The Diverse Knowledge of Librarians
20/07/2012 § 15 Comments
In This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, Marilyn Johnson says that she first became interested in writing about librarians while researching a book about obituaries. She noticed that librarians always had the most interesting obituaries she read, ranging from a librarian who sailed the coast of Maine to a librarian who automated the Library of Congress’s map catalog.
This is one of my favorite descriptions of librarians; they know a little bit about everything. Ask a librarian how to fix a leaky faucet and she might be able to tell you what kind of wrench to use. Ask a librarian how to help care for a sick relative and he might share a story about how he had to do the same thing. Librarians are surrounded by books, on every kind of topic from obscure to everyday. (Take a look at @HCcataloging) And they love to read and find out more. So chances are, while librarians are pretty knowledgeable about their own chosen specialties, they are also educated about topics outside (sometimes very far outside) these areas too.
In the spirit of diversifying my own knowledge (and taking something of a summer vacation from my required classes,) I decided to use my elective class to take Museum Collection Development. The class was created by a Queens College alum who currently works as a registrar and archivist at the New York Transit Museum. The class gives a general view of what goes into picking and managing artifacts in a museum’s collection. Some aspects of collection development that are covered throughout the semester are creating a collection development policy, preservation, cataloging, and accessioning and deaccessioning materials. One of my favorite aspects of the class so far has been creating a fake class museum about New York City’s subway musicians and accessioning “artifacts” as if for a real museum.
Though Museum Collection Development may not be directly related to School Media Studies, the connection between museums and libraries is strong. Taking Museum Collection Development has given me a museum perspective on many topics and questions that libraries also face. Digital preservation and figuring out ways to best sustain digital information is as vital in museums as it is in libraries, as is preservation of physical objects. Museums also face questions of how to best organize and catalog information for use by researchers and the general public. And just like libraries, museums must figure out how to do all this with limited budgets and limited staff. Taking this class has taught me that libraries are not alone in their desire to serve and educate the public and that a librarian’s support network spans far wider than just the people who work at libraries.
If you have some free space in your schedule (which is certainly a luxury) I strongly suggest picking the class that is the most random, obscure or in complete contrast to your chosen path or specialty. Librarians are well-informed about so many things and taking advantage of the abundance of knowledge to be gained through LIS courses is one of the best ways to make sure this remains a hallmark of our profession.