Honestly, It's not all that often that archivists come up in a public forum like the Daily Show. I'm not offended. Maybe I should be. But I get the joke because it's not the first time I have heard someone express surprise at the need for a Masters degree to be a librarian or an archivist. In fact, I think most people I meet have no idea what an archivist is, much less what kind of education is needed to land a professional job in the archives. When I told my family years ago that I was going to library school, they had no idea that you needed a masters to be bun wearing, shushing bibliophile.
So why all the education?
The answer is simple. It's really hard to get control over all of the bibliographic knowledge in the world. That's what I learned in library school and this is how I explain it to people wondering why librarians need all that education. I ask them to just think for a moment about every book, article, website, pamphlet, blog, correspondence, photo, and recording in the world, ever, since the beginning of history. Now think about organizing it all so you can find exactly what you're looking for. That's what librarians and archivists do and that's what we're trained to do. Basically we're control freaks with the altruistic goal of making the universe of information available to everyone. And I'm happy as long as I can do my small part as an archivist to get information to the people. Because information is power. Power to the People!
Ok. So, no one wonders why doctors or lawyers need a masters degree. But I'm over it, we don't need that kind of recognition. We're the masked crusaders of information. We're not worried that Jon Stewart doesn't know how we got that way. No, we're used to that. We're thinking about the issue at hand. What would you actually do with traces of drugs found on archival material? Seriously! In the context of the Grateful Dead, this kind of evidence could arguable have some archival research interest. Now don't you feel safer knowing that there are archivists out there thinking about that.