Library Historian

Trace the history of libraries.

What does a Library Historian do?

A Library Historian is part Historian and part Archivist, paid to catalog and communicate the history of libraries, Librarians, and literacy. In a world that’s full of wikis and e-readers, libraries might seem old-fashioned and antiquated. Anyone who’s been inside one, however, knows that technology could never completely replace them, as libraries aren’t just book repositories. They’re also veritable history museums in which the past is prized, promoted, and preserved under the direction of a wise — and extremely well-read — Library Historian.

Generally, there are two types of Library Historian. If you work for a college, university, or library-industry association, you probably specialize in the history of libraries in general. In that case, you’re interested in the development of “librarianship,” including how and why it came to be.

If you work for a single library, on the other hand — the Library of Congress, for example, or your local public library — you specialize in the history of that individual facility. In that case, you focus on its contributions to the community and its significance within it.

Either way, libraries are a major resource for you. You spend your days in their stacks and archives looking for documents — artifacts, books, letters, newspaper clippings, videos, photos, and public records — that tell their story. That story might tell of a library’s founding, of the community’s reading habits in past decades, of famous patrons, or of notable events that took place nearby.

Regardless, you put the pieces together in the form of an exhibit, paper, or book — like a Curator, Professor, or Author, respectively — so that the people will continue to appreciate the significance of libraries (even if they no longer need to check out books there).