I just received a voice mail from a faculty friend who has a friend retiring from law practice. She is considering post-law things to do with herself and wants to talk to me about law librarianship. Here is the gut kick: She does not want to go to library school.
Of course, my faculty friend sees nothing amiss here. Her friend has no idea she has said anything at all offensive. They would be outraged or amused if somebody told them they wanted to practice law without going to law school. We librarians have failed so badly at defining our profession and its training standards that nobody thought that was an odd thing to consider. Maybe we do deserve to die out!
But here is the irony. I don't think for a New York minute that law school prepares young lawyers any better for practice than library school prepares young librarians! I've been to both. I've been a newly hatched lawyer and a newly hatched librarian. And I can tell you, I felt a LOT less prepared as a lawyer!
So, what are librarians doing wrong?
Well, for one thing, people compare lawyers to sharks, right?
Nobody compares librarians to sharks, or anything very dangerous. Except maybe a few FBI agents who are very frustrated by the ALA's opposition to the USA PATRIOT ACT. People like librarians. We are fuzzy and cute. Well, maybe not fuzzy and cute, but harmless, anyway, not imposing. (of course, there is the point that nobody much likes lawyers, but at least they never think about practicing law without going to law school, doggone it!)
Maybe we need more librarian action figures. Librarian cartoons with butt-kicking heroes who fight for the right and make sure the book is on the shelf, too. I just loved Mary Whisner's title:
MASTERS OF LIBRARY SCIENCE
See Rex Libris, a comicbook series by James Turner for one, here. You will want to follow the adventures of Rex Libris, Librarian:
The astonishing story of the incomparable Rex Libris, Head Librarian at Middleton Public Library, and his unending struggle against the forces of ignorance and darkness. With the aid of an ancient god who lives beneath the library branch, Rex travels to the farthest reaches of the galaxy in search of overdue books. He must confront incredible foes, such as powerful alien warlords who refuse to pay their late fees. Wearing his super thick bottle glasses, and armed with an arsenal of high technology weapons, he strikes fear into recalcitrant borrowers, and can take on virtually any foe from zombies to renegade public-domain literary characters with aplomb.
But, I sense we need more pizazz... something like Lara Croft of Tomb Raiders, she says, shamelessly. Ideas, anybody? We need to save this excellent profession!