Networking is an important part of a career path. In my introduction to library and information science class, we were given our first opportunity to practice this skill by interviewing a library manager, administrator or department head in order to learn more about the profession.
I was fortunate to interview the director of the local history/genealogy department of the Onondaga County Public Library. Our discussion focused on her job, the change in libraries due to digitization and the things I can focus on while receiving my degree.
Our discussion on digitization brought up many fascinating aspects to librarianship in the computer age. What used to be a long search for an obituary, covering a microfilm search of the death date and four days after, is now a quick online search of digitalized newspapers. The difficulty in deciding what fee to charge patrons has been created due to this new search. Instead of a 25 cent copy, a librarian can easily attach an image to an email. I found her idea of adding “This information is provided by a public library, financed with public funds and donations” to the bottom of the email to be the most logical, particularly since many people will make a donation, often of more than the library would have charged them.
Another problem caused by the digital age is deciding what information to put online. Should the library focus on content and narrative driven data, which will be used frequently or images, which are glamorous and showy? Finding the right blend is a difficult decision.
The majority of the department’s patrons are retired, with a stable source of income and high educational level. They are high demand researchers, knowing what they want or at a difficult point in their research. Their high-end research means that librarians in this field need to be constantly coming up with new and more specialized answers to reference questions. It is important to stay up to date in the field, by being active with the local genealogical society and reading professional publications and listservs in the field. She also recommended conferences offered by the New York Library Associationand the New York State Archives.
After our discussion, I was more convinced that I am following the proper career path for myself. I look forward to learning more about archival procedures, genealogical reference and the digitization of information.