Magazine article American Libraries

And Then There Were Nuns. (Wills World)

Magazine article American Libraries

And Then There Were Nuns. (Wills World)

Article excerpt

You know that the library profession is in big trouble when the issue of the day is not censorship. What could be bigger than censorship? How about survival? That's what is on everybody's mind. Where are the young librarians? Where are the young library science students? Numbers don't lie. Our profession is rapidly aging, and where is the next generation of librarians? The fact is that they don't exist. Bright young people who are interested in the challenge of the storage and retrieval of information are going into high-tech careers. Do you blame them?

What kind of a profession is it that can't recruit young people to carry its professional banner? Can you imagine this kind of a dilemma in law, medicine, engineering, or science? Young people are fighting tooth and nail to get into the graduate schools that serve these lucrative and promising professions. We can create as many librarian recruitment campaigns as we want, design as many posters extolling the life of the librarian as our imaginations can create, and hold as many conference programs on this crisis as our budgets can afford, but it all amounts to nothing more than a hill of beans. No bright young person with any realistic sense of the future will fall for any of our professional propaganda. We are like 19th-century blacksmiths trying to keep the smart technical kids from flocking to the new automotive industry.

Would you want to spend thousands of dollars to send your highly intelligent son or daughter to library graduate school? Be honest. You know you'd be just as well off investing your money in Enron or Kmart. For students interested in information science, computer engineering is the way to go. Recruitment campaigns can't change reality or alter the future. For thousands of years we stored information in libraries; now we store it in computers. We are at the end of a wonderful ride. That's the real pity of the current recruitment crisis. We are about to spend the final years of our proud profession trying to resist the inevitability of the future. The only thing that recruitment campaigns will accomplish is to reinforce everyone's traditional stereotype of the librarian: that we are old-fashioned and slow to change.

Let me tell you a little story about dying professions. …

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