For Love of Information

Many people go into library science because they love books.  That’s nice, but it is not helpful when libraries are trying to keep up with technology that moves faster than publishing.  A good friend  of mine and co-worker, Lisa Zilinski, recently wrote a chapter for Introduction to Information Science and Technology.  As we were celebrating her accomplishment, she laughed about how her published work was already dated.  I do not want to discredit books, but there is more to information than what is in print and there is more to being a good librarian than loving books.

I am lucky because my entire family is breaking new ground every day.  My husband is a developer.  He designs programs for Android phones- every bit of language he writes is brand new because Android development is still relatively new.  My sibling’s jobs include mechanical engineer for Boeing, a physicist (mad scientist), a photographer, a marine (soon to be Gunnery Sargent), and the last works for the government doing secretive things.  I’m lucky because I’m close with my family and we all benefit from our diverse backgrounds and work together to develop new ideas.  My brother-in-law, the mad scientist, and I spent a good hour at my wedding discussing useful ways to store data to keep up with the NSF requirements, my sister-in-law and I are trying to plan a trip to Pakistan for cultural research and my husband and I create databases for fun…  We are a band of nerds and it is awesome.

I do not believe a librarian should (or can) know how to do everything.  I don’t know how to make atoms slow down enough to be able to examine them – that is my brother’s area.  But librarians must know how to keep up with technology and have a sincere interest in understanding new ideas.  Find a network of really interesting people and pick their brains constantly. I have learned a great deal about copyright from my sister (the photographer) – copyright is REALLY important to her!  I have a good idea of how to create a good database for scientist based on my conversation with my brother and I know how to program it because I work with my husband.  Networking with people who are and who are not librarians is the most useful thing you can do.

For my own part, I believe digital databases and archives are going to be a primary function of libraries/librarians in the next few years.  Digital archives are becoming more widely accepted and grants are starting to require researchers to store their data publicly.  Again, I’m lucky.  My husband and I enjoy “nerding out” and creating databases for fun…  But if you are a librarian and databases sound as foreign to you as slowing down atoms sounds to me, then you should use your superior research and networking skills to find those who can.  Maybe forge a working relationship with a local programming school?  Buckle down and read an HTML book (you will be surprised how simple it really is).  Or partner with librarians who are also programmers.

People should want to be librarians because they love information and they love making information easily accessible to all.  Love of books and reading should be in second place.  Useful innovation is everything.


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