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The Real Poop

"That's what supertruefact-definitelynotfake.com says, so it's gotta be right." (Source)

In this data-fat world, the librarian remains the uber-overseer of information. Welcome to the wonderful world of "media." That's books, tapes, movies, websites, mashups—in short, anything that can be classified, tracked, and cataloged. 

With courage like Indie Jones, librarians navigate through forests of unreliable information—like when your GPS system relies on Apple Maps data to get you places.

The pay isn't going to buy you a McMansion, but it's a living wage at around $50,000. You could make as little as $34,000 and as much as $84,000. Before getting too worried about how much you'll be paid, though, you'll need to worry about actually getting a job (source). The competition for library jobs is bracing. 

Those Washington bean-counters at the Bureau of Labor Statistics predict sluggish job growth for librarians for the next few years, about a seven percent increase (source). But you're a tough cookie and a smart cookie, too. You didn't become a librarian for the money; you did it for the love of data.

In order to be qualified to manage all of that data, you'll need to learn a thing or two from a school or two. After getting your undergraduate degree, you're going to want to lock down a master's degree in library science (source). You'll also want PhD-level people skills, since librarians spend most of their work day interacting with co-workers, bosses, and helpless patrons in need of a researcher.

"Vampire cat? That sounds right to me." (Source)

People will be coming at you every minute of the day. If it's not your colleagues getting on your case about refining that database on edible insects, it'll be that library patron asking you deep questions like: "Oh, I'm thinking about writing about vampire cats. Do they exist? Or, uh, maybe I was thinking about bats. Oh, no, gnats. Vampire something, but I do know that the second word rhymes with 'cats.' Can you help me out, please?"

In a perfect librarian world, Ms. Perfect Librarian will take a deep breath, count to three, and in that perfect Zen moment remind herself: "There's no such thing as a dumb question."

"Just dumb questioners!" her subconscious could yell back at her. But in this perfect world, there's no such thing as a subconscious. Or an id, for that matter.

You're going to encounter a lot of people looking for information, and many of them will be stumped. Alongside coming to the rescue of strangers' research projects, you'll also do the daily duties that keep the library moving and grooving. You'll sit at a desk checking books in and out, and out and in. 

You'll collect fines, often from protesting, pesky people who dredge up imaginative excuses on why the books are ten weeks overdue and why they shouldn't be charged one red cent. You'll renew library cards and issue library cards. You'll choose what goes into the library collection. You'll do admin stuff, like hiring and firing folks. The list is actually quite long (source).

Librarians have been doing this stuff for as long as there have been libraries, and that's been more than a couple of millennia—maybe even before recorded history. Ancient Alexandria, in Egypt, had a grand library. Too bad it burned down in 48 B.C., incinerating the works of many ancient scribes. Boy howdy, that papyrus can burn (source).

Benjamin Franklin came up with the lending library in the American colonies in the 18th century—it is, however, not known if he charged late fees for overdue books (source).

Then the numbers came calling. In 1876, Mr. Melvil Dewey invented a way to classify all knowledge—and, by extension, books—by number. His system is called the Dewey Decimal System. Mr. Dewey was in love with "tens": ten categories, each divided into ten divisions, each, in turn, divided into ten sections. 

As we said, lots of tens here. Every subject is assigned a number. Every book has a number. Interested in folktales? Look under 398 or 398.2. Finding books was a numbers game, back in the day (source).

When computers moved in, the catalogs began to disappear, replaced by information accessible with the click of a mouse.

But one thing hasn't changed, and that's the librarian...though they often go by different names. 

A librarian could exist as an "information technician" in the windowless back room at a law firm hovering over computer screens of legal research databases; they could also be part of the army of dressed-down custodians of knowledge at the local public library, pushing carts back and forth through the stacks and re-shelving dog-eared books in overcrowded rows. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about a third of librarians ply their trade in elementary schools and high schools, close to a third work in local government, about twenty percent toil in universities, and the rest work everywhere else. So where you end up is up to you...and to whoever's hiring (source).