Another day, another article about how librarians are becoming extinct. I wonder if that’s really true. Libraries, yes. But librarians? Really?
I used to know a trainee librarian. We used to joke that she had to spend an hour a day practising saying “Shhh” and glaring at people over her glasses. I suspect that’s what a lot of people think librarians do. Not true. They do a lot more than that.
Information has value and librarians are good with information. If you want to know anything about anything, your first port of call (after wikipedia), should be a librarian. They won’t know the answer immediately (well, they might, I suppose, depending on the question), but they will know where to find the information. If it’s something particularly tricky to find – they will at least know who has the tools to dig it up.
When I needed to know which worming pills were used in the 1960s (my life is so glamourous), I phoned up the science desk at the British Library and spoke to a librarian who found me the right journals to look in. There are librarians who specialise in local history, those who specialise in medicine, those who specialise in chemistry, in engineering, politics, digital archiving, patents, you name it. They can search databases, rummage through archives, find contacts for experts, source copies of rare documents. If that weren’t enough, they can recommend an author that writes like that author you already like.
I suggest that librarians are not going to go extinct. In an age where there is more and more (and more) information available, we need people with the skills to sift the nuggets from the noise. Librarians will probably need to rebrand themselves. They will be managers of information, searchers for fact. I’ve put some time into coming up with more fun names and my favourite so far is Information Ninja. Discrete, silent and (mostly) dead on target.