So You Wanna Work in a Library?

A few days ago, I hosted one of my little sister's friends for a job shadow. Originally, a job shadow was easy: you followed the person you shadowed around all day and watched what they did. Now, job shadowing is a more complicated affair with forms to be filed and time requirements fulfilled.

One part of the form asked the shadowee to identify the education and experience needed to work in a library. So you wanna work in a library? This is how:

First, volunteer at your local library. This a major step to getting your foot in the door later. As a volunteer, you will learn about basic library processes and call number systems. If you apply yourself, you'll get to help out with larger programs, giving you even more experience.

Second, decide what you want to do in a library. Specific jobs in a library require different types of education and experience. Here is a list of the jobs to be found in libraries and the education/experience needed to get them.  Keep in mind, some of these jobs will change in scope depending on whether or not you work in a public or private library.

Library Technician and Library Asisstant
  • Description: handles the day to day tasks of running a library: check out, discharge, patron account handling, fine collection, sorting, filing, shelving, processing, and special projects
  • Requires: keyboarding skills, researching skills, a second language, and HTML
  • Education: bachelor's degree (any liberal arts) or equivalent experience
  • Description: enters bibliography information for books into the library cataloging system
  • Requires: keyboarding skills, multi-lingual
  • Education: bachelor's degree (any special research topic or library science)
Library Specialist (an advanced version of Library Assistant)
  • Description: full on, single project specialist.  All LA's have one very specific job though it might not be what they do all day.
  • Requires: keyboarding skills, massive writing skills, and awesome sauce customer service skills
  • Education: bachelor's degree or master's (library science preferred) or previous experience as a library technician
  • Description: run day to day business of a library
  • Requires: management skills
  • Education: Master of Library Science (MLS)
  • Quick Note: once you have an MLS, you are a librarian, regardless of job title.
Research Librarian

  • Description: assist students, staff, and faculty in their research, head large special projects, write research papers, handle grants and fund raising, teach classes
  • Requires: management skills, heavy research skills, interpersonal skills, and teaching skills
  • Education: MLS and a masters in another field
Library Supervisor
  • Description: over sees the work of a specific library unit
  • Requires: Management skills, keyboarding skills
  • Education: bachelor's degree
Library Manager or Specialist
  • Description: over sees the work of several similar library units
  • Requires: Management skills, keyboarding skills
  • Education: bachelor's degree
    Department Head
    • Description: over see the work of several library units that work together, teach classes
    • Requires: Management skills, interpersonal skills, networking skills, and teaching skills
    • Education: bachelor's degree at least, some positions require an MLS
    Preservationist/Preservation Specialist
    • Description: preservation of library materials
    • Requires: heavy technical skills
    • Education: bachelor's degree or more in preservation, fine arts, history, architecture, etc.
    Scanning Technician (a.k.a. Scanner Monkey)
    • Description: digitally preserve library materials
    • Requires: heavy computer skills
    • Education: bachelor's degree and serious computing experience
    • Description: collection and preservation of artifacts the library collects
    • Requires: book keeping and preservation skills
    • Education: master's degree or doctorate depending on specific position
    • Description: running a large library system, teaching classes, fund raising.  LOTS of fund raising.
    • Requires: years of library experience
    • Education: doctorate in library science at least
    I'm sure you noticed that a great deal of the positions require advanced degrees in Library Science. This is changing. Many people with technical skills and degrees in technology based programs (such as computer and information science) are making their way into the library. In recent ALA and other library conferences it has been noted that as computers take the place of paper, an MLS will no longer be required to become a librarian. This is reflected in many universities where the Deans of the Libraries, while having the work experience, are becoming far more diverse in educational background.


    Card on the War

    I don't normally listen to my favorite authors (or actors or musicians) speak out about politics, and for good reason. It's often not their particular forte, hence they are writers.

    Orson Scott Card, on the other hand, will get my attention and make me think twice about anything. Here's his article for The Ornery American on the Crisis of the Islamo-Fascist War.


    Over Population Myth

    I hear this so often that it makes me want to pull my hair out.

    Room for More: Population is Declining

    So many morons have us convinced that the Earth will die under the weight of humanity.

    The truth is, there isn't enough of us to support our ageing population. The real horror, isn't an overpopulated Earth. It is millions of people whose lives have been extended by modern medicine without descendants to help care for them, or even keep them company in their old age. The bulk of Baby Boomers and most of Generation X will grow old without family.

    Take a moment and think of all the people you know who said they will not have children or have actively eliminated children from their lives (through contraception and abortion). Who will look after them when they are older? If Social Security fails, which it surely will, how will they survive? They will outlive their retirement savings.

    Of course, by that time, they Culture of Death will have caught up with them and they'll probably be euthanized. After pushing so hard to be rid of the responsibilities associated with children, they also push to be rid of the responsibilities associated with helping their parents. If they're lucky, Generation Y, who by and large seem to be wise in the way of the world (most of them having been raised by the Veteran Generation or the earliest Boomers) may put a stop to that.

    Provided that their are enough of them to do so.


    It's Not All Bad

    At libraries, especially big, academic and research libraries, we all have the same problem: patrons who, on their own, over burden the entire system. We do everything we can to discourage them, but it never really works.

    Sometimes, they do recognize our hard work. Here's a list of things given to us:

    Home made Cookies
    Sticky Buns
    Cinnamon Rolls
    Wine (really good, expensive wine)
    A Cappuccino Machine (yes, a real, honest to goodness cappuccino machine)
    a thank you card

    The thank you card was last, but certainly not least. Saying thanks goes a long way. Even with all the other things we got and enjoyed, it was the thank you card that made it into the staff newsletter (with pictures) to be circulated far and wide.

    The next time you are at the library, let the people behind the desk know you appreciate them.

    Crazy Awesome Sculptures!

    Hub Cap Creatures!


    Comic Books and Libraries

    Our Diversity Studies Room has a new exhibit: Graphic Novels: Comics as Art, History, and Literature. As always, we have a note book there for guests to comment. What was the first comment?

    Are comics really an appropriate exhibit?


    They are.

    As an avid comic book reader, I have had the pleasure of reading some of the most insightful, beautiful, and poetic works of fiction (and non-fiction) the world has ever seen. I'll pick three comics displayed in the exhibit and tell you why they are so important. I'll start with:

    1. Watchmen by Alan Moore

    Set in 1985, Watchmen follows the lives of costumed superheroes around the mysterious murder of one of their own while the United States edges closer and closer to nuclear war with the Soviets.

    Heavy symbolism, multi-layered dialogue, and innovative adaptation of cinematic techniques to paper make Watchmen not to be missed and not to be left where the kids can find it.

    Here's an online annotated guide to this grand work of Moore's.

    2. Sin City by Frank Miller

    Sin City is a series of stories done in film noir style. Sin City is the nick name of Basin City, a town so rife with crime that the police are little more than SWAT units. The stories revolve around the police force, it's heavy corruption, and the various locales within the city proper.

    Each story builds upon the from the last, often in subtle ways that reveal their depth later on. Winner of the Harvey and Eisner awards, Sin City is a great read. But, again, not one for the kiddies.

    3. MAUS by Art Spiegelman

    We call this "Required Reading" at Penn State. In MAUS, Spiegelman recounts the tale of his father, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. In MAUS, we watch Art's father, Vladek, through his trials in the camps, become the type of person that the Nazi's said Jews were: stingy and difficult. The story deals with those who lived through the Holocaust and those who can never escape it's deadly grasp.

    Unlike the two above, let your kids read this one. In fact, buy copies for everyone you know.

    In 1992, MAUS won the Pulitzer. 'Nuff said.

    These are just three of the great comics that appear in the exhibit. Here are a few of my favorites (besides MAUS).

    Death: the high cost of living by Neil Gaiman

    Death, once every 100 years, must take on a human persona and live like a human being for a day so as understand the people she takes to the afterlife. Loving, perky, and attractive, Gaiman's take on the actual person of Death has become a staple in comic bookdom, appearing as a cameo everywhere.

    Appropriate for the kiddies, Death: the high cost of living won the 1992 Comic Buyer's Guide Award.

    Kabuki: Circle of Blood

    Going round and round, Kabuki: Circle of Blood raises the circle to it's own mythic form. From the circular scythes the anti-hero uses to the circular dialogue and plot, Kabuki: Circle of Blood is one of my favorite reads.

    The series follows a government backed assassin as she navigates her memories, dreams, nightmares, thoughts, reminiscence, and philosophy in a search for identity. Not for the kids.

    Sandman: The Dream Hunters

    A curious tale of love, The Dream Hunters follows a kitsune (fox spirit) and a Buddhist monk who travel into the realm of the King of All Night's Dreaming to find each other. Layered with meaning and illustrated in dream like quality by the fantastic Yoshitaka Amano, this is a must read for everyone and a good bed time story for adults.

    Too many people think of comics as something for children with no menaing for adults. Comics, in their original form, were never meant for children. Even today, parents would be shocked by the content in most comics. Lenore, Strangers in Paradise, Milk and Cheese, and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac are not for children, but entries such as Bone are comics the family can enjoy together.

    Comics have gotten shafted for too long due to public ridicule. Bring on the comics!

    More good comics:
    Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
    V for Vendetta
    Fruits Basket

    Librarians Love the Onion!

    Headline of the Day!


    In Service: Clever? Sly? Crafty!

    This was less of a class and more of a whole lot of networking. All of us library crafters got together and showed off our stuff. The Pink Orchid Invitations link to the side is the sight of one of the many crafters in the library.

    Two of the women showed off stamping. Several showed off scrap booking, cropping, altered books, and artists trading cards. Some of us came in wearing our creations: crocheted and knitted sweaters, scarves, and hats. Some of us made jewelry and some of us sewed.

    The sum total of the whole thing was that we got to meet other crafters and network our abilities.

    See? We do more than just read books.

    In Service Day: Remove the Barriers

    My first actual class at the In Service (having taught one during the first session) was Remove the Barriers with Susan. Susan works with all of our disabled patrons so that they have equal access to all the materials at the library. Her presentation showed us the many technologies used in the Disabilities Center.

    She started with a few stories to illustrate that not all of her patrons are physically challenged. Some have learning disabilities and need special tutoring. Some have psychological handicaps that prevent them from attaining everything they need at the library. Some of them simply have a few vision problems and need help seeing their books.

    Dealing with such a wide range of individuals results in the use of a myriad of high and low tech approaches to help the patron.

    Susan started with the low tech equipment. She had VERY large ruled paper, magnifiers, a Braille machine, and a cue recorder.

    Braille machines cost an average of $600. They aren't used very often in the Disabilities Center because our older patrons with sight impairment prefer the high tech approach. Assignments and syllabi are often typed on the Braille Machine. Books are just too big for Susan to handle, but if it is absolutely required, there are prisons in the Midwest where the inmates are trained in Braille and are able to produce entire books for small fees.

    The cue recorders are one of the two ways that sight impaired patrons read books without Braille. It is simply a tape recorder that allows our volunteers to add paragraph and page cues to a document they are reading aloud. Sight impaired patrons can then go back and forth in a document to find exactly what they need quickly and easily.

    Susan also showed us tables that move up and down at the touch of a button. This may not sound like much, but when you have hundreds of different sizes, shapes, and styles of wheelchairs, scooters, and regular chairs, moving tables help a lot.

    The first of the high tech approaches to helping the disabled is the Kurzweil 3000, produced by Kurzweil Educational Systems. The Kurzweil 3000 is a program that scans an entire book. It then reads the book aloud while highlighting the words. This not only helps our sight impaired patrons, but our patrons with ADHD love it. It keeps their attention trained solely on the book. You can change the speed and highlighting effect to match your own preferences. Susan told us of a student that is sight impaired, but able to listen to the Kurzweil program at speeds so high that it sounds like jibberish to her. The only draw back to Kurzweil is that it can only read Kurzweil files.

    The second high tech, and very ergonomic, approach to equal access is the Maltron equipment. We have a Maltron Left hand key board that allows our patrons with missing or disabled right hands to type one handed. Patrons who need to use this keyboard are trained in the Malt Method and taught key commands for a regular keyboard as well.

    Jaws 6.0 provides web access to the blind. It reads everything on the screen aloud and accesses everything through keystrokes on a normal keyboard. Our tech staff like to come into the Disabilities Center and double check the accessibility of their websites by testing them on Jaws.

    Zoom Text is another program that helps the sight impaired. It changes the magnification of the screen and reads aloud.

    The Clearview 500 is a closed circuit TV that enlarges the text on books, maps, and other material placed under it's scanner.

    We also have a tactile enhancer that allows the blind to read graphs and 'see' pictures.

    Susan also told us about the digital cameras some of our students use that allow them to see the black board up close, even from the back of a class room.

    These are the things we use to help out patrons get equal access to the libraries.


    In Service!

    Today is our In Service day at the library. I'll post on the different classes I attended (and taught) later today and tomorrow. But for your reading enjoyment:

    Checked Out by John J. Miller

    In this article, Miller questions the role of libraries in today's easy access world to inexpensive books and how it is changing the way we read.