Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My Mom Thinks I'm Cool

Anybody who has read this blog on a semi-regular basis knows that I have a beautiful, intelligent older sister and a beautiful, intelligent younger sister. What does that make me? The Middle Child With An Inferiority Complex. So it's almost fitting that I became a librarian.

Librarians are the only people I know who routinely justify their jobs. We're like the romance readers of the professional world. "See, my job is important!" "See, libraries provide a valuable service!" "See, the library is the greatest!"

Big Sigh. I made the decision a long time ago to stop justifying my reading habits to people who can't be bothered to listen. I'm starting to think I should do the same with my job, but given that my job is dependent on public funding (and I like paying the rent and buying groceries), I'm probably stuck on the Rah Rah Libraries Are The Coolest Bandwagon until the day I die. I'd say retire, but librarians don't retire - we move to part-time.

So in an effort to stay relevant, libraries keep looking for the next big score. Computers, check. Downloadable audio books, check. ebooks, check. Cafes in libraries, check. Free wireless service, check. DVDs, check. In recent years there have even been libraries built and modeled after chain bookstores. Shiny, new, housing what the public demands - their pop culture bellies filled till they burst.

As much as I love going to Borders, this practice tends to send a chill up my spine. Libraries and bookstores are not the same thing. (If you work for a publishing company please read over that last sentence again).

Yes, chain bookstores are bright, shiny, new and you can always find a copy of the new assembly-lined produced James Patterson novel there (seriously, I have this theory that he has a writing sweatshop set up in Guatemala). But half the fun of libraries is the hunt. We have James Patterson too, but you'll also find so much more. Long out of print gems that don't exist in Borders-land. Foreign translations. Well-reviewed books that had dismal print runs. Long-forgotten classics. Browsing the library is a feast. A treasure hunt where you can find untold riches.

But there's still that continual need to justify. To convince non-library users that yes, the library is vital! Yes, we're important! Love us! Validate us! And the easiest way to the do that is through raw numbers. See, this DVD of Spiderman 2 circulated 75 times! See, this John Grisham novel circulated 150!

I'm certainly not saying that libraries shouldn't offer popular titles. I mean, hello? Romance and mystery reader here! But that's not to say that libraries can't be both. They can be cultural clearinghouses and cater to pop culture desires. Naturally it's impossible to be all things, to all people, but libraries need to try - because if we don't do it, who will? I mean, you're certainly not going to find that foreign film that had limited distribution at Blockbuster. But you just might find it at the library. Hopefully one day all libraries will get it right. In the meantime I think I'm stuck wearing my Librarians Are Special button.


Angel said...

I love my library more than I love my TV.

I could go without TV. But books? No, never. How else would I ever really understand the world? Or escape it?

What I mean is: Thanks for the important work you do!

And, yes, the Borders style library idea gets up my nose, too.

CindyS said...

My favourite library was the one at my university - McMaster in Hamilton Canada. I loved just sitting in the stacks and finding books that were from the 1800's. I think the library that I used was called Mills and housed the literature, essays on literature, history, geography, social sciences, languages, etc.

Then there was the Thode library which was the science/math library and even though I liked it because of the architecture, it was MY (Mills)library that I loved the mostest ;) What's sad is that they have renovated the entire building and it looks nothing like when I went there.

Since I live in a small town our library used to be very out of date. I haven't been there in a while because I don't want the alarms to go off and get tackled for my eons ago late fees (Bad Cindy) but since we have been pushed under the umbrella of a city I'm wondering if they received better funding and have come up in the world.


Lil' Sis said...

Wow! My sis-tor thinks I'm beautiful AND intelligent. Well, color me happy. :)

No, really, I love libraries - that's why when I was a teacher (and soon to return to the profession) I offered extra credit to every student who had (or went out and got) a library card. I even had THREE posters in my classroom about how great libraries are...

Rosie said...

Growing up libraries were my refuge. I honestly don't know what I would have done as a kid without the library. I started my kids in the same tradition.

I get tweaked and jealous because our library is small and has to order out for alot of stuff.

TAG said...

Your mom isn't the only one that thinks you are cool. ;)

I'm right there with you on the "Library's are Awesome" bandwagon. I'm also right there with you on the "Middle Child syndrome".

My mom was (is) a librarian and I am a middle child.

Not been to the blog much; but, what I have see so far I really like.