In February 1948, the Melbourne Public Library opened its doors to the first 35 students of its new training school for librarians. There was no shortage of eager applicants. Between sixty and ninety candidates applied each year, but only 35 prospective students would make the grade.
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Subjects studied by students included: history of the book, cataloguing, classification, indexing, book stock and its maintenance, history of the library, and reference work. You can read a sample assignment from the Library Training School here.
[Library school of the Public Library of Victoria]. Photograph by Mark Strizic.
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According to The Argus in 1953: ‘Personality, a wide range of interests, patience, ability to get on with people, and physical fitness’ were some of the qualities scoring high in the selection criteria for prospective librarians.
[Public Library of Victoria – staff and public]. Photograph by Mark Strizic.
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The Library Training School pulled no punches in its own assessment of what was required to make the grade as a librarian.
‘What is the essential quality for a librarian … ?’
lecturer J.A. Feely asked his students in 1948.
‘Undoubtedly it is that indefinable quality known as “nous”. “Nous” is a useful quality in most fields, but it is particularly so in this one. A good general background is necessary – he must be all things to all men – and women – and children. A really ignorant junior librarian in a library is a nuisance. An ignorant librarian in an Inquiry Room is nothing short of a catastrophe’. 
[Public Library of Victoria – staff and public]. Photograph by Mark Strizic. This work is in copyright; H2008.11/276
If candidates were under any lingering doubt as to how to know when they’d made the grade as a librarian, Feely offered this sage advice:
‘’When you can get to the point of registering no surprise at a question such as … “How long does it take to have a baby elephant?”, you are well on your way to acquiring the things which are beyond the technicalities of the profession’. 
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Gender disparity proved a headache. The Age lamented in 1950 that ‘library work is rapidly becoming a women’s profession’. Trustee of the Library Board Mr A.E. McMicken agreed, telling The Age he knew of only two male librarians in all of Melbourne.
Loss of personnel was also a problem, as the marriage rate of librarians was purportedly high .
[Central dais, the Domed Reading Room, State Library of Victoria]. Photograph by Viva Gibb; H88.55/6
In 1950, The Age newspaper painted a picture of a typical graduate. Philippa Neill, the first Library School alumni to be appointed readers’ adviser at the Melbourne Public Lending Library, was ‘[b]rown-haired, brown-eyed with an easy smile’. She was ‘approachable, and attentive, and only too ready to discuss any subject with prospective readers’. Philippa considered herself to be more of a readers’ friend than a readers’ advisor and described being a librarian as ‘a lovely job’ where there was ‘always something new and different to do’.
[Female staff member using roneo machine]. Photograph by Mark Strizic.
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All in all, more than 300 students passed through the halls of the Library Training School before it finally closed its doors in 1969.
Class of 1954. Group portrait taken outside Dome building; H36744
But perhaps the last word should belong to lecturer J.A. Feely:
“This business of being a librarian worthy of the calling is not an easy one. In these days when it is fashionable to sneer at an ideal, the words of the great Carnegie are in imminent danger of being forgotten: ‘Consecrate yourself to your profession for it is noble.’ ” 
 Feely, J.A. Lecture notes 1948 Melbourne: The Library p. 40.
 Ibid, p. 42.
 McCallum, C.A. The Public Library of Victoria, 1856-1956 Melbourne : The Library
 Feely op. cit. p. 43.