Libraries are treasure troves of knowledge, information and entertainment. They contain books, periodicals, microfilm, discs, videos, slides, cassettes and records for education, research, reference and pleasure. These materials are cared for, catalogued, systematically stored and displayed for user access by librarians, who are perhaps as much the custodians of learning and culture as are teachers and educationists.
In developed Western nations, librarianship has long been a well-respected profession, ranking between seventh and tenth among all occupations in its employment rating. India, with its low literacy rate, has been somewhat slower in its recognition of library and information science as an academic discipline.
Nevertheless the size and number of libraries--and consequently, their staff-in the country has grown steadily over the years. Demand projections in 1950 for trained librarians, thirty years into the future, set the figure at 120000. By 1980, exactly double that number was employed in public libraries alone.
The current thrust on universal education, together with the revamping of traditional university syllabi to include automation, computing and professional practice, as well as a generally more information conscious society, have highlighted the pressing need for facilities and personnel for information storage and management. It has also added a new dimension to what is now perceived as a noble and service oriented calling.
A very large number of library and information professionals are women. Previously, only a few were able rise to senior posts. However, this situation is changing, and more women are rising higher in the field. At present, over half the number of librarianship trainees are female. As an occupation, it ranks second only to teaching in its attraction for women.
In career terms, this is not a high mobility area. Libra employees are expected to gain the requisite years experience and appropriate qualifications, before going on the next grade. It does, however, compensate for this in the offer of great job satisfaction.