Is librarianship a vocation?

Posted February 16th 2013 @ 7:15 am by

There has been a bit of an uproar in library circles, following the resignation of the Pope. Not from the resignation itself, but from a post on the Telegraph’s website (UK).

If even the Papacy is a job one can ‘resign’ from, what hope is there for the idea of vocation? by Brendan O’Neill questions the premise of being able to resign from a ‘vocation’ and has stirred dedicated librarians with this quote:

“The news that the Pope has resigned sends out a powerful and probably unwitting message – that the Papacy is just a job, like being a bank manager or librarian.”

He follows this up with a definition of vocation - “…a calling, or at least a vocation; something one feels summoned to do and more importantly to be.”

There are librarians who definitely fit the description of job, but there are many more I would argue that have some form of vocation or calling. Some come to it early, some later in life after exploring other realms, but wherever we end up, many of us will be a librarian until the end – whatever our job position.

I wanted to be a librarian since Grade 6 and went straight through and achieved that. I have been working as a librarian for 27 years and my librarianship continues beyond the workplace. I am a librarian 24/7, because it’s also who I am beyond the job. And I don’t do it for the money because there is no money in librarianship. If this is not a vocation or a calling, then what is?

Do you agree? Is your librarianship a calling, or just a job until you get to do what you really want to do in life? Does it hold true for the majority of librarians (including a good range of shambrarians) or is it just a select few?


  1. Brad
    February 17, 2013 at 08:29

    I think it’s both. For some people it’s a calling, for others it’s a job until you get to do what you really want in life. I’m studying Information and Library Studies and it’s certainly wasn’t first choice in jobs.

    I won’t bore you with my life story, but a set of circumstances led to me looking for a new job and I saw a Library Officer position advertised. Nobody had ever suggested that I might work in a library, nor had I ever thought of it even though I’d been an avid reader and library user from early childhood. I was lucky enough to get the position and I found that I loved working in the library and decided to seek out a qualification in librarianship.

    I don’t know whether I’d describe it as a vocation, but I see it as a job that I’m well-suited to, that will allow me to make a valuable contribution both to society and any particular community that I serve, and that I want to do to the best of my ability. I found myself in this position through various contingencies beyond my control, but it feels like it was meant to be.

  2. Michelle
    February 17, 2013 at 08:57


    Great to hear you have found your place and vocation or not, it sounds like you and libraries are a good fit.

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. David
    February 21, 2013 at 08:44

    I wanted to work in a Library from when I was in Grade 10 and did some Student Librarian stuff at school. I did a Ass Dip in Retail before finding my Lib Tech qualification and now have work (ft,permanent) in a Library, and feel that I have my job for life. This is what I do, this is who I am, this is one of the reasons why I am.
    But it is possible to retire or resign from a vocation. And why should the Pope not be able to retire… priests can… what makes the position of Pope different?
    Sorry, got off topic there…it is possible to retire or resign from a vocation, as it is a paid position and we all have to stop sometime. You can’t retire or resign from a hobby… and if your vocation position is unpaid, maybe it is just a hobby… (is that off topic as well?).

  4. Michelle
    February 22, 2013 at 16:24


    You’re right, you do have to retire at some stage, but from the job not necessarily the vocation. How many retired librarians volunteer in library related work?

    Thanks for commenting.


  5. Stace
    March 16, 2013 at 19:54

    I’m in a similar position to Brad. While I spent many an hour in various libraries growing up, I’d never considered working in the field. And then I was standing in my local library with my son one day after ten years of engineering (counting the horrible four years of study), and came to the realization that I could work there.

    I’m now three quarters of the way through my GDIM, and finding the study enjoyable most of the time, and am really looking forward to finding a job in the field. I think I may have found my calling, but I can’t be sure until I get there.

    David: I’m with you on the pope; I really can’t see the fuss. He explained his reasoning, and not only can priests retire, but they can be forced to once they reach a certain age, as was demonstrated in the case of Fr Bob Maguire last year.

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