Friday, May 06, 2005

Why are librarians associated with the physical building?

About two months back, I had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Robert D. Stueart when he was giving a closed-door presentation at EPCL to a few NLB staff.

There's a particular point he mentioned, which I thought was astute. He said that librarians were perhaps the only profession whose job title was associated with the physical building, i.e. the Library.

Like, you know, how come doctors aren't called "Hospitalarians" or "Hospitalists"? How about curators calling themselves "Museumists"? Imagine our kids telling parents "Today my Schoolarian gave me 100 marks for the pop quiz".

Why indeed.

And is that why many non-librarians assume that anyone who works in a library is called a librarian? How come that doesn't seem to apply to doctors and nurses? After all, doctors and nurses work in a hosiptal too? So how do people tell the difference?

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  1. Hi mister Librarian!

    What about farmer? Or rancher? A ranch and a Farm are both places, although not an exact building. I believe that why a librarian is called that is because the occupation was not invented till the library was conceptualised and built. All other occupations are named by genre and area of work, like fireman and lawyer, and buildings were later set up to group and house these ppl. There were many doctors around before the term hospital even came to be, much less built.

  2. Ah! Then some of the more "status-conscious" librarians might ask "Why are we named like farmers and ranchers, rather than like docters?"

    Does this matter to me? My honest answer -- yes it mattered in my earlier days when I was starting out. Because "Lbrarian" not a prestigious job title. But over the years, public perception of libraries in Singapore has improved so now I'm not so hung up on job titles.

  3. Hmm...You know, I never once thought being a librarian was 'not prestigious'. I'm a lover of Books, if I could, I would have gone abroad for Library Studies. But no money and i also loved science, so i took the cheaper way out by going NUS for biology. Even then, I was hoping for a vacancy in NLB, but NLB wanted graduates and Masters in computing and programming.

    What i meant to say was, being a librarian is one of my top wishlist in jobs. OTOH, because i study plant biology, being a farmer was also high on my list of wants, farmer nowadays meaning high-tech hydroponics....

    In the end, it's really about the love of doing something, i hope that when i leave school to work out there, i won't begin to learn about status-consciousness. In a way, i know that being in a school environment is less stressful and more rose-tinted

    Thanks for replying and thanks for reading this comment, long-winded that it is.

  4. Anonymous1:24 am

    hi! im a librarian from the Philippines. For the past months i've been surfing the net for a vacancy in singapore but to no avail.

    I did apply in the National Library Board there in Singapore but still there is no response to my application.

    Hope you can share some points and ideas how to make it singapore as a librarian.

    Please help me.... and Thank you so much. Here is my email address:

    Your suggestions and help is really appreciated

  5. Hi Erma,
    I won't try to answer your question here :) Why don't you join the Librarians-In-Singapore mailing list and we'll see what responses you get from the members. Cheers.


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