Librarianship: Then and Now

You gotta love the 1940s. “Are books your friends?” the old-timey male narrator asks me. Well I like books fine and all but I wouldn’t say that I am friends with the things. I generally try to cultivate friendships with living things, humans in particular, but that’s just me.

Jokes aside, I actually really enjoyed this clip. Despite being over 60 years old, some of what is said still applies today. Libraries are still about connecting people with information, though the forms of this information have changed a lot. Card catalogues have been replaced with online catalogues and databases. Reference services are increasingly being conducted online and over email. And circulation librarians have all but disappeared, their roles being filled by library techs.

I loved the mention of the Library of Congress as relatively new, when now it seems like it’s always been a part of libraries and librarianship. The Library of Congress was established in the 1800’s, so even in the 1940s it had established itself as a strong and prominent organization in librarianship and the information community. At the time of this video, its collection consisted of over 5 million documents and manuscripts. Today, the online database for the Library of Congress boasts of 18 million records for resources in their collection, all which can be accessed from your bedroom.

The library is an important organization in communities and each library has to answer a specific need. This was the case in 1947 and it hasn’t changed. What’s more so, libraries then and now are still trying to answer the same basic need: the need for information in all its forms and the need for teaching and instruction in the newest information technologies. In the 1940s, these technologies included things like micro-films whereas now, librarians have a multitude of technologies available including online databases, and potentially, even innovations like the 3-d printer. Librarianship has always been about technology and now with the constant changes and innovations, being a librarian as never been so exciting.

Watching this video I imagined myself working as a librarian at this time. The job market would be less treacherous than it is now. I am constantly hearing from older people in the work force how difficult it’s gonna be after I graduate, and how they don’t envy me. Yet if I had a time machine I wouldn’t choose to go back to the 1940s. I live in a time of competition and innovation. It will be challenging, for sure, but it will push me to work harder, be more productive and improve myself and my field. I have grown up with constant change and innovation and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.



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