Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Thank a librarian
This is an official apology to librarians everywhere. I could blame Gerry Porter, my Miniature Mysteries protagonist since she's the one who spoke the offending words.
Or I could blame Margaret Grace, my aka who wrote the words.
But instead I'll step up and blame myself for not being more clear about what real librarians do.
Here's my mistake: Gerry Porter, amateur sleuth and retired English teacher, volunteers in her library's literacy program, helping older people attain their GEDs. I've done that myself and think it's a worthy activity. In the book, Gerry explains that her student has been promised a job in the library once she gets her GED, a job helping at the reference desk.
Uh-oh – it certainly looks like SOMEONE thinks all you need to be a reference librarian is a GED. Gerry knows better. Margaret Grace knows better. I know better but it certainly didn't come across that way.
What I had in mind was the job I had as a high school student. The public library was right next door to the high school in my day, and I had a job there after school. I shelved books, glued ivory colored pockets to the backs of books, and ran errands for the librarian. The summer after I got my diploma, I was promoted to working at the desk answering questions. They weren't the kinds of questions real librarians answer now. More like: where are the books Mrs. Andrews assigned for summer reading? What does antidisestablishmentarianism mean? It was a different era and a poor town, and I'm not even sure there was a real reference librarian in those days.
I'm well aware that librarians today are highly educated and intensively trained in library and information sciences. Their curriculum includes classes in research methods and statistics, information and records organization and management; policies that influence the creation of information and access to it; issues of legality, privacy, equity, and ethics in this information age. And that's just the beginning. There are concentrations in digital libraries, school libraries, youth services, and specialized libraries such as those in corporate, medical, museum, or other organizational settings.
I set one of my periodic table mysteries, The Boric Acid Murder, in the Revere Public Library of today. I had the full cooperation and encouragement of the current Director, so I know at least that turned out okay.
My library job at sixteen was the first "clean" job I had. I went home smelling of delicious paper and rubber stamps instead of hot dogs and pepper steaks, from my job at a food concession on the beach.
I loved working in the stacks, surrounded by books and wanted to give my character that experience. That's what I had in mind for Gerry Porter's students.
I never meant to make it seem that anyone could staff a reference desk; I meant it as something wonderful to aspire to.
Please join me in hugging – or at least thanking -- a librarian today, to help make up for my awkward, sludgy prose.