Friday, August 28, 2009

It's hip to be a librarian


August 27, 2009, 8:56am

Librarians are old-fashioned boring nerds, unapproachable old maids or widowers -- not!

Today’s new breed of librarians have broken free from those dank and dusty school libraries, the century-old stereotypes, and have evolved into dynamic, progressive and most-sought after career people employed by large corporations, IT comp anies, hospitals and law firms.

Yes, a librarian can now be anyone -- from your cute neighbor or cool classmate, to that sophisticated babe or handsome hunk. Or better yet, he can be a multi-talented computer expert who is into flip spin, poi, fire breathing and photography such as Johann Frederick Cabbab, a professor of Library and Information Science (LISIS), at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

A licensed librarian, the 36-year-old Cabbab admits he first settled for the LIS course after shifting from Accounting. A constant member of the library club in elementary and high school, Cabbab took interest in developing databases, one of the tasks of a librarian.

“When you talk of a librarian in this time and age, malawak na yung meaning. Many still land in the library but today, you can be a librarian in a virtual environment. You can be working in a publishing company and use your librarian skills such as journal indexing, abstracting and classifying.

I think that’s our advantage. We know how to classify. There’s a lot of difference from a librarian and non-librarian working in a database company,” explains Atty. Vyva Victoria Aguirre, dean of the UP School of Library and Information Studies and legal consultant of the Office of the Vice-Chancellor
for Research and Development.

Atty. Aguirre says in fact, librarians are among the most in demand professionals today. Many of them land in big corporations, schools, universities, big law firms, IT companies and hospitals.

“Everyday, I get a call or email from big corporations and schools asking for LISIS graduates that I can recommend. In the US, the trend now is clinical librarians accompany doctors in hospital rounds and sit with them in medical conferences to find out their needs. The same with law librarians who help lawyers gather evidence,” reveals Aguirre.


When it comes to searching, managing and giving out information, librarians are also the most credible, says Aguirre.

Yes, in this age of information explosion, it may be easy to look for, download and cut and paste information using search engines. But the veracity of the information still has to be confirmed as the Web is not exactly an untainted source of information.

“Librarians have certain criteria for evaluating authoritativeness. We try to find out who is making this definition or where did it come from? Who is the author, the publisher? We are trained for this and we really go out of our way to decipher any information we get,” she points out.

Cabbab adds that librarians take the pains of searching, mostly thru scholarly journals, to look for specific subjects that cannot be answered by just Googling.


As LIS students continue to equip themselves with the necessary skills to become competent and competitive, they have also begun to adjust to a new paradigm shift that responds to the needs of the times.

“The information infrastructure has pushed Library Science to shift its paradigm from a librarian’s role of preserving, to that of servicing. You don’t care too much anymore if the books are lost as long as they are being used. You would rather lose them than keep them gathering dust on the shelves. From a warehouse mentality, a library has now become more like a supermarket for everyone to see, touch and get what they need. Hindi na tinatago ang mga books,” reveals Atty. Aguirre.

She says librarians are also gearing towards a hybrid library. Aside from the printed material, they also build on their electronic collection either through CDs, tapes or whatever storage accessible through the web. Libraries now subscribe to online journals. An Online Public Access (OPAC) system is now slowly replacing the old catalogs.

Librarians, adds Aguirre, have also started marketing the library as well as themselves.

“Before people will come to the library whether they want to or not because they need to. But now they can go elsewhere for their information needs even if the library has the most authoritative facts. But people don’t know that. So we have started marketing the library by improving its appearance,
and making it more attractive and conducive to learning,” she says.

Librarians are also taught to be more friendly and approachable. They should mingle with faculty members and students and let them know what they can offer.

“Sinasabi ko parati sa estudyante ko na if you get to work in company libraries, you have to exercise leadership and show your bosses that you are not just an additional expense. That you can actually
contribute to profit-making by giving them the info they need to improve their products. You have to be proactive and aggressive,” she stresses.

Libraries in UP, for example, have computers with internet connection and free WIFI for students with laptops. It also has discussion rooms that allow students to have group studies.


When UP first offered LIS as a course in the 1940s, only 50 to 60 students enrolled. In the 70s, the degree became a requirement for those who wanted to work in libraries. At present, LIS averages around 400-500 students every year.

In LIS, students may choose electives which cater to their interest such as law librarianship for those who want to pursue Law, IT or medical and health courses. The next step for LIS graduates is to take the Professional Regulated Commission-organized board exam for librarians.

Graduating student Bianca Baylas shifted from Computer Science to LIS because she sees the career opportunities that it offers.

Senior student Kelvin Samson appreciates the course for its being service-oriented. “It elevates the image of the librarian from a mere keeper of books, to a guardian of information. As a student assistant, ang sarap ng pakiramdam pag nakikita mong nakakatulong ka sa mga kapwa estudyante mo. What more kung licensed librarian na ko, mas marami pa kong matutulungan,” he enthuses.

Graduating student John Eli Casino was attracted by the tracks that the LISIS course offers. He decided to combine law and IT electives to prepare for a new trend – law librarians who are also IT specialists. “It took years for my parents to understand my career move. Sa kanila, pag naging librarian ka walang room for growth. Tatanda ka nang ganun lang din, tiga-ayos ng libro. Biyudo. Tagapagpahiram. Eventually sila rin nakadiscover ng mga opportunities in this profession, and learned to accept my decision,” Casino shares.

LIS graduate Iya Agbon, on the other hand, didn’t expect she would end up having the same profession as the librarian that she was afraid of when she was in high school. “May bad experience ako sa libraries.

Yung librarian namin nakakatakot, naninigaw pag maingay ka. Kahit yung photocopying machine yung maingay akala niya kami pa rin. I also couldn’t imagine myself sitting in the library and immersing in such seemingly boring tasks like cataloging and indexing,” she says.

But later on when she shifted to LIS, Agbon realized that a librarian’s life is actually not confined in the four corners of a library.

“May buhay sa Lib Sci. Hindi totoo na librarian ka lang pag naggraduate ka. Hindi ka limited sa choices mo. You can be a researcher or enter in any other profession that is related to your field. You have an edge compared to other people with your eye for information. You can influence people with your credibility. But you should also be responsible and extra cautious in giving out information which is really sensitive,” she concludes.

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