I tend to meet a lot of people when I am travelling; but rarely strike up conversations. Usually, people who are bored with the waiting to reach their destination; and by chance are sitting next to me…. strike up a conversation, I willingly chat them up. Most conversation starters – not necessarily in same order, are ‘Where are you travelling to?’ or ‘What is your name?’ and inane chatter follows.
Only when they ask ‘What work do you do?’
Then my inner monster smiles as I am about to pull them into a vortex of discussion on the career path of my choice. I proudly reply that I am a LIS professional and brace myself for the flurry of questions. Very few give informed nods! The rest of the people frown and ask me ‘What does it mean?’ or ‘What work does it entail?’ When I respond they say Oh! You are a librarian! … you work in a library! As if it is the last forsaken career choice I made. Philosophically they opine that it must have been bad stars or bad-fortune that I choose Librarianship. They are aghast to know that it was an informed choice I made. For most of them especially in India a ‘proper’ profession includes either being a doctor or an engineer or an acceptable extent an IT professional! Their career vocabulary and imagination ends there.
Suddenly they ask me “Why did you say LIS professional when a librarian could have sufficed”? I reply that I want people to recognize Library and Information Science (LIS) as a field; and that a librarian usually makes one think of traditional librarians who deal only with books but Library and Information Science Professional deals not only with print media but also with e-resources and social media.
Most of the conversations end here… as people do not want to venture into dull and boring conversation regarding books and libraries. Even I tend to quieten from this meaningless banter, unless provoked.
Others more aware respond saying how wonderful it was that I could spend all my time reading books in my library! I smile but my inner monster grins and itches to give a sarcastic reply like “Yes, I could spend all my time reading books in my library provided if I got time away from my duties and if my interests included reading prescribed scientific books and text books in Sciences!”
Most people’s idea of librarian is from stereotypes presented in movies: a stern eccentric person who is mostly a female cardigan wearing species with a bun and spectacles shushing from her desk; sporting by turns – a most morose or harsh expression that brooks no arguments or encourages further conversation. They look at me and sheepishly say that I do not resemble one! In horror they realize what they have said and unwittingly meant. Then wearing an apologetic demeanor wonder if they hurt my sensibilities. When I laugh it off they are intrigued and liked to know more.
Few brave who venture out of curiosity do ask ‘What did I study to get that job?’ Most however, have already assumed by this time that I have the most basic educational qualification. I throw them a shocker by replying that I am a PhD in Library and Information Sciences.
They are astounded and amazed that one has to do a course in LIS and are even more astonished that there is a PhD in LIS. They assume that a librarian only issues and returns books, so anyone can do it. They go about giving instances that a secretary or a clerk is managing the library in their institution without any LIS qualifications….to which I sadly agree.
Some so called intellectual and erudite persons opine “Now that Internet and Google is available a librarian will become obsolete!” Yes I agree that the new-age search engines have made searching for information a child’s play, but what about authenticity of the source and usability of information? My answer to them is “Just because we have calculators do math teachers become obsolete????”
I then ask them if Google provides them with an exact answer to the word or query they searched? They respond that the results are in millions! I tell them that a LIS professional gives them one relevant answer after referring validated sources/resources. Incase the LIS professional is unable to provide a direct answer immediately then he or she directs the inquirer to another source/resource.
By now I got them thinking…..
Few others say “Ive got a wonderful ‘Tablet’ or ‘IPad’ so I don’t need to go to a library and can have access to the latest book online. So I don’t need a library or a librarian’s help now”. I agree that it is true to some extent in developed countries but not in most developing countries including India. I substantiate my claim that libraries and librarians are still relevant in India as we still do not have access to Tablets in public libraries in India, so common man cannot use it. We have hybrid libraries (print and electronic collections) where a librarian can still help and assist. And it is not possible to buy all the books online, as some may still be in print and not digitized and also it is too expensive for a single person to procure all the books published in their respective subject fields. Many agree to my reasoning.
Now that they are armed with information they want to know how lucrative it is before recommending it to friends and family and more importantly display their knowledge about this career path to their neighbors!
Many have a roundabout way of questioning regarding my salary “Do I run a business along with doing my regular librarian job?” they ask… Their question always amuses me. When I ask them why they think that Im handling two jobs – they say that the person managing the library in their institution is paid the same as the clerk; which is not much. I sadly contemplate the situation – that with so many LIS professionals graduating there is heavy competition; and where there is huge supply of manpower the job goes to the person willing to take the lowest salary.
However a few abrupt ones ask ‘How much do you earn?’ Even more rude ones directly ask “How can a librarian afford to fly in the salary they get!” I feel sorry for these individuals myopic view and reply that like most professions – librarianship pays as per your skill set! Are there not enough doctors working in small clinics in every street and few high flying ones! Yes those practicing in the street may do it because they have not updated themselves or out of choice or philanthropic attitude. Those who are highflying may have got the jobs either through hard work or by way of connections or relations! This is common for almost all professions and the same holds for library sciences.
One cannot blame these individuals for their perception of our profession. But it would be my folly if I did nothing to educate them…So I take it upon myself to educate them…
Library Sciences is a noble profession like teaching and practicing medicine!
A library is the foundation for all existing professions! A teacher, engineer, doctor all have to visit the library to learn and update themselves as they cannot afford to buy all the books and journals that have been published all over the world! Every administrator enthuses in his/her speech at gatherings that the Library is the backbone of every academic institution but very few actually extend grants and aid its development.
One needs to work out in the gym to build the body and work out/read in a library to build their brains!
I then get on my soapbox & pepper my discourse with anecdotes to make it interesting. I tell them about ancient India, where references to the kings munificence and benevolence towards educational institutions and libraries development is recorded in ancient texts and manuscripts. Nalanda, Taxila and Vikramshala Universities in ancient India had good collections of manuscripts in their libraries. It is said that the then Emperor of India, King Davapal in Nalanda University in Bihar had opened nine floor multi-storeyed library in 600 AD with massive collection of manuscripts; which was burnt and completely destroyed by Bakhtiar Khilji, who invaded India in 1205 AD. (Source: http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/1204/9/09_chapter%202.pdf) It is said that the library kept on burning for about six months.
An audible gasp goes out when people realize that how much knowledge was destroyed and lost. Usually by this time many other nearby travelers start contributing their own anecdotes about Indias rich culture and heritage that was destroyed and how much we would have benefitted if these libraries were safeguarded. Finally unconsciously recognizing the librarians contribution in building and safeguarding the resources thereby protecting the culture and heritage for future generations that is taken for granted.
Now most of them are hooked and want to know more. “Aur batao… Aur Batao” (tell me more…) is the chant from my audience! I give them a brief overview of libraries and librarianship: earlier, work of librarian was to safeguard the collection of manuscripts for posterity. How books were handwritten on paper and painstakingly copied which took time and patience of a trained scribe. These collections were safeguarded by using bars on shelves or chaining books to shelves to minimize theft. I also talk about how introduction of paper revolutionized – how information was stored and disseminated. But when printing press was invented then multiple copies of a book were published and almost every noble man of certain standing owned a respectable sized library. After democratization on knowledge books were housed in public libraries for all those interested to read and educate themselves. Currently it is the information or knowledge era where print books are not the only source. E-resources like ebooks and ejournals, social media etc all have contributed in creating the information deluge. Everyone says I paint a picture with my words. I sum up that A librarian is the only person who can help the researcher or person requiring information sift grain from the chaff.
After a collective wow from my fellow travellers, I continue my illuminating discourse. I share with them that a librarian acquires these searching, researching skills after undergoing a rigorous coursework assigned at the certificate, graduate, post graduate and doctoral levels.
A person needs to do a diploma or a certificate course after their intermediate qualification which gets them a job in very small (limited collection or patrons) libraries or as assistant to the librarian. Most people with basic qualifications who are already working without LIS qualifications in a library opt for this option to gain a certificate to secure the job. This diploma is usually 6 months and is done in evenings; which does not affect the job on hand.
Recognizing the value of Librarianship as a profession Government of India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has decided to introduce ‘Library and Information Science’ (079) as a new elective for classes XI-XII from session 2014-15 on pilot basis in some selected schools which may be equivalent to Diploma holders in Library and Information Science. (CIRCULAR NO.: Acad-07/2014 dated 12.02.2014) at http://www.cbseacademic.in/web_material/Circulars/2014/7_LIS.pdf
If one does a full time or distance education bachelors and masters course its easier getting job in Schools, Colleges, Universities as well as public and private institutions and if they have done traineeship or apprenticeship it would be an added advantage. Distance education is opted by most working professionals.
A graduate or post graduate in LIS can apply for traineeship or apprenticeship with university libraries or organizations having libraries. If selected after written exam/interview they get paid a nominal stipend and are trained in all modules of library administration by a senior LIS professional from the organization they have opted for. This prepares them in life to take on responsibilities at big organizations and also makes it easier as employers prefer to take people with prior training experience. We all know without experience we cannot get a job and without job we cannot get experience! So Traineeship bridges this gap! How many other professions can boast that they have a traineeship module that assists freshers get a job more easily…
It is important to note that most employers prefer to recruit regular course candidates as compared to those who do distance education. But there are many instances where people have got worthwhile positions despite doing a distance education degree due to their handwork. Few working LIS professionals prefer doing distance education so as not to impact their work schedule but in turn helps them move ahead in their career path.
If one does a bachelors and masters course along with a specialization they get jobs in Research Institutions, Special Libraries etc For Example if one possesses a degree in Law along with librarianship degree they can get into University Law libraries, Government Law libraries, Private Legal Firms, Multinational Firms specializing in audit, taxation, or law which have libraries, Call Centers which handle law related work and Law enforcing institutions like police which also have libraries.
There are many add-on courses to specialize after doing LIS course. Additional course on Museology gets placement in Museums and Archives. Most talented, hardworking people have got into lucrative positions in National and International organisations as well as Embassies in India and abroad by having additional qualifications like foreign language etc.
If one has a UGC JRF/NET qualification it helps in either getting scholarship to pursue PHD full time or assists in getting entry level teaching position in government or private institutions.
PhD helps in getting a job in the teaching or assists a working professional to rise up the career path and gives a professional distinction and influence to the persons stature.
Post-Doctoral helps in doing further research and adding to corpus of knowledge in a particular field.
Once the person is well qualified they get a job according to their educational qualifications and skill set. Being updated, knowing an additional language and having ICT knowledge gives an added edge and advantage.
Teachers get jobs in academic institutions only; Engineers and doctors should be micro-specialized to get placements; but with basic qualifications, a LIS person can get placements anywhere and everywhere. In academic setting including School, College, University Libraries, in Public Libraries, in Special Libraries, and Research libraries all require librarians to maintain their collections. In schools there are government schools, private schools and international curriculum schools. Secondary School Certificate (SSC), Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), International (International Baccalaureate or IB) etc To know more about Boards of Education in India recognized by the Indian Government one can check at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boards_of_Education_in_India There are 110 IB World Schools in India offering one or more of the three IB programmes. 50 schools offer the Primary Years Programme , 11 schools offer the Middle Years Programme and 98 schools offer the Diploma Programme. To know more read http://www.ibo.org/country/IN/. One needs a certain skill set to handle childrens libraries like conducting story telling sessions etc.
One can get into a government job, private, corporate job or freelance. Sometimes individuals or business houses need a person to acquire and archive it in a proper manner which can be done by a LIS freelancer. Freelancing is chosen as an option by most women LIS professionals who get a break in their career due to marriage and children and are passionate enough about their careers and vocation they have chosen to continue it at their ease and pace. If properly planned, one can successfully handle a freelance career in LIS.
Yes, with additional educational qualifications/license a LIS Persons can get placements even abroad. If one does an American Library Association (ALA) accredited course one can get placed in a library in the USA or a Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) course to be placed in UK.
Like many other professions, people pursuing LIS profession also have scope to get scholarships and go abroad for attending conferences/seminar/workshops, for short term projects or long term study. Commonwealth Professional Fellowships is one such scholarship that has enable LIS professionals support mid-career professionals from developing Commonwealth countries to spend a period of time with a UK host organization working in their field for a programme of professional development. Fellowships are typically three months but can be between one and six months in length, and can include limited time for attendance at short courses or conferences, as well as visits to other organizations. More information can be obtained from http://cscuk.dfid.gov.uk/apply/professional-fellowships/
LIS professionals now also publish books, articles in journals and seminars/conferences, attend workshops, conduct seminars/conferences/workshops, are editors or on editorial boards etc. UGC provides funding to conduct seminars/conferences/workshops etc. All these have garnered them national and international recognition for their jobs and elevated them as a profession to reckon.
Libraries are not only about what is stacked on its shelves. It is also about what LIS professionals do and what services are extended. Librarians for most part are perceived to be introverts just quietly issuing and returning books without any conversation. For some their job entails handling the reference desk or information desk where they have maximum interactions with their clientele or patrons. Some even hold Public Relations (PR) portfolios along with their regular library jobs. They hold library orientation programs which are one to many or sometimes one to one interactions as per demand. They facilitate programs or workshops in lieu with other departments in organizations they work in.
Librarians have become Principals, Deans, Vice Chancellors and have taken on many a portfolio and excelled in it because they have acquired varied multitasking skill set! You name it….and we will show one LIS professional who has achieved it!
Since IT and ICT is integrated into all spheres of life LIS is not left behind. Libraries too have begun automating their libraries and providing services using ICT tools. They are providing online courses. Check out http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/webcourse. Librarians are doing their part in marketing the MOOCS and assisting their clientele in identifying suitable MOOC course! They are on the upfront in the world of open source and open access! Librarians on the social media are influencing the world.
I then go on to talk about Padmashree Dr Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan who is also known as the Father of Indian Librarianship; who put Indian Librarianship on the world map. India celebrates August 12 as Librarians Day in his honor. His most notable contributions to the field were five laws of library science in 1931 and the development of the first major analytico-synthetic classification system called Colon Classification in 1933. He is considered as one of the luminaries of library science by eminent LIS personalities all over the world.
I then go on to add to prospective students of LIS who were on the same journey and new recruits in LIS who I have met in one instance or another in classes, seminars, conferences and workshops that one needs to be proud of the work one does ie., managing a library. If we do not appreciate our own work then how can we expect appreciation and respect from others? Please do not mumble when someone asks about your profession….Say proudly “I am a Librarian/LIS Professional/Information Professional/Knowledge Manager” with Pride! We should all have unity in our profession and speak in one voice. We should not malign people running LIS Associations. They are contributing what they can….If you feel strongly, then join the association and be the change you expect to see. I feel that LIS professionals should all unite under one umbrella and collectively voice out our problems and give representations to the government.
Usually by end of my journey I am able to leave with wonderful memories of co-passengers and a satisfaction that comes with contributing change towards mindset of people towards librarianship as a noble profession and that Librarians are second to none.
Dr Achala Munigal
Note: Please connect with Achala at AchalaMunigalRao@gmail.com before reposting, translating as this article is copyrighted!
LIS Professionals are Second to None! by Dr Achala Munigal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.