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Librarians - Not Redundant in a Digital Age

Updated on January 8, 2018
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of 2, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


While the world is rapidly shifting to digital media, librarian may seem to be going the way of the paper book; however, librarians are not becoming obsolete. Here are several ways their jobs are changing but not going away.

Printed books like my first novel still sit in thousands of libraries and won't go away overnight.
Printed books like my first novel still sit in thousands of libraries and won't go away overnight. | Source

Work for Librarians in a Digital Future

Librarians can still support student research by directing them to legitimate websites for research, helping them gauge the bias of particular sources and properly cite resources.

Librarians still act as chaperones and advisers for children reading in children's areas and ensure that students who are supposed to be studying at the library aren't engaging in disruptive behavior.

Many librarians run reading incentive programs to encourage children and teens to read.
Librarians may or may not support special collections, acting more like curators and museum assistants than traditional librarians.

Librarians remain the social leaders in literacy development, whether it is aiding those learning to read English as adults or cultivating literacy in children.

Digital rights management (DRM) controls who can access, copy and share information purchased through a subscription or download. Digital libraries are often set up with DRM to prevent unauthorized sharing of paid-for content. Modern librarians work with IT to determine DRM settings and training users on how to use DRM plug-ins both on their own devices and those provided by the library.

Librarians are not irrelevant as digital content slowly displaces printed texts.
Librarians are not irrelevant as digital content slowly displaces printed texts. | Source

The slow move of digital newspapers and content behind paywalls keeps libraries relevant by forcing many people to go to the library to access these news and information sources. Librarians manage these paid subscriptions for the library.

Librarians used to track down books to return to the shelf. Modern equivalent tasks include asking users to check in documents they were viewing to reduce the license count, managing user access permissions in digital libraries and removing users from subscriptions who are no longer working for the company.

While the word library refers to a storehouse of books, libraries offer far more than books now. Many libraries have shelves filled with DVDs, audio books and even video games that can be checked out. Librarians manage this inventory.

Paper drawings and printed documents were created on paper. The documents must be scanned, digitized, labeled with the correct meta data and saved to digital libraries. Modern librarians often perform this work. Librarians also work with digital data capture teams that scan, clean up and upload documents while librarians assign document record ID numbers, document names and register them in the digital library.

What happens to the existing collection? Librarians may be tasked to find homes for obsolete materials. Old books may find homes in libraries in developing nations to teach English to students. Magazines can be sent to schools as collage material, reading material or recycling for fundraising. Books are sold in book swaps to raise money. Valuables texts may be auctioned off to provide funds for long term library funding.

Librarians are becoming the first line of technical support in libraries. They help users get library cards and log into the library's computers. More libraries are permitting members to download e-books and give advice on troubleshooting e-book reader problems.

Engineering standards like ISO, ASME, ANSI and ITU require payment to access. Modern librarian work has moved from buying print versions to setting up company subscriptions to these standards organizations, assigning memberships to the company's standards library and ordering standards for individuals up on request that fall outside of the subscription.


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