It may seem a little obvious to the general public to say that libraries should be staffed with librarians.
It must appear that one is saying that schools should be staffed with teachers, banks should be staffed with bank clerks or hospitals staffed with Doctors and Nurses. But we know that in today’s complex job market where there are more people than jobs to go around, well in the UK anyway, it is not that simple anymore. Libraries are staffed with library assistants, schools have teaching assistants, banks have Automated Teller Machines (ATMs, or “cash-points to the likes of you and me”). Hospitals have a whole range of specialised technician roles as well various non-health related roles. There are many reasons for this, some to do with the expense of paying staff with higher qualifications and some to do with the changing nature of these establishments.
I also think that the definitions of the job titles have changed over the years. Librarian once really did mean someone who worked in a library and now I think that it means someone who holds the Higher Education Qualification of Librarian. Looked at in that way it is easy to see how the confusion exists.
However, being highly qualified and knowing all the theory about a subject does not necessarily mean that someone really fits the role. For example, I have observed many a newly trained teacher struggle with controlling their class until they have had a few years experience of discovering the subtle skills of psychological crowd control. Similarly, W.C. Berwick Sayers wrote about the role of Librarian in the introduction to Ranganathan’s 5 laws. Please forgive the gender bias in this passage, it was written at a time when the pronoun “he” was taken to represent humanity, so in your mind read this as meaning either “he” or “she” depending on your predilection.
“it is the personal element that the librarian brings into the library which gives it its vitality. Many libraries, alas, lack vitality ; they have staff, but no librarians…
…the librarian must be a man of acquisitive mind who closes his mind to no subject of human interest. He is always a learner; he must always be awake to and welcome every development of human thought and every adventure of the human spirit. He must, however, be a man educated not only in the general sense but in every operation and process of libraries. He must be a lover of other men. When young people come to me as aspirants for library work I ask them, “Do you love books?” They invariably reply that they do, but I ask them next, “Do you like people and serving people?”
All this means that to truly be a librarian you must have the social skills to deal with people, the curiosity of pursuing knowledge and the sensitivity to be a natural educator.