As some of you guys may know, my best friend Jen is a librarian and proud book lover and nerd. She has recommended many great books to me and has even guest-written a few book reviews here on the blog! I sat down with her last week (so to speak) and interviewed her. While my blog primarily functions as a platform to share my personal style, I also like to think of myself as a part-time book blogger as well so an interview with a librarian seemed appropriate.
A little about Jen: She currently works for an army research library for the US Federal government. She specializes in digital libraries and volunteers at a public library in her free time.
I wanted to be a librarian because I fell in love with research and data management, as nerdy as that sounds. During my undergrad I was an art history student, concentrating on research, and interning at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. My job at the Walters was to scan glass plate negatives, edit them for clarity, and upload metadata before the images were uploaded to the Museum's website. I loved this job, because the Walters has 55 centuries of art and I was able to see the whole collection and be apart of its life! I knew right away I wanted to do something that involved research and data, so after talking with my mentors they suggested I look into the field of digital librarianship. I have enjoyed almost every second of my education and career as a librarian.
What are some of the most satisfying aspects of your job?
I find many aspects satisfying about my job, like good metadata, finding obscure articles or books for patrons, and being able to provide a service that makes it easier for people to learn something new or find the research they need. I would also say I am very proud to work for the federal government. There is always a lot frustration with all the bureaucracy and hurdles it can take to perform certain duties, but at the end of the day it is nice to know that I can find a way to help my country in some small way.
What is a digital librarian?
A digital librarian is a librarian who works with digital libraries. A digital library is a collection of digitized or digitally born books, articles, photos, maps, etc. As a digital librarian I have a degree in managing digital information I way that makes easy for patrons to access, disseminate, and use.
What are your thoughts on how e-books affect libraries?
As a reader, my opinion on eBooks is pretty positive. As a human being I prefer to read a print book because I prefer a more tangible experience. However I have way too many books and tend to read one or two a week and given that paperbacks are between $15-$20, it can cost a lot of money. So as a reader I use my public library, my library's eBook options, and I purchase both print and digital books.
As a librarian, I am fine with eBooks for the following reasons: One, publishers are making it easier for librarians to purchase eBook collections, which means as a science librarian I can purchase a collection of 47,500 eBooks and eJournals for my patrons at a reduced rate and give access limited to an IP address, meaning that if a patron simply googles that book title while he or she is at our facility they will then see that book in their top search results and have access to it. With certain vendors you can purchase subscription services to databases that have subject content on everything relevant to your library. Sometime publishers charge a lot of money and these sort of deals can be difficult to negotiate but at the end of the day giving patrons a wider net of research options can be very satisfying.
For people who are worried that eBooks are destroying the printed word, I have the following message: it's not. PEW research center does a lot of research into libraries and how people consume information. In their most recent study they do illustrate that eBook interest is rising, but they also indicate that print books still remain the vast majority of what people prefer to read, including teens. Furthermore, I am always just happy to see that people are interested in reading any format.
What kinds of books do you like to read?
I have a very wide and eclectic range of books I read. I am definitely a sci-fi fan and love fictional literature. Recently I have been getting into biographies like Notorious RBG and Yes Please. I think at the end of the day I just like a good story, with interesting characters, that will take me somewhere different for a little while. I have been told that it's funny that don't like historical fiction give that I was an art history major, but what can you do.
Anything else you think we should know?
Most public libraries have worked out state consortia to provide access to eBooks, databases, and Hoopla (a public library version of Netflix). If you are trying to find a way to read more but can't afford it there are always options at your public library. Ask your local library what services they have that can help at work, find books you find interesting, and about their electronic content.
Personal tip: when someone asks you on a date, ask for a book recommendation. If they say they don't read, they aren't worth it. If they can have a reasonable discussion about whatever books or media interest them go for it!