Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Librarian Mystique, Seriously

Actually, all joking aside, I do believe in a librarian mystique. It is compounded of a subtle mix of dust and powdered paper, ages of scholarship piled on shelves carefully tended and ordered. The earliest librarians were the first among scholars, the ones who knew all the books because they had read all the best editions and set them in order. That was when you could number the books in the world on the fingers of your hand, of course, and scholarship mainly consisted of recognizing the mistakes in hand copying.

Librarianship has changed over the millennia, and faster now than ever. A great deal of the conversation between Jim Milles and me on this blog comes down to a rather stylized and extreme debate over the completeness and speed of the current change. Law and librarianship is at a crossroads. It really has been there my entire career, so it's not really happening at lightning speed, in spite of how desperate I feel, sometimes.

I do feel most strongly that librarians would be doing lawyers and the world a grave disservice to jump into the digital world entirely. Not only for all the practical reasons I give at various points in my blogging, but also because of what libraries and librarians stand for in our shared cultural mindset. More than ever, we need that civilizing, history-keeping, scholar-tending sort of librarian.

Rex Libris, indeed!

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