At the library, choose wizards over search engines

By Aubrey Klein

When I tell people that I want to be a librarian, they often laugh or give me an uncomfortable scrunched up look that says, “Now why would you want to do that?” And though no one ever says it, I imagine that they’re thinking, “But you don’t look like a librarian. Where are your cat-eye glasses and severe bun?  And why aren’t you aggressively shushing me?”

After rolling my eyes and considering the silent treatment until this person stops insulting my hopes and dreams, I feel offended and confused.  Many people don’t seem to recognize librarianship as a legitimate career path, especially not for a young college graduate.  They think that I would make a much better contribution to society if I obtained a more prestigious title like Doctor or Nobel Prize-winning lawyer-astronaut-scientist.

Even as libraries have adapted in the age of e-books and online catalogues, many people still cling to outdated librarian stereotypes that inform their misguided view of what a librarian really is.  I also suspect many people are generally ignorant about the profession as a whole.

This image problem is one that I am not okay with, and you shouldn’t be either.  So while I’m no expert—yet—here are some things you should really know about librarians, and why they are some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet.

I’m here to tell you that not all librarians are old, white women.  In reality, statistics collected by the American Library Association (ALA) indicate that over 40% of librarians are under the age of 44, and less than 10% are over the age of 65.  However, the gender and racial breakdown of the profession leaves something to be desired: 87% of librarians are white and 81% are female.  That being said, librarians come from all walks of life and have a diverse set of experiences and knowledge to share.

I think librarians often go underappreciated because people think that all they do is catalog and check out books.  While these are some of their duties, librarianship isn’t a job that just anyone can do.  Librarians are the gateway through which people can find and access almost any type of information.  They’re actually more like wizards—wizards with master’s degrees.

A library science degree signifies an extensive knowledge of library collections and reference work, as well as computer science, which has become increasingly important in the digital age.  These are some really intelligent members of society we’re dealing with here, and they really should have gotten their letters from Hogwarts by now.

Now I know what you might be thinking, and before you ask: No, Google cannot do what a librarian does.  Google spits out one million search results, a librarian gives you one.  In fact, “UK Search Guru” Phil Bradley really sums it up the best: “Librarians are there to help, aid, assist.  To interest, intrigue, amuse and amaze. To help children, adults, old people, and the underprivileged, the rich, the poor, those with voices and those without.  Google is there to make money.”  So, in addition to being wizards, librarians are also social justice warriors.  Right on.

As you probably could have guessed, I’m a frequent library user.  In fact, I use my library card so often it would probably be easier if I just tattooed the barcode on my arm.  For the life of me I cannot figure out why someone wouldn’t use a library.  I mean come on, free books!

Even so, there’s a lot of talk about libraries and librarians being irrelevant, and while I know that a few—or all—of us studious Lawrentians would disagree, there are a lot of naysayers out there.  So let’s prove them wrong.  Use your library endlessly, and thank your librarian profusely.  The library is not dead, and neither is the librarian.