Autumn 2011 / Leading Edge

Why did the term “cybrarian” go out of style?

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Way back in the days of the “information superhighway,” someone coined the term cybrarian to denote a new kind of librarian who would use the World Wide Web to retrieve information. As the Internet became commonplace, the word fell out of favour. Joe Cox, director of information services for U of T’s Faculty of Information, says librarians didn’t like the word because cybrarians did exactly what librarians had always done: manage, find and use good information. “Electronic data just became part of the librarian’s everyday work,” he says.

Still, cybrarian has staged a comeback lately, thanks to the success of This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, by Marilyn Johnson, a former Life editor. In her book, Johnson notes that although a third of American library graduate programs have formally ditched the word library (as has U of T’s program), librarians, as a rule, have not embraced the “part cyborg, part cat’s-eye reading glasses” image that cybrarian conjures.

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