Bullet Point: “Be Thankful for Librarians”

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All too often librarians shy away from praise. Humility is a virtue, but let us today set that aside for a moment.

The world is a better place because of librarians. Throughout history – from Alexandria to medieval Spain to the streets of revolutionary America – librarians have stewarded their communities. Today librarians continue their mission to build knowledge and make the world a better place. In our academies, cities, businesses and schools, librarians are trusted partners and facilitators. There are few institutions that provide vital connective tissue across so many areas of society – libraries do.

It is not collections, nor buildings, nor computers that make a library. These are artifacts; outward manifestations of a mission. Librarians collect to care take society’s memory. They build buildings as a gathering place, the modern information watering hole. Librarians network computers to sew together minds across time and space. At the center is the librarian and his or her dedication to knowledge.

I am thankful for the safety net, the researcher, the dedicated guide. I am thankful for the community organizer, the activist, the dedicated teacher. Today, as every day, I am thankful for librarians.

I also ask that librarians not shy away from praise. Humility may be a virtue, but invisibility is not. Librarian are of service, not servants. All too often librarians hide behind the stacks – mask their light behind processes and metadata. It is time for librarians to follow the example of the warrior, the shifted, and free range librarians. It is time to lead and stand up. We must sing our own praises and remind our communities that they need us.

Have a happy Thanksgiving day.

3 responses on “Bullet Point: “Be Thankful for Librarians”

  1. Charlie Brenner

    I see over a hundred librarians named in the occupations section of DAB supplement(
    American National Biography Oxford Univ. press, 2002). We have some recognition. I failed to see Charles Compton though. I will never forget a staff day lecture from a noted university city public librarian who stated that the public library was a “political institution”. She did not say that a librarian is a politician but the matter was certainly implied. Politicians make sure they get the credit but they also ‘spin’ the facts. As I understand ur point we need to b somewhat invisible as we ‘help’ and when we promote libraries we need to b loud & proud.

  2. rdlankes Post author

    I don’t think you need to be invisible when you help. Think about your best teachers you have had…if you remember them, they were not invisible, and yet they helped. Being loud and proud, and being seen as an equal partner require visibility. Being visible does not, however, necessitate spin.

    I think librarians do need to be more political, and that politics has gotten a bad name. Politics means the ability to apportion and direct power in the sense of governance. There is nothing inherently negative there. In fact, realizing that you have power is the first step in acting responsibly with it.

    During a presentation I was giving on participatory librarianship a reporter asked that if librarians take a more active role in communities, wouldn’t that also mean attracting more potentially negative attention. For example, if libraries steward more community information doesn’t that make them a more likely target for records searches and warrants? My response was, and remains, that to step into the spotlight means feeling the heat as long as getting the light.

    Am I asking librarians to be more political – yes. Am I asking them to learn the fine art of spin? No.