What Makes a Librarian a Librarian?

If you are in the library and you have a question you can ask a librarian!  And anyone you see working behind a counter or desk in a LIBRARY must be a LIBRARIAN, right?  Not so fast.


There are all kinds of people working in libraries.  Librarians, archivists, digital media specialists, paraprofessionals, volunteers, and even
. .  . wait for it . . . students.  Can anyone be a librarian?  We librarians are pretty proud to be to members of a club which isn’t all that exclusive but which does require credentials.

All librarians have a master’s degree.  Here at St. Mary’s the librarians have degrees from different library schools (yes – we still call some of them library schools, although some have changed their names to schools of information).  We have been to U. of Texas at Austin, U. of Pittsburgh, University of Michigan, Rutgers, U. of South Florida, U. of South Carolina, and U. of North Texas.  AND – our degrees have different names including MS, MLIS (Master of Library & Information Science), MIS, MSI, MSIS, and MLS.

I have an MLS from Rutgers University.  Most of the time MLS means Master of Library Science.  But my diploma says “Master of Library Service.”  Come on up to my office if you want to see it. Rutgers doesn’t give diplomas with that name anymore so pretty soon I’ll have a genuine relic.

So how does a person learn to be a librarian?  Do we learn the Library of Congress classification system?  Practice speaking in a whisper?  Memorize the almanac?  Actually it depends.  Some library school students study how to catalog materials (organize and classify them so you can find them).  Some take classes to learn to become good researchers and to help other do research.  Some learn how to preserve materials or archive them.  These days many library school students also learn to create digital learning materials, to use social media, to blog, and to develop tools for finding information.  Some library school students write a masters’ thesis and some don’t.  Most do an internship.  Most of us take statistics and research methods.

Who wants to be a librarian?  Almost anyone!  Lots of SMCM alums have become librarians and archivists.  Did you know that the head archivist at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum and Archives is a SMCM alum (and she’ll be on campus later this semester).  A totally cool young adult librarian in a northern Virginia public library is an alum.  And did you know that the associate director of the SMCM Library is a SMCM alum???  Go find Kat Ryner (LI 225) and ask her about becoming a librarian.

We are always in the process of becoming librarians.  We learn lots of basics in library school and the real education starts once we get out and working.  Those graduate school courses give us a really solid foundation, get us started thinking about all kinds of issues that librarians care about (fair use of materials, copyright, open access, the digital divide).  We learn to do research and about important library journals (librarians research, write, and publish just like other faculty).

So now you know what makes a librarian.  If you want to know more, ask a librarian to lunch, or coffee. Another thing you should know is that librarians LOVE to talk about why we love being librarians.  We might make you want to be one, too.

tattooed librarian


2 thoughts on “What Makes a Librarian a Librarian?

  1. “All librarians have a master’s degree”
    Not all. I’m a librarian without one, but I do have a bachelor’s degree in Library and Information Science.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s