What I find most striking about this interview is the rhetoric surrounding the demand for men in corporate libraries and the promotion of the idea that men will secure an important standing in the community by becoming a librarian, rather than a focus on promoting the social good, as with so much of the Progressive Era rhetoric targeted at women. It is clear that men should anticipate low salaries, but their motivation for taking such work is expected to be different from women’s:

‘Although most library positions are held by women, there is a real opportunity for men as heads of technical libraries and as directors of city public libraries. An energetic man who is at the head of a public library can be more than a librarian to the community. He can act as a leader in public thought by speaking before meetings and as a member of various clubs of the city. The need for a well-trained executive as the head of a city library system is being given more recognition than formerly.’

Mr. Dana is perhaps the best known librarian in America and has written books and many articles on the subject of this interview. This statement was his answer to my question about the library field as a vocation for young men.

‘The opportunities in this field,’ he continued, ‘are sure to increase in number and worth. Large business houses are coming to realize the value of private libraries and many good positions are made available through these libraries for trained men and women. Public libraries are always losing their workers because they are accepting positions in these private libraries. Most of our large technical corporations require men for their libraries, and the demand for well trained men must soon raise the salaries and library positions will become more attractive.’

Good Fun and Low Pay

“‘A man must be born to library work. If he feels called to this field of activity he may look forward to a life of great pleasure, but of modest income. His position is generally secure and he has an opportunity to assume a place of importance in the community.’

“‘The use of books is still growing rapidly. It is only a little over a hundred years since any large part of the people learned to read. Exact knowledge is more in demand and libraries are branching out into new lines which will help business and industries in gathering facts pertaining to their problems. For instance, the Newark Public Library is adding a pamphlet department, in which a mass of pamphlets, articles, and clippings on all subjects and of the most recent publications will be found. This collection will supplement the bound books and in many cases take precedence of them in up-to-dateness. It will be classed as are the books, but will be marked with colored bands representing the class numbers.’

‘I would advise a young man to get a general college training before entering a library school. Preferably he should spend a year in a library before taking this course to see if his tastes will be satisfied by this field. Most library schools demand a high school training before entrance.’

‘The lowest salary paid to a trained librarian after leaving school is about $1,200 a year. An average salary for an assistant librarian would be about $2,000 a year. Private libraries pay from $2,500 to $4,000 a year.’

‘It is absurd for a young man to enter this profession unless he is attached to his fellow men. If he is purely a maker of things or seeks only money he does not belong. He must have a sympathetic spirit and a love for the community.’

from New York Evening Post, 1921