There was a librarian who walked into a bar…To be more accurate it was a pool hall. No this is not a bad joke, its a true story. I had just joined my husband for our weekly nine-ball league (Librarians do have a life outside of books). He was up to shoot and asked me to get him a drink at the bar.
As I approached, a drunk across the bar tried to talk to me. I did my best to ignore him, until he made the comment, “You should loosen up, take down your hair. You look like a librarian.” Personally, I don’t think I look anything like the stereotypical “librarian”, but I turned toward him, looked him straight in the eye, and said “Thank you, I am a librarian.”
Librarians are often portrayed as the shushing female pushing carts of moldering old books around silent buildings. To be honest we are more like the Angelina Jolies of the literary world. We adopt roles depending on our situations, much like actors do.
We can go from a sweet chipper sing-a-long story-time leader to hard-ass bouncer of rowdy teens in zero to ninety. More appropriate, in this age of unlimited digital information we become the sifters of the garbage. We are the treasure hunters, or tomb raiders, of information. (Yes, there are some Indiana Jones types here too!)
We have faced budget crunches and the looming recession creeping up on us. With no additional funding, we have taken on the additional work of serving as an outsource for many closed government agencies. The downside to everything going digital is that many government offices have closed their local offices with the message “Go to your local library and use their computers.”
We are left with a society forced to conform to the changing technology. Librarians are no longer just the guardians of information. They are the gatekeepers to employment, to Medicaid benefits, and even citizenship. Many come in never having even seen a computer before, let alone logging onto a website. We help to bridge that gap, with free computer classes and Internet.
Let us entertain you…Yes, librarians are a source of entertainment as well. Beyond the free movies and sometimes even video games that we offer; we also provide free community programming. More than just having a local author speak, there are film fests, story-time programs, cooking demonstrations, crafting,animal exhibits, clowns…We have it all.
Many in our field lament the changing of the times with many libraries becoming more like noisy community centers than those silent hallowed halls of knowledge depicted in film. If anything, it proves that we are adaptable. Libraries will never go away and librarians will always be needed. So to answer that man at the bar, I don’t have to let down my hair. Being a librarian is already a pretty wild time.