I work in a library but I am not a librarian. In order to be a librarian you need a Masters in Library Science (MLS), which I do not have. I am what you’d call a feral librarian. Feral Librarian simply means someone who works in a library but doesn’t have a MLS. We have 6 full time staff only 3 of which have a masters. Our Director, Cataloger and Reference Librarians all have their MLS hence the title of Librarian. The rest of us are lowly Library Assistants. This includes the Public Services folks as well as the Technical Services folks. And by Technical Services Folks I mean me. My actual title is Acquisitions Assistant but I fall under the technical services umbrella. I order all the books and office supplies for the library. I stay busy. We go through a lot of paper clips, removable tape and surprisingly… staplers.
Every book added to our collection, unless it is donated, first has to go across my desk. This is both a blessing and a curse. I am the first one to see all the amazing books before they are ready for the studious engaged minds of our patrons which means I instantly want to read ALL of them. And I know what you’re all thinking. I’ve heard it a million times. “I’d love to work in the library! You guys get to read all those lovely books all day!” WRONG! We don’t have time to read them because we busy processing them cataloging them and making sure they go where they are supposed to. And what are we doing when we are not processing new books? Ordering new books of course!
This is not as easy as it sounds because being an academic library we have to be able to justify all of our book purchases. We must be able to answer questions like “Is this a valid source?” or “Is this information up to date?” Most of the time I rely on our Reference Librarian/ Collection development specialist to tell me what to order but she gets tied up with reference consultations and instructional classes so I end up having to use some super-secret library resources to help me narrow down the search results and then create a list of books to order.
These lists have to be checked against the catalog to make sure we don’t already own a copy. Once I’m happy with the list and it makes it through the approval process then books are ordered and the whole process starts all over again.
This is just some of what I do to fill my day. Being “Technical Services” also undoubtedly brings with it the occasional request from co-workers to fix a printer or unjam a copier but these interruptions are few and far between these days. I sometimes have to give the short Word or Excel tutorial. I always thought of myself as the Dr. House of the library.
A few times a year we also have to withdraw outdated or damaged material to make room for all these new books. I don’t have anything to do with these Weeding projects as they are called. I refer to the library as a living breathing organism because in order to stay alive we have to bring in new material and get rid of some of the old stuff.
I don’t write all of this to try to make it seem like I have it rough. I do not. Most of my days are spent looking at a computer screen where I create and evaluate lists, so it’s a far cry from splitting wood or working on cars for a living.
As for me being a “feral librarian” the only real difference is in the pay and advancement opportunities, there really are none for me where I am now and I’m ok with that at this point in my life. There are some things I need to take care of by the end of the year then who knows I may go back to school to get my MLS. Stranger things have happened.
PS: I know I keep saying books. We also have books on CD, a small dvd collection as well as an archives room and Baptist collection. As well as a growing graphic novel section!