"There is a black sun which is not visible to the human eye. It is our beacon and its fire burns within us." -- Akkadian temple inscription



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Black Sun

Steven Kaye's irregularly updated blog

Well, it has been a while, hasn't it? I thought I'd break up some of the monotony with a discussion of librarians. One of my fond memories of library school was a teacher telling us all the famous people who have been librarians - Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, and so on. Curiously, he focused on notorious dictators, but then, Casanova seems to have spent his time as a librarian complaining about the food and waiting to die, so that's understandable. And for those of you who are wondering, yes, we do learn more than just how to catalog books. Don't make me hurt you. I'm a special librarian, which doesn't mean that I'm the protagonist of an afterschool special, but rather that I'm not an academic or public librarian. This means that rather than depending on crotchety senior citizens or crotchety deans for funding, I depend on crotchety partners (I work for a consulting firm) who think everything can be found on the Net. But the pay is good and I get to play with neat toys like Bloomberg terminals. There's an interesting overview of corporate librarians at Factiva's site, and I'd also recommend this SLA (Special Libraries Association) article. Librarians still have serious image problems, and this goes for academic, corporate, public and other types of libraries. We're seen as humorless control freaks. The term 'librarian' has such a stigma that my official job title is 'Knowledge Management Specialist' - other euphemisms include 'information professional,' 'knowledge manager,' 'knowledge navigator' and 'corporate pathfinder.' Public libraries nationwide are facing budget cuts and are cutting back hours and services. Academic libraries, if a friend's impressions are any guide, are taking refuge behind a wall of 1980s business-speak to demonstrate their relevance. All libraries periodically worry about being outsourced. The average age of librarians has been increasing since the 1990s, suggesting that it's a less-desirable position for college graduates. In part, the "problem" is that library school graduates have a wider range of positions available to them than in the past - a friend of mine designed the intranet for a major automobile manufacturer, for example. The average starting salary for a librarian is in the low to mid 30s, last I checked. Academic libaries are apparently so white they can be seen from orbit (see the Diversity Issues paragraph of this article - I'd also check out the sections on internships and mentoring, for some discussion of solutions). We're doing cool things, from running George Lucas' film library to professional storytelling. Now we just need to make people outside the profession aware of the fact. To quote Erica Olsen's Librarian Avengers page: Librarians rule. And they will kick the crap out of anyone who says otherwise
© 2002, Steven Kaye