Blog Post: Librarians Are…..

IMG_4018You might think that librarians are basically serious people.  We are a serious profession with our roots integral to the basis of democracy.  The first public libraries were formed to ensure an educated electorate—to make sure access to information and education were not just for the elite and the wealthy.  I sometimes think of those early days of our nation. A huge social and governing experiment started with a revolution born of an ideal; a vision of equality that had never been imagined.  What a thrill that victory must have sent through those states.  Those 2 million people living in the 13 original colonies were now in charge (well, at least the free white men were).  Our founding fathers’ dream included transparency, informed debate of issues and inclusion of diverse ideas – all as defined by the age, but still grand ideals.

Where did you come to make sure you had facts, deep knowledge and firm foundations to enter into those debates well-armed?  If you were wealthy, your father’s grand library.  If you were middle class or poor, the library.  Self-education has always been a respected pursuit in our nation and librarians have always been there as navigators.  Serious work.

You might think that librarians are organized people. Melville Dewey, a very serious organizer, found an outlet for his compulsive obsessive tendencies by creating the Dewey Decimal System; still the best way to make sure that large collections of non-fiction materials have all the books on a subject in one area. Dewey is still used in schools and most public libraries.

Charles Ammi Cutter, inspired by Dewey, did the same for fiction in the 1882. Your library used this system many years ago and it is mainly used in large research libraries now.  Don’t ask me to explain it….it was very complex and cumbersome.

The Library of Congress developed their own system for all materials in the late 1800’s as well – called LC classification. LC classification is primarily used in college and university libraries.   The ANSCR system is still widely used for organizing sound recordings (what we librarians call 8-track tapes, audio cassettes, and vinyl and CD recordings). Caroline Saheb-Ettaba and Roger B. McFarland developed it in 1969.  Sorry to say, we are still using this somewhat dated system in your library.

1If you are going to have lots of stuff, as libraries certainly do, you are going to want to find it.  Hence a bunch of drawers with little three by five cards all neatly filed with a metal rod inserted through a hole at the bottom of the card.  TaDa!  The card catalog, designed so that you couldn’t dump a drawer and mess up all that glorious organization.  Laramie County Library System moved from a card catalog to an “online catalog” in 1992.  We just have organized the heck out of all of it.

You know that current commercial with the librarian with a bun, black reading glasses and a stern look on her face?  The one shushing the hungry student breaking off a piece of that Kit Kat bar?  That really burns me up!  Will librarians never be able to lose that outdated stereo type?  I think it most annoys me because it is a lie.  Yes, we take seriously that your library can assist you in reaching your full potential. Yes, we work very hard to have things here organized to ensure you can find them easily and get on with the real work of learning and growing and seeking adventure.  What they have so wrong in that stereo type is that we love what we do, we love who we serve and we do everything with great joy, generosity and grace.  If someone in this library is not smiling, it is because they are concentrating on solving a problem for you.  If a child is asked to use their indoor voice, you really could hear them all the way across the room instead just half way across.  Ok, you will see me and a few other of us in reading glasses, but you will also see Beth with purple hair and Bobby’s awesome tattoos.

What we are, who choose to serve you in your library, is a bunch of witty, caring and dedicated people who embrace the spirit of what a library offers to its community and embrace the community we serve with serious respect,  efficient service and loads of appreciation for the your gratitude.  It is an honor. Seriously.

~Carey D. Hartmann