Librarians vs. Archivists

There are two camps in the library profession, the librarians and the archivists. Sometimes it feels like they are rival gangs and everyone has to pick sides. This doesn’t seem to be much of a problem because most students enter GSLIS with a clear idea which side they are on. But what about the rest of us? I see so many interesting ways to pursue this profession and I have wavered back and forth about whether to choose courses with an archives focus or take the librarian path. Two roads diverged in a wood one could say.

After much internal struggle, I have chosen to take the librarian track with an emphasis and goal of working in a public library. Given that I had six different college majors, only time will tell if this current path ends up being my ultimate direction. If I end up in a public library I may very well be responsible for maintaining a small archives collection. Especially in rural communities, it is common for the public library to also house a small archive.

This field does not seem to have many role models for individuals coexisting in the worlds of librarians and archivists. However, I have found one excellent example, the current National Archivist David Ferriero. He is the tenth archivist for the United States and the first to have been trained as a librarian, not an archivist. He is also a Simmons GSLIS alum!

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ferriero last summer when he spoke near my hometown. I am slightly biased towards him because, like me, he is also an alum of Northeastern University. After he spoke, we had the opportunity to ask questions and I asked what advice he had for a student who is just beginning to pursue a career in this field, especially someone who is torn between choosing archives or libraries. His advice: don’t choose. He reminded me that it is important to be in control of my own education and to make my school work for me. That’s what I’m paying for, isn’t it? Since hearing him speak I have tried to do just that. Despite being on the public libraries track I am still planning to take an archiving course or two, even if that is not the norm. GSLIS has all kinds of different students and the most effective are the ones who pursue the courses they want and make the degree work for them.

For more information about David Ferriero and his interesting background check out:


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