This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, January 6, 1993

January 6, 1993 - Mommas don't let your babies grow up to be librarians

Lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking about librarianship as a job.

Somehow I just know that librarianship isn't most kids' top career choice. Willie Nelson even wrote a song about it: "Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be librarians." (I think that's how it went.)

But in a time of ever-narrowing areas of work and study, librarianship is the only field I know of where you can specialize in being a generalist.

One of my friends works on an assembly line where his job is to turn one screw on one piece of an unidentifiable product, then the next screw on the next piece...

One of my old college professors' whole reputation, all of his interests and most of his endeavors revolve around one book - he's an authority on "Beowulf." Both of these people get paid for what they do, but not enough, not to my way of thinking. What arid lives!

In libraries we deal with more subjects in one day - sometimes in one hour - than most people encounter in their whole lives. We're also surrounded by books, magazines, records, cassettes, videos, films, sculptures, paintings - a veritable cornucopia of culture.

But maybe the best part of working in libraries is the people. First, there are our "customers," by long library tradition called "patrons." You'll never find a nicer, smarter, more diverse, more interested, interesting, involved bunch of people anywhere.

Second, there's the library staff: I've tried my hand at many kinds of work, but I have never met more professional workers. By professional, I don't mean "possessing an advanced degree." That has nothing to do with it. I've known doctors who were unprofessional, and dishwashers who were so professional they approached artistry. Professionalism is a quality of individuals, not occupations; it's marked by the willingness to take the extra step, to see that the patron/client/customer finds exactly what he or she wants; a desire to do the job right. Library workers are the brightest, most conscientious (and often funniest) people I have ever run across.

Third, the working conditions are great. I once had a job swinging a pick-ax at the bottom of a rocky pit (leveling the ground for septic tank systems). Librarians work in comfortable, usually very attractive buildings. And the tools of the trade -- books -- are a pleasure to handle, unlikely to cause painful and unsightly blisters.

What about the long term career outlook for librarians?

Well, whether you're interested in the human side of the job (telling stories to children, answering reference questions, planning programs), or the technological end (building user-friendly interfaces to information retrieval systems, installing various data networks to bridge buildings or geographic barriers), there's plenty of work to be done.

What really drives business, politics, government? Information. And in a world where all the traditional barriers are crumbling, and literacy is an ever more essential skill, the key industry of the future is information science -- the gathering, organization, and delivery of relevant data. Information Science is just another word for Librarianship.

I truly believe that librarians will be absolutely pivotal in the next century.

But the deepest reward of librarianship is this: there's a profound sense of satisfaction that comes from finding the right book, the right answer to somebody's desperate question. To be a librarian is to ally yourself with curiosity and knowledge in a world rife with apathy and ignorance.

Many young people will opt for the pursuit of big bucks and inner desperation. But if you want more, if you want riches beyond measure, go for the best: be a librarian.

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