The Role of Librarians

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, October 27, 1914:  << no entry>>


Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I found this interesting opinion piece about the role of librarians in the November, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal. Since Grandma again didn’t write anything a hundred years ago today, I thought you might enjoy it.

Do We Have the Best Man or Woman?

Fifty of every one hundred persons who go to public libraries ask, according to librarians: “What is a good book for me to read?” In other words the choice of reading is, in this large percentage, left to the discretionary direction of the man or woman behind the public,-library desk. Very few persons, it is said, ask for a definite book.

Accepting this condition as a fact, the responsibility of the librarian is great, but the responsibility of the community in selecting the librarian is even greater.

In other words, communities should think a little more carefully of the fitness of those whom they place in charge of the public libraries, and of those who are already there. Are they the best that can be secured to direct the reading of the community?

I also found it interesting that both men and women were librarians a hundred years ago. It was one of few jobs that were not gender specific back then.

27 thoughts on “The Role of Librarians

    1. It did cover a lot of topics back then. Often the articles were very long and the print was tiny. (I generally just select an excerpt/quotes from an article because there’s no way people would read the entire article on a blog). It almost seems like people back then wanted to get enough reading material to last a month when they bought the magazine; whereas now we can’t possibly ready everything that we can easily access.

  1. How interesting and raises so many questions about how librarians were chosen, who decided what was on the shelves etc back in those days. Libraries were such a democratizing step giving ordinary people broad access to books and knowledge.

    1. Libraries played such an important role in providing access to information in the days before the internet. (I probably didn’t word that right. They still provide vital services, it’s just different than it once was.)

  2. Librarians are so underrated, even now, maybe especially now. You’ll find it interesting that in Martha’s Vineyard, four new public libraries are either under construction or have just been recently built. And that is just one island off Massachusetts. So impressed.

    1. Wow, that’s amazing. I know that libraries have been doing a lot to re-envision their roles as technology has changed some of their traditional functions. The libraries on Martha’s Vineyard obviously are meeting the needs of their communities–and other libraries probably could learn some things from their successes.

  3. Great article!! I loved going to the library in my school days! Looking through the 3 x 5 index cards to look for books!! Librarians were always a wonderful help to lead us in the right directions!! Hugz Lisa and Bear

    1. I have similar memories of searching for books using the library card catalog files. Whew, technology sure has changed how we find books in the years since we were young.

  4. I love all the content that you find to share with us when Grandma doesn’t have an entry. It appears that she’s losing interest in her diary; perhaps I just came to that conclusion because I know (through you) that she discontinued her diary at the end of the year.

  5. An interesting post with a lot of truth about the qualities that make a good librarian. However, experience with our local library shows that we don’t have a lot of choice. Qualified librarians are hard to fond for a small library and we mostly have to take whatever we can get.

    1. Libraries play such an important role in small, rural communities–though they also face lots of challenges. I can remember a post you did about your local library. Friends of the library and community members like you are so important in helping guide small libraries so that they will continue to thrive. My mother was a librarian in a very small town–and I spent a lot of time helping her–so I have lot’s of warm fuzzy memories of that library.

  6. How interesting. I had expected the job to be more for women and agree it is different to see a job written for both genders. Interesting that librarians tend to pick books for people. I guess for that time period it makes sense. Limited information to what books are available.

  7. Technology and the availability of information has robbed us in way. We miss so much that the library had to offer…and still does. I used to love going to the library to do research for my clients when I had a marketing business. It was one of my favorite things! I took my children to the library often. We all loved reading together. This brings back some great memories…most of all about my children. 🙂

  8. I find it intriguing that such a high percentage of readers required assistance in their book choice. I very much doubt if that is true today, though, of course, the clientele will have also undergone change. It illustrates, I think, how much greater was the influence of the written word in those days, and how much more diverse.

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