Monday, September 12, 2011

A Librarian's Heart Is Always In Between The Stacks

In recent years, libraries have had their share of bad times. Pink slips, budget cuts, and library closings are just a few of the battles that libraries have had to face. Misery takes comfort in company, which is to say, American libraries are not the only ones to have suffered the ax of budget cuts. A quick look at international library news points to England who are facing the same dire scenarios as in the states. This is not the time or place to wallow in pity and weep, "Woe is us." Actually, it's time for a pep talk of sort and get our "game face" on so that we can fight the next battles. As Vince Lombardi once said, "The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have." In the past years, libraries have managed to do much with what smaller budgets, which should make librarians measure up pretty well in the eyes of our patrons. Some might even say that there's a "superhero" quality to being a librarian. Might as well let the secret out of the bag: Yes, librarians are superheros.

The Librarian of Basra is a true tale of a librarian who loved her library and collection so much that she found a way to save the books from being destroied in war-torn Iraq. It's an inspiring tale of what can be done if someone has a vision and passion to accomplish a difficult task. Who would know more about a difficult task than a librarian who had to deal with difficult government leaders, saving a priceless collection and doing all this in secret hoping that one day the books will find a home in a new library? Alia Muhammad Baker is an amazing woman but to be honest all librarians have the ability to rise up as Librarian Baker has done. As a matter of fact, ask any librarian what goes through their minds when they walk past a library that has been closed or are visiting a school that has a library but for the moment it's just an open space for students to gather. If that librarian has been laid off, and is now working in a non-library field, ask what they feel when they walk through a library. The answer will always be the same: they miss the smell of the books, the patron's question and the love of a good story. In other workds, their hearts will always remain in the library, in between the shelves.

This is a clarion call to all librarians, whether in a school, public or academic library, it's time to put on our capes and save libraries. Not just because it provides for us employment. What libraries have to offer to our society is so much more than just books. It's the bedrock of a democracy. It's in a library where self-education begins and the keys to unlocking the answers to quests are found. Anyone can walk into a library to find the right book, ask as many questions as needed or locate the answer to a trivia question that has always plagued them. It is the ideal place for bi-partisan politics, all sides of the issues can be explored and debated. Sometimes, kernels of truth are found and ends the debates. For these reasons alone it is worth it for all librarians to stand up for all types of libraries. The simple truth is that everyone benefits from a library and everyone loses when a library closes. Placing the proverbial "heart" on the sleeves we must speak out when a library is threatened with closure. Our voices should be louder when children are denied access to a school or public library. Frankly, when a country like Haiti loses its libraries due to disaster, raising awareness to help rebuild should be on the agenda list of library associations in every country. Passion speaks volumes when it comes to preserving something that is cherished. How do you think Superman got his gig? He loved justice and the American Way. Well, librarians love the freedom to read and the quest for knowledge. That is a mission worthy of any superhero's time.
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