Recently our library is looking for a Japanese Study Librarian. This person must have a MLIS degree, several years of experience working in an academic library , familiar with pre-modern Japanese history, and most importantly, have the skills to get funding to grow our Japanese collection. As a staff here, we all get to review the resumes and interview the candidates together. I’ve never imagined interviewing for a library would be this rigorous. It’s almost like interviewing for those big corporations. Each candidate has to go thru a whole day of interviews with many different people, including the head of the department, the head of our library division, the staff, and also the faculty and students in related fields. At the end of the day, they have to do a presentation in front of everyone to show they have skills to ask for grants and funding.
Yesterday we had a candidate who has 20 years + of academic librarian experience who also had a PhD in Japanese. Currently he works for East Asian Library in Cornell. During his 8 years working in Cornell, he helped to enlarge the Japanese collections by 50%. Knowing how expensive Japanese books are, he was able to buy used books at discount prices by going to Japan and dealt with the used book vendors in Tokyo personally. One of the professors who knew him personally commented his aggressiveness and competitiveness made him into this entrepreneur-like librarian who saved lots of money for the university. On top of that, he impressed all of us by his knowledge about Japanese languages and history. He is not even a native Japanese but he speaks Japanese with no accent at all. During his presentation, he was explaining how Japanese printed books in the old time. He really awed me by his expertise. We all felt our library need someone like that.
After seeing such an interview, I felt utterly discouraged about following the career path of becoming a librarian. I think to truly become a librarian, you really need to have some area of expertise in order to assist the faculty and students, just like this candidate we interviewed. Other than that, you also need to be competitive in order to get money for the library. As for me now, I don’t even have any special degrees toward any particular area. It might takes me years to master cataloging. So my plan for now is to postpone going to Library school and concentrate on learning cataloging. Perhaps after several years working here, I would develop other skills that could prepare myself to become an ideal librarian.