Librarianship as a profession is concerned with storage, organising and maintenance of books, papers and journals. But the modern librarian, instead of merely cataloguing books and journals, has become the nerve centre of intellectual development of a nation.
As India moves towards becoming a knowledge-based society with a proliferation of learning and research institutes, the demand and importance of library science is growing rapidly. As a result, job opportunities are on the upswing. With the advent of information technology, the traditional concept is being revised to include new-age tools of information like CDs, Internet, e-libraries etc.
“Today, a good librarian must be IT-savvy, a good manager and should be able to read the mind of every member,” says Dr VK Anand, librarian, Panjab University, Chandigarh, who is currently on a visit to Cambridge University to deliver a talk on radio-frequency identification technology (RFID), a tagging system used in modern libraries.
“Someone wanting to take up library science should have a basic knowledge of all major subjects, a methodical approach and organising ability,” says Bipin Kumar, manager, British Library, Chandigarh.
“The librarian should arrange information (books, journals, CDs) in such a way that everything should be at the reader’s fingertips,” says Gurpreet Singh, chief librarian of CT Group of Institutions, Jalandhar.
A librarian today needs to steer the set-up in a direction where people will want to come and spend their time at the library and leave with a feeling of wanting more.
Accomplishing this requires more than a degree. “The qualification will get you through the door, but when we talk to a candidate, we look for that creative spark, lateral thinking,” says Mike Welch, director, young audiences and future leaders programme/customer experience, British Council, New Delhi.
The modern library now actively caters to people and their needs — the British Council library has classified its books under two broad categories, ‘Be successful’ and ‘Be inspired’, separating material on management, medicine etc from fashion, films, art etc. This is the kind of innovative approach that a librarian is expected to come up with to draw readers in.
Jobs are available in public and government libraries, universities, professional and other academic institutions, news and broadcasting agencies, private libraries and libraries meant for special categories of people. They can also work in museums, galleries, archives, information and documentation centres. Some library technicians are self-employed as researchers, consultants, cataloguers etc on a contract basis.
Inputs from Sanchita Guha
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
As information experts, librarians find, collect and organise information, and implement systems that make information easy to access. Librarians have a variety of roles, depending on where they work. A librarian has to ensure that a person gets the relevant information in the minimum time with the least effort. The modern librarian may also devise ways to draw more people into trying out new material, thus becoming a knowledge manager
9.30 am: Reach office
10 am: Meet library staff
11 am: Check e-mail and updates
11.30 am: Respond to any queries
1 pm: Lunch
1.30 pm: Go over list of requisitions
4.30 pm: Inspect the library
5.30 pm: Check the day’s transactions
6.30 pm: Leave work
Entry level: Rs 1 lakh-1.5 lakh per annum
Middle level: Rs 1.8 lakh-Rs 2.4 lakh per annum
Senior level: Rs 3 lakh or more per annum
In government organisations, salary will depend on the grade and scale
. Must be a team player
. Command over infotech
. Good managerial skills
. Ability to analyse readers’ needs
. A knack for listening
. Knowledge of major topics
How do i get there?
Graduates from any stream can take a Bachelor’s degree in library science, a one-year course. The Master’s degree course in library science is also of one year. There are also diploma and certificate courses. The courses are Bachelor of Library & Information Science (BLISc), Bachelor of Library Science (BLSc), Certificate Course in Library Science, Diploma in Archives & Documentation, Diploma in Library Science (DLSc), MPhil, Master of Library & Information Science (MLISc), Master of Library Science (MLSc) and PhD
Institutes & urls
. National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resource (NISCAIR), New Delhi
. Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC), New Delhi
. Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi
. Banaras Hindu University
. Aligarh Muslim University
. Kurukshetra University
. Panjab University
. Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)
. Madurai Kamarj University
. Andhra University
Pros & Cons
. Career progression largely depends on one’s performance
. Opportunity to meet people and develop contacts
. Must never lose track of current events
. The hours may be long, depending on the set-up
Developing a user’s skills
A practitioner gives a glimpse of the changing role of a librarian
How do you feel the profile of a librarian has changed over the years?
I do believe that the profile and role has changed dramatically, especially in the present century with application of information and communication technology. Till the last century, the role of a librarian was confined to the information needs of its users.
Now it is not limited to providing information, but has been extended to developing the professional and personal skills of library users through activities like workshops, training programmes etc.
How will you define the impact on the profession after the advent of computer?
Computer technology has changed the face and services of libraries across the world. In India, its impact was felt after the 1990s on a larger scale. Till the end of the 1980s, libraries were operating its services manually, which required more time and staff effort. But with the IT application, libraries are able to meet the needs of the users better.
How should an aspiring librarian present him/herself to an interviewer?
An aspiring librarian should have the spark and zeal to think from the customers’ point of view. They should have the right kind of attitude to deliver the best to make readers feel successful and inspired in all activities of their life, e.g. design workshops, quizzes, displays, activities around special days of the year etc. A library should not give a feeling of a very serious and dull place; it should be a place where one wants to spend time.
Now that you are heading a library, what kind of ideas and practices do you try to incorporate in your team?
Being a librarian, one should motivate his/her team to come up with ideas and try new things.
A librarian should have regular brainstorming sessions with his team and work out new ways to attract customers and build a better collection.
R Vijay Shankar Interviewed by Sanchita Guha