Here is one of two runner up essays for ULU’s inaugural book scholarship and essay contest for area library school students, submitted by Anne Young, a Master of Library Science candidate at Long Island University focusing on Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Here is what Anne submitted in response to the question: “What is the role of the librarian in the city?”

curator, n.

Pronunciation: /kjʊˈreɪtə(r)/ /ˈkjʊərətə(r)/

Etymology: overseer, guardian, agent-n.

The role of the urban librarian is both formal (organization –> curator) and informal
(develop –> incubator). Long gone are the days when librarians would point to a
book for an answer. The interrelationship of curator and incubator is keenly seen in the urban librarian as they compete with iPhones to generate authoritative sources, develop entertaining and educational programs, partner with teachers in producing curriculum and serve a variety of changing community-based needs. Urban librarians exploit new techniques (digit- (fill in the blank)) while continuing to maintain the old.

In today’s 21st century, information has become a style. And like any style, it need
incubation and curation to become useful. The urban librarian provides those roles to today’s ‘customer-driven’, ‘learner-centric’, ‘participant-centered’ library by revolving around the question “does this information really ‘suit’ my patron’s method/fashion?”. Content is filtered and selected and takes into account quality, originality and relevance. Some content needs development before it becomes trustworthy and then deemed accessible and fit for use.

Since the main customers of urban librarians are information consumers, the librarians must always be aware of how to bring information with integrated context to their audience. The librarians select, classify, enrich and distribute it in a way that it can be readily consumed. At times, the librarians may have to normalize the information or incubate it to a stage until it is ready to be delivered. Finding one’s way through requires expert knowledge in knowing what is flawed, what is in a development stage and what is relevant.

Urban librarians identify, group, nurture and organize content and strategically place it into a variety of programs and sources most relevant to their audiences. Often it means thinking ‘way-out-of-the-walls’. In return, new and existing audiences become engaged and can often participate in creating continuing content.

Whether or not the actual terms of curator and incubator will replace “librarian” is still to be seen. But his or her actions are easily discernible to anyone who walks into any urban library.