Internet Librarian: Who Comes Next?

By Janes, Joseph | American Libraries, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Internet Librarian: Who Comes Next?


Janes, Joseph, American Libraries


Back when I was in library school (go ahead, roll your eyes; I would too if I were you), I was looking forward to a promising career as a reference librarian. Obviously, something went terribly amiss along the way and I wound up as a library school educator; like I always say, though, it beats having to work for a living.

Anyway, in those halcyon days of youth, I was looking at positions with titles like humanities bibliographer or user services specialist, or even--gasp--reference librarian. Somewhere things have clearly changed, since libraries in American Libraries' Career Leads advertising section are now seeking electronic resources librarians and digital services coordinators.

Well, no shock there; but this month's issue theme of recruitment caused me to consider these new job titles and the new people who will hold them. First off, is our work really that defined by the stuff with which we work? Yep, and it's been that way for a while. We've always had people who specialized by formats: maps, music, government publications, newspapers, microforms, serials, media, and, of course, monographs. So, with good reason, we've been on that path for quite some time.

The second and far more compelling question is this: What should we be looking for in people who will be, to coin a phrase, "Internet librarians"? Certainly, they'd have to have facility with and interest in the Internet per se, people who know the guts of it, the protocols, the software, what makes it tick, and how to make it work. There's more to it than just technology, however. In a way, There may be a generation of people whom we might almost think of as "native" to the Internet: those who are now growing up with it and thinking of it as something that is just there, rather than as a technology or something new.

We'd also want people who would view the Internet as a place where they eagerly want to spend their professional time and effort, much as a potential pilot sees the sky or a budding marine biologist views the sea; people who have a passion and a drive to be there and to do good work there.

Such people will, inevitably, see the Internet differently than those of us who watched it emerge. They will see it not just as a communication medium or a way of automating ILL; it will instead for them be a place for original, even daring thought. …

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