Inquirer: Why are there so many aspiring librarians?

Susan Davis teaches a library-science class at Drexel, where enrollment in the program has grown more than threefold since 2000. Retirements are opening jobs for librarians. Photo by DAVID M WARREN.
Susan Davis teaches a library-science class at Drexel, where enrollment in the program has grown more than threefold since 2000. Retirements are opening jobs for librarians. Photo by DAVID M WARREN.

I try to tackle the contrast between contracting libraries in Philadelphia and a surge in library-sciences programs at regional colleges in a story for today’s Style & Soul section of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

You might think librarians are going the way of card catalogs.

After all, many of Philadelphia’s Free Library branches are on the chopping block come summer, and the number of public school librarians have dropped by half in the past 15 years.Yet local colleges tell a different story.

At a time when free access to Internet, books, movies and lectures is more important than ever, libraries across the country — where many librarians are graying and retiring — are seeking skilled information specialists, trained and college-educated in the library sciences. Library science programs here are filling the need. Read the rest here.

Go there, check out the story, comment and then come back here for the extras that didn’t make it into the full story.

  • Deborah Grill used to rip her fingers apart filing card catalogs in her Roosevelt Middle School library.
  • Once a student, not older than 12, was doing Internet research and was looking for a diagram of the brain. He found one and printed it. Grill had to explain the concept of valid Web sites because, no, a reputable diagram of a woman’s brain doesn’t include “shopping” and “gossip” portions.
  • “[In Philadelphia] librarians serve at the whim and will of the administration,” said Deborah Grill, a former librarian, now a literacy coach at Germantown High School. “There are a lot of librarians not used correctly. They aren’t seen as a valued person.”
  • “The Librarians I know will bend over backwards with anything you need because they’re curious for new information,” Grill said.
  • “Libraries are a key for information. Children need to be connected to books. A lot of kids in Philadelphia don’t get that otherwise. Information is power. The more you know the more power you have. For kids with a poor background, they need that power,” Grill said. “School libraries bring the books to the kids. You get to know the children. You select a book that would attract kids. You know their reading levels… If there are reading problems now, what will happen without libraries?”
  • “Librarians develop the collection based on the students’ needs, what you need to develop the curriculum,” Grill said. “It’s not just stamping out books.”
  • “News like that will only diminish enrollment, only going to exacerbate the problem, and we have a problem,” said David Fenske, dean of Drexel University’s College of Information Sciences. “This is a national crisis. We don’t have enough people, even in this economy.”
  • Of those Drexel library-sciences students, Fenske says just one in three aspire to “go into a job in a building with ‘library’ in the title. The rest handle information sciences or research for any number of companies in industries as diverse as publishing and pharmaceuticals. But that isn’t to ignore that libraries are hot in academia.
  • “The library of today is less about books per se and more about inquiry,” said Fenske
  • “Society’s need for information as an economic development issue is real,” Fenske said. “Where people are restricted in their need or their ability to access a public library, the opportunities for your citizens diminish. The opportunity to find jobs diminish. “
  • “With online resources, you still need librarians to teach people how to research and find who’s putting that information out there,” Long said. “Also, they need to promote the literature of the world.”

Full story here.

-30-