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They say every relationship has its ups and downs. As librarians prepare to gather in Philadelphia, March 13-17, for the Public Library Association 2012 meeting, libraries and publishers are in something of a down period.
The questions surrounding library e-book lending have devolved into thornier questions about the future of collection building, and equity of access--fundamental missions for libraries.
In the past few months, as the e-book question heated up, one publisher casually expressed to me a view of libraries as little more than an old-school provider of print books on metal shelves. Another did not know what Readers Advisory was. In this increasingly wired, get-it-all-online world, perhaps some in publishing have lost perspective on the work of libraries, of their benefit, of their importance. Maybe it would be helpful to reconnect.
Earlier this month, I took advantage of a gracious offer from PW contributing editor Nancy Pearl and traveled to Seattle, to meet 11 of Nancy's students in the Information School at the University of Washington. I wanted to see who is choosing to go into the profession, and why. What are their thoughts on the way the information world--and the publishing industry--is developing?
One of the leading information schools in the nation, the University of Washington's mission goes beyond what you may think of when you think of libraries and librarians. "We prepare information leaders," the UW mission statement reads. "We research the problems and opportunities of information. We design solutions to information challenges. We make information work." Making information work is no small feat. Each year, UW officials say, the world creates more than 161 exabytes of new information--enough to fill 2 billion 80GB iPods.
We're happy to introduce you to 11 librarians with bright futures, and to share some of their thoughts on the future of the profession.
AMY: For me, the decision was partly selfish, partly noble. I was in a career that made me unhappy, even though I was financially secure. I had the luxury of languishing at a job while I thought about what I really wanted to do, but still, it's a scary moment when you realize that what you did your undergraduate work in, and the job you've had for the past five years isn't what you want to do. So I bumped into the library as an idea, and I consistently feel I've made the right decision. Librarianship brings together everything that I care about. It makes me happy in terms of what I have to offer, what I feel I need to be doing, what I have to give back. It's really fulfilling.
APRIL: I feel like I'm a bit of an outlier when it comes to why I wanted to be a librarian, because I decided a long time ago that this was what I wanted to do. I've always spent a lot of time in libraries. I've always enjoyed learning about things. And I'm really nosy--although I've been told that you have to call it intellectual curiosity when you're a professional! My path actually started with my undergraduate degree in history, I would get really excited about finding informational treasures. That progressed to being excited about helping others to get excited about pursuing their interests. And I love to serve my community.
ALTHEA: I didn't go to libraries a lot when I was a kid, and I never really thought about libraries much as an institution. Then I started working in a bookstore …