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When most people think about librarians they remember the mean, glasses-wearing old lady who worked at their school or public library. You probably assumed they had nothing to do better with their lives than sit in a library all day—either because they were really nerdy or just boring. You may even be scarred from being hushed by a librarian when talking too loud in the library. Well, I've come to shed some light on the subject of who librarians actually are! So buckle up, because your childhood assumptions are about to be blown out of the water.
Why become a librarian?
Despite popular thought, becoming a librarian isn't a random job to pick up because someone is bored. Most librarians are actually passionate about learning and education. Whether they work at a school, university, museum, or public library, librarians want to help people learn and explore their imagination. Reading for fun helps vocabulary and imagination growth, not to mention giving people something productive to do instead of mindlessly watching Netflix. Reading for school helps students learn more about different subjects, and helps them stay out of trouble. There are endless benefits of reading for people and for communities, so it is easy to see how someone could become very passionate about being a librarian!
How do you become a librarian?
Another huge misconception about librarians is that anyone who likes books (or shushing people) can become a librarian. You'll be surprised to learn that you not only have to have a Bachelor's degree but also a Master's degree in Library Science to be a librarian! What? Library science? That can't be a thing.
Sorry, folks, if I'm turning your childhood on its head, but yes librarians have Master's degrees. Being a librarian isn't just sitting at a desk shushing people or checking books in and out. You have to know how to properly catalog books in library computer programs so that people can find books they are looking for. This includes things like subject headings, topic terms, and a lot of other things that can't be randomly inputted but actually has to be put in a certain way according to rules by the Library of Congress, OCLC, or other standardized systems.
In addition to cataloging, reference work is also more complicated than one would think. If a patron comes to the reference desk asking a question about how to find something, the librarian has to be familiar with an extensive amount of resources in order to help the patron find what they're looking for.
If you've ever looked for a certain book in a library—maybe one that just came out, or one you had been dying to read—you will know the importance of books being in the right place. The Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal numbering systems are more complicated than one might think. Trained librarians can easily reshelve books quickly, allowing patrons the ability to find books easily and enjoy reading! There are many more things librarians learn in school, but these are a few of the most important.
What to Do With This Information?
Well for one, and I hate to use this cliché but I can't resist, don't judge a book by its cover! Maybe to you, it seems like librarians are nerds, useless, boring fun-suckers, but I assure you most librarians are not at all like that. They want a positive and fun learning environment and love seeing people learning and enjoying reading. Also, remember that they are actually really smart people! They have at least a Master's degree and took classes specialized for their career field.
So next time you walk into a library and see a librarian, give him or her a big smile. Or even better, shake their hand and tell them that you are grateful for what they do. Heavens knows they need to hear that more often.