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So you want my job? Librarian

Posted: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Most people, at some point in their life, have probably had a library card. This means that at some point, you’ve met a librarian.

Have you met Betty Baloun? She is a 73 year old librarian at the Redfield Carnegie Library. Baloun has been working at the library for 31 years. She has seen changes in not only literature, but also changes in the shape of the Carnegie building itself.

Baloun grew up and went to school in Hoven, South Dakota. She taught at country schools in Pierre, South Dakota and Omaha, Nebraska for 11 and a half years. She taught just about every subject for elementary children.

What does a librarian do?

Day to day Baloun is kept quite busy. She normally starts her day with checking the Carnegie book drop. After that she checks the mail, which will also contain any Inter-Library Loan books. Inter-Library Loan books are books that the Carnegie doesn’t normally have on hand. When a person wants to check out a book that is not available, Baloun will order the book from another library. While she does sort and check out books to patrons, she does much more than that. She handles everything from South Dakota Titles To-Go, which is an E-Book check out program, to answering phone calls, faxes, and more.

Baloun also handles the computer lab and the five computers that encompass it. Carnegie Library offers free Wi-Fi to all patrons with a library card.

The technical definition of a librarian is: A person who works professionally in a library, and is usually trained in librarianship (known either as library science or library and information science). The role of a librarian is continuously evolving to meet social and technological needs. However, a modern librarian may deal with information in many formats, including books, magazines, newspapers, audio recordings (both musical and spoken-word), video recordings, maps, manuscripts, photographs and other graphic material, bibliographic databases, web searching, and digital resources. A librarian may provide other information services, including computer provision and training, coordination of public programs, basic literacy education, assistive equipment for people with disabilities, and help with finding and using community resources.

How does one become a librarian?

In the United States, a librarian might have a one or two-year (more common) master's degree in library and information science, library science or information science from an accredited university. These degrees are accredited by the American Library Association and can have specializations within fields such as archival studies, records management, information architecture, public librarianship, medical librarianship, law librarianship, special librarianship, academic librarianship, or school (K-12) librarianship. School librarians often are required to have a teaching credential; however, for the most part, a library science degree is not required.

Baloun, on the other hand, found her job of 31 years a different way. It was as simple as an ad in a newspaper. She noticed an opening for a librarian at the Carnegie Library, and after much thought and hesitation, decided to apply. She wasn’t the only one to go after that position. She insists that the reason why she was picked among the other canidates was because when she was asked where she saw herself in five years, she replied “behind that desk,” refering to the check out desk.

Baloun says that the best part of her job is when she gets a box of books delivered. “It’s like Christmas,” she cheerfully noted. The worst part of her job is having to tell a child that he or she cannot check out a book due to fines. “I hate having to do that,” she said.

The biggest miconception people have about libaraians is that they read all the time. Baloun ensures that this is not, at all, the case.

One of her favorite excuses as to why a person’s books are late was when a woman with 17 books checked out said that she can’t bring her books in because they’re stuck in a wooden drawer that is wet and swollen shut.

Tips for future librarians?

Baloun has noted that the best tip for potential future librarians is that “they better love books and people.”

Baloun’s favorite book is “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. She is currently reading “Dangerous Refuge” by Elizabeth Lowell.

For the complete article see the 04-17-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 04-17-2013 paper.

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