From The Wall Street Journal:
The next time you visit a public library and see an older person at the information desk, someone near retirement age, take a good look. You may be seeing the last of a dying breed, the professional librarian.
Years ago, a librarian was someone who held a master’s degree in library science (MLS) issued by a graduate program accredited by the American Library Association. Those of us who attended library schools underwent rigorous preparation, usually assignments that forced us to become familiar with the reference books and research tools that filled the university library.
The Internet changed all that. The library user who used to rely on a librarian for help can now Google his question and find more data in a few seconds than a librarian was able to locate in hours of research.
Many people who work as librarians no longer hold an MLS degree. Public libraries have created a new position called “library associate”—college graduates who do the same work as librarians but receive lower salaries than their MLS counterparts.
The erosion of the MLS degree has been mirrored by the disappearance of library schools from American universities. The University of Chicago and Columbia University once offered the best librarian training programs in the country; both institutions closed their library schools in the early 1990s.
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The mood among some librarians is pessimistic. A New Mexico librarian recently told me: “I spend most of my time making change and showing people how to print from the computer or use the copier. I sure don’t get the reference questions like I used to.”
A colleague in the Washington, D.C., area expressed similar views: “If I didn’t spend my time helping people look for lost keys, wallets, jackets, sweaters, gloves, backpacks, cellphones and laptops, I’m not sure I’d even have a job.”
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One bright spot: Some public libraries have created jobs for “technology assistants,” positions filled by tech-savvy young people with community-college degrees and plans for information-technology careers.
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)