or librarianship. See, for example, The Death of Libraries? (Technology Review, May 2005). Most of these comments are based on the idea that the public will turn increasingly towards the Internet for its information needs, replacing the need for a physical library or for the assistance that librarians provide. Most librarians, not surprisingly, disagree with this assessment. Some of their reasons include:

  • 1. Libraries are more than repositories for books. They are also social spaces where people come to sit, study, use computers, take classes or participate in discussions. They are a community resource that the Internet does not duplicate.
  • 2. It is true that the Internet has cut down on the duties of the ready reference librarian: people are finding answers to simple factual questions on their own. The Internet is not so easy to use, however, for answering complex questions that require people to use judgment. One role of librarians is to instruct the public about not only how to find information, but about how to evaluate that information.
  • 3. Information doesn't magically appear on the Internet-- someone puts it there, someone maintains the links and someone organizes it. Guess who that someone often is? Technical services and systems librarians!

  • 4. E-books and scanned journal articles are fine for finding information, but not many people would want to read an entire novel on a screen. Physical books still have many advantages over electronic ones. They don't need batteries or an internet connection, and they are easy to use. (See the YouTube video, "Medieval helpdesk," for a funny take on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHX-SjgQvQ )


20. What are some of the major issues librarians are interested in today?

  • (add comments here)