Earth Science Week 2012 – mapping the future

All week, we’re exploring some of the more unusual directions a career in Earth sciences can take you. We’ve been as far as the Philippines, but for today’s profile we don’t even need to leave the building, as our map librarian Paul discusses a fascinating career path you might not have thought of…

Paul says: “I’ve been a librarian since I left university, specialising in academic libraries and specifically the science subjects within those.  I’ve worked at a College library in Cambridge cataloguing the contents of a 17th century scientific cabinet, in an actuarial library listing long lines of statistics enumerating the likely and not so likely ways of meeting your demise, and most recently in the library (sorry, ‘learning centre’) of an FE college in which I managed to keep the rate of theft of A-level textbooks to a minimum.

“As you might imagine, most librarians catalogue books, and they’re very faithful to them.  I however like to look after non-book stuff.  As well as the oddities listed above, I’ve helped with the preservation of early glass photographic negatives, looked after a filigreed bust of Buddha carved in one-piece from an elephant’s tusk and attempted to find ways of keeping track of educational web-resources at a time when the World-Wide Web was still in nappies.  When the opportunity arose to look after the map collection at a scientific society, I jumped at the chance.

“Libraries are changing…”

“Although I have a first degree in science, I am not a geologist and have had to obtain my geological knowledge on the job.  Whilst understanding geology is not essential to the job, it is extremely useful when it comes to understanding the needs of users.  Also useful is cartographic and geographic knowledge and an ability to work with (and learn to love) metadata.  Future map librarians will definitely need experience in using GIS systems.  Maps are moving off paper and onto screens, and the tools to use maps digitally are still being developed.  Internet cartography is an area of exciting changes with new jobs and areas of expertise being demanded every year.

“Libraries themselves are changing and have been as the Internet and the digital world grow.  Traditional jobs like mine are disappearing to be replaced by people creating and managing collections of cartographic datasets for organisations both public and private.  Specialists at the intersection of the worlds of geology, mapping, digitisation and information management are needed from whatever your background may be.”

Read more of Paul’s blogs here.

To find out more about Earth Science Week, have a look at our website!

One thought on “Earth Science Week 2012 – mapping the future

  1. Here’s the path of my career story, so far: a lifelong love of earth sciences, while working first career in the medical field; a freelance indexing/writing business while working the first job; falling in love again with earth sciences while indexing a series of earth science textbooks; a return for a second degree (in midlife) in Geography, with Geology studies. Currently studying cartography, and working on indexing a collection of nearly 700 thematic maps for a major geographic organization. I wonder how many of us there are with similar stories? Paul has hit the nail on the head!

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