Is this What a Perfect World Looks Like?

I viewed “The Librarian 1947 Vocational Guidance Film” for a class assignment. Watching it, one can see how libraries, as an information organization, have changed or remained the same since 1947.

The first thing that struck me was the representation of the librarian’s gender. Despite that, the video acknowledged that librarians would serve a diverse clientele, from the disabled to other professionals. Post-World War II was notorious for discouraging women from entering the workforce, but they were featured prominently as library workers. Yet when the video showed the manager, it was a man.

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The feminization of the profession has been present since the nineteenth century and will most likely not change soon. The Feral Librarian cited the ALA’s research, where most librarians are women, yet they occupied only 58% of management positions.

Though the video emphasized a reliance on print materials, the ending showed librarians using the latest technology, such as microfilm. Today, library professionals must be up-to-date as well to remain efficient. I was pleasantly surprised about the video acknowledging the presence of libraries other than public ones such as academic and special libraries. Sarah Wallace’s “What is a Librarian?” was a chapter published in the seventies who seemed to promote the public library as the only type of library.

The video rigidly divided librarianship as an urban and middle class profession. The video twice referenced that librarians would be expected to perform outreach in rural communities, as if people from the countryside cannot or would not want to be librarians. Librarianship today is considered to be a middle class profession and it seems to have been the case in the twentieth century, as finances would have been required to afford post-secondary education.

The film essentialized the qualifications of the librarian as being 1) a lover of books and 2) enjoying helping others. The bare bones of locating information and providing service though, is still at the core of librarianship. The options within librarianship they mentioned (cataloguers, reference, circulation, children’s and academic) still exist. In contrast, librarianship now has proven to be flexible and versatile, expanding into fields such as business, government and law. The video insists on the fantasy of librarianship always being stable.

cataloguers

I was surprised about the claim that there are thousands of jobs available. Our generation has been promised that the greying of the profession will provide young librarians with ample opportunities, yet I have been informed that such a myth has been perpetuated since the 1980s, with no signs of an occupational exodus. That being said, it was most likely easier in 1947 to obtain a library job, as I know just a generation ago, some library staff obtained their positions with just a BA. The increase of professionalization and education requirements are still on the rise though, where a second graduate degree is recommended to be qualified for certain kinds of librarianship.

This video presents an idealized world of librarianship being maintained with a status quo and seems reluctant to present changes in the field.

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