Librarianship, friends, is not cool.
We must not say so.
But I will say so. It’s kind of my thing.
Librarianship is not cool.
Librarians are not cool.
Libraries are not cool.
Libraries are for nerds, and dorks, and outcasts, who want to dig deep into a subject and hardly come up for air.
Libraries are where you take your lunch when no one wants you to sit at their table.
Libraries are where you go when you have questions and no one to ask for the answers.
Librarians are people who have no chill, who can’t shut up, who flash and yearn to prove to people that great literature should not bores them, but if it does, then dammit, what do you want to read? We’ll find it for you. This is not cool; it will never be cool. Is it interesting? Valuable? Necessary? Perhaps. I cannot tell you what it is, only what it is not, and it is not cool. At. All. And really, has anything genuinely cool ever been called cool, (except for perhaps Miles Davis)?
Libraries and librarians aren’t beyond critique, but in Maine, we’re the most trusted professionals, second only to nurses. On a national level, I don’t know if we even rank. But millennials, eaters of avocado toasts and shunners of house buying and payers of student loan debt, they love us. Doesn’t that count for something?
On one hand we are Henry, the other, Mr Bones. On both hands, we are utterly fantastical and boring as buttered toast all at once. No, I won’t explain that further; do your research.
Another thing we are not, and cannot be, is all things to all people, either as employees or institutions. That way madness lies.
And, nerds, sorry to break it to you, but: libraries are about stories. Go ahead and fight me about this. I DARE YOU. (see above, re: NO CHILL.) I’m tired of “libraries are more than books blah blah blah axe body spray chicken fries” because, yeah, sure, whatever, I get it, it’s great, but at the end of the day, whether it’s in a book or at a board meeting, libraries are about stories. And speaking of books:
The act of borrowing printed books is still by far the most popular activity at libraries, even compared with using computers: 64% of library users ages 16 and older checked out a book in the last 12 months, compared with 29% who used a computer at the library in the same time frame. http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/09/libraries-2016/
So get over it, nerd. You are, on the whole, a trustworthy, punk ass book jockey with no chill, who is neither sinner nor saint nor good red herring. Your job, your career, has value, but it cannot save the world–but it can make the world a bit more interesting. You’re not cool and will probably never be cool.
And that’s fine.