Librarian: Informational Interview Report

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[Thanks to EH for sharing his informational interview report about being a librarian.]

At the time of setting up the interview, I had started to entertain the idea of being a librarian. This came about due to a recommendation from a friend that I apply for an Assistant Librarian position in our local city. Pondering the job and what I knew about librarians, I thought this could possibly be something that would be a suitable career. Fortunately, I have a friend Tom from square dancing and knew that he is a librarian.

My main goal for the interview was to find out more about the actual job. Everybody has impressions for what the job is and what it would be like, but I am convinced that there is a lot more to the job than most people think.

The questions I asked and the responses are listed below:

  • How did you get decide to start a career in library sciences? Tom initially was working on his master’s degree as a chemist. He decided that he enjoyed the process of research more than the actual chemist work and decided to switch career paths.
  • What is your job title and what is the name of your company? Tom is a Senior Reference Librarian for a federal national laboratory.
  • What is a typical day like? Tom starts his day by checking and responding to intra-library requests. He checks the statistics on intra-library loans. He has special projects that are assigned to him from his Director. He also works with patrons that come in looking for specific research. At times he will inform patrons how to conduct the search on their own, if they like. Other times, he will conduct the actual research himself and notify the patron of the results when he finds them.
  • What are the employment prospects? Tom stated that the growth and promotional opportunities for his position are minimal and that it depends on the actual library. Directors generally come from outside of the library and do not necessarily have a degree in library science. Educational librarians generally have a traditional promotional track to follow.
  • What are his official job responsibilities? Tom is responsible for answering questions from patrons, locate materials, process requests from patrons and other libraries, and some training as requested.
  • What does he like about the job? He enjoys the challenge in finding things that have been elusive. He also enjoys working with the public and the normalcy of standard office hours.
  • What does he not like about the job? In his current situation, the library is always at the whim of budget cuts. The library does not tangibly produce revenue so it can be considered a money sink and therefore expendable if needed due to budget shortfalls.
  • What is the general salary? His thoughts were that the initial salary in the area is between $50k to $60k. He also stated that when he moved here from the Midwest, his salary was almost doubled from what it was.

One item that was surprising was his depiction of the work environment. My main image of a library is many books and shelves with the large card catalog dominating the area. His portrayal of his environment is mostly cubicles and electronics. He stated that card catalogs are not used much anymore and that most queries are completed online. There is an area that he indicated had lots of books and such but it is located more like a sanctuary out of the way. It is a nice place, he said, to escape and do some study or work in an environment that is quiet and most importantly, away from the desk phone and where people cannot find you; allowing you to work in peace.

The interview helped solidify my thought processes around the possibility of pursuing a career in library sciences. I appreciate the fact that the opportunity to help people is present in the position. I also appreciate that the job does have some variation in tasks and overall the job impression itself was positive.

One thing that was disheartening was the fact that the job outlook for librarian in the area is very slim. Tom pointed out the fact that San Jose State has a library science degree that is available online and that the area produces a lot of librarians. His stated that to find a full time position as a librarian would be significantly easier out of the area and relayed that his former assistant librarian finally found a job after a year of searching and he thinks she is working full time.

I do not think I would go back and change any questions. I know more about the profession and have since looked into other jobs that could appeal to me.

I did thank Tom the next day and since we share the same hobby, I will be able to thank him again in person at the next area dance.



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