Thursday, December 23, 2010

Twelve Theses on Libraries and Librarians

From Faith and Theology via LISNews: Twelve Theses on Libraries and Librarians. Worth a read. A couple of things jumped out at me:

When you think of librarians, you may imagine those bespectacled mild-mannered characters with their index cards and carbon paper and obsolete black-and-green computer screens. Librarians often contrive for themselves this Luddite image. But they are in truth the most progressive and visionary figures in the whole university: like bloodhounds, always hot on the trail of the future. Their demure appearance is a cunning disguise which allows them to perpetrate their radicalism all the more effectively. It is a camouflage net thrown over an armoured vehicle.

I'm all for looking like the stereotype. It's probably helpful for library patrons to be able to identify a librarian by sight. That and it's a stereotype for a reason - 'the girl with brown hair and glasses' describes quite a few people in my program at college. I myself am a brunette with glasses, a fondness of cardigans, and pearl earrings.

Myers pours on the flattery, too, describing librarians as 'the most progressive and visionary figures in the whole university'. Really? All of them? Huh. While I am very much for librarians and how awesome they are, sometimes I kind of roll my eyes when they're described as visionaries and guardians of knowledge. I also roll my eyes at the phrase 'information wants to be free'. No, it doesn't. It doesn't want anything. But anyway...

The library is also the safest and friendliest place on earth.

Maybe an academic library? But a public library is open to the public. The public includes violent, crazy, and violent and crazy people.

Look at me and my pooh-poohing. I did like the article, though, especially:

I know a woman who worked as a librarian back in the 1960s, when the novels of D. H. Lawrence were still banned in Australia. The library’s Lawrence holdings were kept in a locked filing cabinet, and my friend – a young woman then – was responsible for the key. So one by one she secreted them away; during her lunch breaks you could find her smoking cigarettes and reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover beneath the shade of wattles and the hum of bees. The moral of the story: the librarian is a sly animal; and if you're nice to them, you might one day get a glimpse of those treasures that lie hid in every library, away from dust and prying eyes, secured by lock and key.

You don't need to yell about how much of a noble visionary gatekeeper you are; that just makes it more difficult for the quiet, necessary subversion. Or at least don't be obnoxious about it.


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