Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rex Libris - Librarian Regnant!

Here is what I think is important and timeless about libraries and librarians: we embody the culture and caring of our society, passed down over the ages. From the Great Library of Alexandria, where items on the shelves were scrolls and finding aids were lists and it was a huge technical leap to arrange things in alphabetical order -- through the medieval monasteries which kept learning alive in western Europe by hand copying Bibles and commentaries and classical manuscripts -- to today's libraries where we are in danger of forgetting our heritage and meaning.

When I was in law school, the library meant to me a place where I could go and hang out with kindly folks who were non-judgemental and never graded me or asked socratic questions. I think all law school libraries feel that way to students, even when we have to ask them not to bring their coffee cups or soda cans in. In my law school, a full time employee can get tuition remission after working at the university more than 3 years, but may not work in the law school EXCEPT in the law library. We are a sanctuary.

When I started offering the faculty teas, the professors were so grateful. Over and over, I heard the phrase, a "civiilized break." The dean actually funds a whole lot of lunches and festivities. I just do one tea party. But I fix the stuff myself. And it's in the library. That carries a lot of freight. Mythic stuff. Tea in the library just seems more civilized.

It's not about books versus electronic. I think all that arguing we've been doing is really pretty much a red herring, actually. Out of the Jungle, indeed. I think we are at a cross-roads in thinking about ourselves as a profession, and have been for a generation. As more and more library schools try to position themselves to avoid the sweep of extinctions that winked so many out in the 1980s by restyling themselves "school of information science," the very idea of LIBRARY came to seem rather quaint. But I am a LIBRARIAN, doggone it.

I came to it slowly, I must admit. When I first graduated, I emphasized the LAW librarian. But now, I'm more comfortable wearing pink (sorry, guys), and more comfortable being a librarian, too.

So, say it loud and say it proud! Librariians Rule! Librarians are cool.

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