Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Do you like books? People? Good!

The brilliant Stephen altered me to this fine educational film.

Love of books! Love of people! Love of cross-indexing!

A few things struck me about this film. Most of the librarians here are women. They're reading stories to children, locating books for teenagers, and whipping up catalog cards by the thousands. I believe there are two male librarians in this film. The first is asked to compile a scientific bibliography (about radar) and the second is a library administrator. Yes, this is 1946 and the glass ceiling was a bit lower. But I still see some of this today in the library world - more in terms of administration than in the bibliographers. Of course I lack more than anecdotal evidence to support this assertion, and there are a great number of fiercely intelligent and admirable women in leadership positions in the field, this still bugged me. I'm not even sure if that's even a complaint, because in this world of books and people, I'm by no means alone. For LIS 510, we read an article featuring a study on typical users of libraries. The typical user? Overeducated, middle-class, white and female. Yes! I am deep within my world, with my sisters in overachieving. But I wonder if I need to stop more often to think about what it must be like to not have 10 years of various library work experience, to be one of the few men in the program. What must it be like for my friends who are doing this program with kids at home? From the East coast? I need to remember what it was like to be a freshman too scared to use the reserve desk. I need to remember what it was like to sit and wait for that article that I needed yesterday. What is it like to be lost? To be displaced? To be angry? What is it like to be the person on the other side of the desk?

The second thing I noted in this film is that the field really hasn't changed all that much. If you ignore love of books (and I've yet to meet a librarian who isn't somewhat of a reader) and instead focus on the qualification of loving knowledge and lifelong learning, you're in 2009. Learning and people are still at the core of what we do as librarians. While shelf-list cards have bowed to MARC, the goal of technical services is to still create a tool to allow the users to come into to contact with the collection, with "the stuff". That attitude towards service, to trying to get out there to find what the patron needs so they'll come back and get more knowledge featured prominently in a class lecture a week or so ago. Documents change. Service types and tools change. But we're still trying to get the user to their blue book on television as best we can.

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