Librarians then and now

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2Librarians Then and Now


Librarians Then and Now


Being a librarian or a career as a librarian has always been traditionally associated with dull images and attitudes that do not elicit excitement in any form. When people think of a librarian in the traditional sense, an image of a dull, quiet individual, with no social life comes to mind. It is even funny that some of the things associated with being a librarian include the image of someone with spectacles hunched over books all day long. However, as Kara Jesella notes in her article “A Hipper crowd of Shushers”, the library profession has undergone a massive shift with a new crop of professionals in the field that are nothing like the stereotype. The article notes that the profession has changed since currently, a bigger part of the job involves technology unlike in past eras. The focus has shifted to finding information and sharing information that goes beyond the traditional information accessible in books. The advancement in technology has enabled the emergence of a new kind of librarian who is considered cool and in tune with the current world. The effort of library organizations geared towards recruitment of more diverse individuals into the profession has resulted in more progressive and interesting librarians. Traditionally, librarians were associated with the older generation which is not the case today owing to the increasing number of younger people enrolling to study library and information studies. All these decry the notion that the profession is becoming obsolete due to the availability of the internet and search engines. The profession is no longer solely about books and includes connecting and organizing information, which are of varied categories including film and music. Additionally, the stable nature of the profession means that librarians can pursue other interests. The article’s main argument about the changing face of the librarian and the profession are true in the sense that a lot more goes into being a librarian than is typically known. . In light of the argument presented in the article, this paper is going to consider the future of the profession and the changing face and role of the librarian.

Librarians Then and Now

Technological advancement has changed the face of librarianship in various ways. The library today and the people in the profession differ greatly and in more diverse ways than the ones, we knew during the past. Weber (2013) observes that even the qualification and the qualities needed for a librarian today are different and continue to evolve every day. Two decades ago, the idea of being a librarian and the work associated with being a librarian involved cataloguing books and organization of reading resources in a dedicated room among other physical aspects. Today, the face of the library has changed and includes a lot of technical work associated with technology. For instance, card catalogues have slowly become obsolete and instead, they have been substituted by an integrated system. The search aspect of the library profession has slowly transitioned and instead of a librarian centered physical search of databases systems are currently automated. Users can access resources through the help of a librarian form internet sources and queries can be sent through electronic mail instead of being performed traditionally.

Today’s librarian needs to be tech-aware and tech-savvy in keeping up with the ever-evolving demands of the user a well as the ever-changing face of the library. Knowledge in various technological processes is something that was not mandatory in the library of past ages. It is also important to note that as technology is in constant transition, the face of the library and the role of the librarian will also constantly change. This new integration of technology and the internet into librarianship has brought about a new image to the profession making it attractive to many people. Currently, more people are considering the profession due to the changing nature of the job. Whereas previously the job was considered boring, routine and challenging; it has now become much more involving with prospects for career advancement, development and progression. The librarian of today has to be not only knowledgeable in the basics of organizing information, they also have to acquire and utilize skills such as interpersonal communication, management, and technology among various skills. As the core article argues, the librarian of today is a diverse individual with numerous capabilities that are essential to the new demands of the current library.

The changing role of the librarian is based on the changing character of conventional institutions. Change is an inevitable process and the library as an established and conventional institution has not been immune to change. The factions that have traditionally and are still dependent on the library have also undergone change, which has consequently necessitated the change seen in librarianship today (Howard et al., 2016). Consider the growth of the education faction and the various aspects of education that rely on information from libraries. For instance, the rise of online learning and online course has necessitated the integration of library processes over the internet. In this way, the librarian of today performs work that integrates the traditional functions of the library over the world wide web to make information accessible to people. Such information is varied and not only based on written material. The librarian today works with materials that include the organization and sharing of information that include even films and music. Additionally, the aspect of online education means that the librarian has to deal with resources such as electronic books and electronic cataloguing of these books among other processes that rely on the user’s advanced needs (Maness, 2006).

The notion that librarians will become obsolete is a myth as Jesella observes in her article. The world relies on many factors for its progress and development and one of the key factors that drive the world as it is today and even in the future is the constant need for information. Every process that drives the world relies on information which a major aspect of a librarian’s work. In this way, the role of the librarian cannot become obsolete and will not become insignificant. Instead, librarianship evolves to meet the requirements of users. The profession has also evolved to include aspects considered fun and cool something that the traditional librarian was not associated with due to the stifling nature of traditional libraries. The libraries of today as mentioned before integrate traditional aspects with internet functions. As such, Casey and Savastinuk (2006) reiterate that the librarian of today has access to social media sites, web blogs, and entertainment sites among other aspects that are termed interesting and current. Such efforts are still based on the central obligations and responsibility of a librarian which is the organization and sharing of information with the world. To do so successfully in the current world means that the librarian has to be in tune with every kind of information. The upside of this is a facelift to the librarian and to the profession.

Burke (2002) evaluates the future role of a librarian by examining what is currently known as the virtual library. With virtual libraries, the concept is similar to traditional libraries and the only difference is that the virtual library is an online library with no physical resources; resources characterized by soft copy materials. The significance of looking at the virtual library is to support the relevance of the librarian in the evolving world that increasingly relies on the internet. Burke (2002) notes that in as much as the internet provides resources, scholars, education institutions, and other professional bodies still have a need for scholarly material, peer-reviewed material and reputable materials that are verifiable and credible. In this way, the librarian’s relevance is of vital significance. However, just like the core article observes, this integration of the virtual world in a profession that is considered predominantly dull makes today’s librarian a more interesting professional. According to Ross and Sennyey (2008), the role of a librarian in this new age has transitioned from someone who only collected and preserved reading resources to a professional whose work involves a complex interrelation of functions such as, organization, access, and dissemination. This role is yet to experience further transition as the world and information processes keep on changing based on newer and more advanced technological developments (Rowley, 2003). In this way, the librarian is yet to be considered more cool and hip with time.


In considering librarianship, it is evident that the librarian of today is a new and more interesting crop of professionals. The changing nature of the profession is based on the evolving nature of the work as related to technological advancements and emerging needs of information users. In this way, the librarian of today and the library profession has become much more involving and multi-dimensional in addition to being appealing to a wider variety of people. The future of librarianship is still yet to change and become even more diverse. This can be attributed to the nature of technology which is ever transitioning and consequently the requirements that come with need for information and associated resources. In another decade or two, it is possible that the librarian will occupy a central position in the global atmosphere owing to the influx of information and resources that will need, sharing, organizing and preserving among other functions. The librarian is yet to become obsolete and may even be in very high demand in years to come.


Burke, L., 2002. The future role of librarians in the virtual library environment.The Australian Library Journal51(1), pp.31-45.

Casey, M.E. and Savastinuk, L.C., 2006. Service for the next-generation library. Library journal131(1), pp.40-42.

Howard, K., Partridge, H., Hughes, H. and Oliver, G., 2016. Passion trumps pay: a study of the future skills requirements of information professionals in galleries, libraries, archives and museums in Australia. Information Research21(2).

Maness, J.M., 2006. Library 2.0 theory: Web 2.0 and its implications for libraries. Webology3(2), p.2006.

Ross, L. and Sennyey, P., 2008. The library is dead, long live the library! The practice of academic librarianship and the digital revolution. The Journal of Academic Librarianship34(2), pp.145-152.

Rowley, J., 2003. Knowledge management-the new librarianship? From custodians of history to gatekeepers to the future. Library management,24(8/9), pp.433-440.

Weber, M.B., 2013. Editorial: librarians of the future. Library Resources & Technical Services57(4), pp.186-188.