On Libraries and Librarians
The Library: My Lifelong Unlikely Celebrity Crush.
I have had a hot and heavy love affair with libraries since as far back as I can remember.
Back in 5th grade, lo those many years ago, I played Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? on the elementary school computer (weird to think we even had such a thing since there were also dinosaurs roaming the earth at the time).
In middle school I would walk the half-hour to our only branch to see if the next Nancy Drew was available. Or the next Stephen King. Because ECLECTIC is why.
As a young adult I sought solace from loneliness or hardship in the library stacks because books don’t judge, and free things are happy-making.
I have picked up a library card from every city I’ve lived in, and a few I’ve only visited, because I’m covetous and I want access to every branch on the planet.
While most of the girls my age wanted to be teachers (not principals or community leaders on the Board of Education) or nurses (never doctors or surgeons or medical specialists), I wanted to be a librarian or an astronaut. I was heavy into information and space technology, not ankle-biters and veins.
When first I heard the term “Library Science” I squeed in my pants.
Librarians Gone Wrong:
That’s not to say I haven’t endured rotten experiences with librarians. I mean, we can get to Mars now but still can’t correctly navigate four-way traffic stops. Humans can fuck up anything humans can build, and libraries are no exception.
I was in 6th grade during my first library nightmare. It was a super-hot summer day, and my half-hour walk in the blazing sun resulted in heat stroke. The difference in temperature between THE LITERAL BURNING FLAMES OF SUMMER HELL versus the Antarctic air conditioner wrought havoc on my poor sinuses, so that upon entering my book haven, my nose spurted blood like a gutted matador.
The librarian on duty, nonplussed, pointed me to the restroom, instructing me not to make a mess. I remember saying, woozy with effort, “I think I need help,” before passing out. I awoke on the floor where I’d fallen, my bag under my feet to keep them raised above my heart, and tissues stuffed up my nostrils to staunch the flow of blood. After ascertaining my health was in tact, she ordered me to clean myself up and get about my business.
This lady was clearly a first aid pro and a beacon of professionalism. Also? An A-1 bitch.
More recently, I was made to feel like an asshole for paying my library in small coins.
Here is my Facebook rant on the topic:
Me: I just printed off 2 pages and I’d like to pay for them, please.
Librarian: Okay, it’s 10¢ per page.
Me: Right. Hope you don’t mind, I’m paying the 20¢ in pennies. Heh.
Librarian, eyebrows raised and voice filled with undisguised disdain: Wow. Um. Don’t worry about it.
Me: Seriously? I want to pay. You guys really don’t want pennies?
Her: Probably not.
Me: Do you have like a “take one / leave one” dish or something? I mean, it’s just 20¢ but I feel badly taking my printouts without paying.
Her, accepting my meek, gauche offering: I guess. Whatever.
Let me get this straight: A fucking government-paid facility that depends on donations and levies from its community of tax payers is too goddamn good for pennies??? WTF. This town is lovely but the snobbery and uppity-bitch nonsense makes me want to burn all the stupid Trump signs I still see on many of the lawns. Get over yourself, Germantown. You’re just not as New York or Paris as you would like me to think. You’re a gentrified cornfield. Which is fine. But Jesus Christ, know your fucking place.
But dem libraries doe!
This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, by Marilyn Johnson
The subject matter alone got me excited, but hearing about the heroes protecting our freedom against unsavory misuses of the Patriot Act, and the tech-geeks pushing boundaries in what we lowly, po’ ass commoners can freely access, and the eclectic collectors of information…
well, let’s just say this is how you turn me on.
Buried in info? Cross-eyed over technology? From the bottom of a pile of paper, disks, books, e-books, and scattered thumb drives comes a cry of hope: Make way for the librarians—they can help!
Those who predicted the death of libraries forgot to consider that, in the automated maze of contemporary life, none of us—expert and hopelessly baffled alike—can get along without human help. And not just any help: we need librarians, the only ones who can save us from being buried by the digital age.
This Book Is Overdue! is a romp through the ranks of information professionals—from the blunt and obscenely funny bloggers to the quiet, law-abiding librarians gagged by the FBI. These are the pragmatic idealists who fuse the tools of the digital age with their love for the written word and the enduring values of free speech, open access, and scout-badge-quality assistance to anyone in need.
I’ve been reassessing where I’m at in life, and what kind of person I want to be, and how I want to get where I’m going. January is good for this sort of introspective self-analysis. And I’m going back to the beginning. I want to go back to school, and I want to be a librarian. Or, more specifically, I want to major in Library Science.
It’s never too late to become what you were meant to be. So I sent away for an admissions packet to one of our many local colleges. I probably can’t afford to attend classes yet (not even by this fall), but I figure it doesn’t hurt to take a look and ask questions and get started in the right direction.
If I ever end up schlupping books at my local branch, I promise to accept pennies from patrons with grace. Unless pennies are no longer a valid form of payment, of course, in which case I will scowl and let you know exactly how very stupid you are.