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All about a librarian: It's not just about the Dewey Decimal System

October 23, 2001|By STEFANIE GREENBERG, Staff Writer

While librarians have many tasks throughout the day, Victor Zazueta, library director at El Centro Public Library, says it basically comes down to sharing information.

"It's one of those helping professions," said Zazueta, "like doctors, like teachers."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupation Outlook Handbook, there are three types of library work — user, technical and administrative services.

User services consist of librarians who help the public find information they need. These type of librarians could be reference and children's librarians. They help people access information from library and other sources, including the Internet.

Librarians in technical services, such as acquisitions and cataloguing, acquire and prepare materials for use and often do not deal directly with the public.


Librarians in administrative services oversee the management and planning of libraries; negotiate contracts for services, materials and equipment; supervise library employees; perform public relations and fund-raising duties; prepare budgets and direct activities to ensure everything functions properly. Zazueta is such a librarian.

"A typical day can be the toilets are backed up, the air conditioner's not working, one of the Internet stations is not working, (the library) lost our circulation modules and we can't check anything out, (I) have a book seller/vendor on the phone who wants to talk to me personally to tell me about his product, I'm dealing with a vendor, buying materials over the Internet probably spending between" $2,000 to $4,000, he said.

He added he must attend City Council and department head meetings.

And then there is the collections development.

Collections development is when Zazueta purchases materials for the library.

"I can work on collections development of a book order of maybe 200 titles that I've been slowly picking and choosing which ones I want to add to the collection," he said. "I have to know the weaknesses and the strengths … what the public wants to read."

How does he decide what to add to the library?

While there are many places to look, he said he uses the Internet, hears about books from television programs and reads bestseller lists from newspapers and major periodicals. Next comes the weeding out process or replacement of existing damaged, falling apart or inaccurate materials.

"(The) world's changed a lot in 10 years and if you don't continually weed and replace those titles, then children are getting books that talk about the Soviet Union and East Germany."

Zazueta estimates having spent about $80,000 last year in books.

"I feel like I spent more in (the young adult) and adult (sections)," he said.

"And this year one of my goals is to spend more in children's."

Librarians are not limited to working at schools or public libraries.

They also may work in information centers or libraries maintained by government agencies, corporations, law firms, museums, religious organizations and research laboratories.

Sometimes librarians with computer and information-systems skills can work as automated-systems librarians, planning and operating computer systems, information science librarians and designing information storage and retrieval systems.

Entrepreneurial librarians sometimes start their own consulting practices acting as freelance librarians or information brokers.

Despite the variety of librarian positions, the handbook states, "More than two out of 10 librarians work part-time."

According to the handbook, "Public and college librarians often work weekends and evenings, and have to work some holidays. School librarians usually have the same workday schedule as classroom teachers and similar vacation schedules. Special librarians usually work normal business hours, but in fast-paced industries, such as advertising or legal services, they can work longer hours during peak times."

The handbook states a master's degree in library science is necessary for librarian positions in most public, academic and (specialty) libraries and in some school libraries. Most MLS programs require a bachelor's degree; any liberal arts major is appropriate.

Zazueta added some universities are changing the degree to master's degree in library and information science.

The handbook predicts a slower-than-average employment growth, with more competition for those applying for positions in metropolitan areas than in rural areas.

Zazueta said a problem he has had in filling a vacant children's librarian position is the lack of applicants.

"It's very hard to recruit professional librarians to come and work in rural areas," he said.

The handbook's latest information on salary said the median annual earnings of librarians in 1998 was $38,470.

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