Librarian jobs have changed: Update on the 1912 Library Director’s report

The library at Carroll University (then Carroll College) circa 1920. Photo courtesy Carroll University Archives.

The library at Carroll University (then Carroll College) circa 1920s-1930s. Photo courtesy Carroll University Archives.

Yesterday, I wrote about a little archival find: a 1912 library director’s report from my current workplace.

Several commenters equated this to: Librarians’ jobs haven’t changed in a 100 years.

ERMAHGERD…no! That sounds like a bad clickbait headline with black and white photos of shushing librarians. It makes us seem like we’re complacent, when most of us are not.

What I was trying to get across – and it’s my fault for not stating it more clearly – was that I was able to see a lot of parallels to today’s job duties of librarians. I had expected to read the report from 1912 and chuckle at some of the work the library was doing. But I didn’t. Instead, I saw how our VALUES have remained consistent over time (providing access, organizing info, place to learn and get help, materials for the community). That’s what I was trying to emphasize.

I have 12 years of librarian-ing under my belt now. There are plenty of things that I’m doing now in 2015 that I wasn’t doing in 2003:

  • Researching 3D printers for my library.
  • Overhauling LibGuides.
  • Working on video tutorials.
  • Using ethnographic research to make the library better.
  • Planning a large-scale student “party” in the library.

So our job duties may change over time, but we still remain wedded to our core values. Consistency is good. Complacency is not.

Students working with a librarian at the Carroll University library - 2014.

Students working with a librarian at the Carroll University library.


12 thoughts on “Librarian jobs have changed: Update on the 1912 Library Director’s report

  1. Pingback: Mr. Library Dude | A Little Library History: 1912 Library Director’s Report

  2. I really like this quote from your post, “Consistency is good. Complacency is not.” Because it so perfectly sums up how I feel about being a Librarian.

  3. Going back to the original article, I see that my reblog note was one of just two comments, so I assume I was part of the original panic. Sorry about that! The update you provide above is exactly what I hoped to convey by reposting your article — namely, that libraries’ principles have stayed constant, even as their methods and technologies have changed. I assumed that the members of my audience who went on to read your article would come to the same conclusion, but I see now that it’s an important distinction to spell out. Thanks for the clarification!

  4. I understand how you were panicked into putting out the update, but anyone who works in libraries should have realised that you were drawing parallels.

    It was an exceptionally interesting piece of memorabilia to share, thought provocative about the life of the librarian then. You did a wonderful job in drawing out comparative tasks of today. Unfortunately, perception of any modern librarian’s role is still entrenched in the past – of stamping books with the return date and shelving. In our library, we no longer stamp books, nor do we shelve books – library attendants are employed for this task, though much of the ‘sorting’ is done by machine!!!

    Yes, arguably, our core values are still the same, we just need to be more visible! Ranganathan’s Laws of Library Science may have been some time ago, and things have dramatically changed with technological and information revolutions, but at heart they are still viable, aren’t they?
    One link to Ranganathan –

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  6. There is a certain beauty and uniqueness about the way in which librarians are so focused and true to the core values that underpin their profession. So many industries have become corrupt in their practices in order to make extra money or gain power. While the methods and technologies have evolved over the years, it is the honesty and dedication of the library workers mentality that has ensured the survival of the industry over the years and into the future.

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