Friday, August 12, 2022

Librarians get the job done

     The Richelieu Reading Room at the National Library of France in Paris is beautiful. No, you can’t get in, unless you are a registered researcher or skilled at talking your way past librarians.

     Don’t fuck with librarians.
     In the newspaper, I’m using a weaker word than “fuck,” the watered-down euphemism required by the kabuki of daily newspapering. Which in the freer online world I can ignore. Why not? The nation is in continual crisis, if not circling the drain. Norms are trashed left and right. Newspapers are wan imitations of themselves as it is. Time to unleash all the words.
     Librarians are badass. At least I can say that in print.
     Yes, the National Archives is not, technically, a library so much as a repository of public documents. But it has its own library and a chief librarian, and is in charge of all presidential libraries. We’re on safe ground considering it a library.
     And yes, those busting into Mar-a-Lago on Monday were not librarians, per se, but FBI agents acting as their proxy. Still, going down to Florida to collect their overdue materials was certainly a boss librarian move. The sort of hardball I’ve come to associate with librarians.
     Librarians can’t be milquetoasts. They must deal with the public. Frequently wrangle other people’s children for hours. Librarians can’t suffer fools. Busting in, guns drawn, blowing the safe, is very on-brand for librarians. “I believe you have something that belongs to us!”
Mrs. Rachel Beers, circa 1978,
     Experience has given me special respect for librarians. Not to be confused with affection. Closer to the survivor nostalgia that Marines feel for abusive boot camp instructors at Parris Island. There was Mrs. Rachel Beers — I remember her name — fixing me with her deadly laser stare from behind the circulation desk at the Berea High School Library. She once printed up school library rules on a special handout, personalized for me, and hand-delivered them, since I obviously didn’t seem to understand that the library rules applied to me, too. Especially to me.

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  1. "...or skilled at talking your way past librarians." Almost missed that. Bravo!


  2. What seems like a lifetime ago, I was a school librarian. Best job I have ever had. Budhism teaches that you should earn your living in a way that brings good into the world. That's what a librarian does.

    When I started in the profession, the tradition was that every school building had it's own trained and certified librarian. A nearby school district's superintendent was trying to cut spending. He discovered a loophole in state certification. Each DISTRICT was required to have a librarian and each BUILDING could get by with a low paid aide as long as there was one librarian somewhere in the district. Other superintendents saw what he was doing and very quickly the building librarian was history around the state. They patted themselves on the back for figuring out how to cut spending.

    Music, theater, libraries are all on life support in schools in Illinois because of the exploitation of quirks in certification that are exploited by bean counters.

    Football is going strong.

    1. From today's St Louis Post Dispatch: "School librarians across Missouri are pulling books from shelves as they face the potential for criminal charges under a new state law banning “explicit sexual material.”

  3. Bill Harms! A terrific past news director at UChicago.

  4. In ancient times the deterioration and eventual closing of the Great Library of Alexandria was considered a major setback for civilization. And in fiction there's "The Name of the Rose."

  5. I sent a link to this to a friend of mine who works at the Cook Memorial Library in Libertyville who I figured would enjoy it. Katie Oakes wrote me back thanking me and then told me that her husband Bill lived with you many years ago--such a small world.

    1. Hough Street in Barrington. Almost 40 years ago. With Mike Bailey, all of us brand new hires at the Barrington Courier Review. He drove a 280Z, and I had a 1963 P1800. The stuff you remember ...

    2. Yes the things you can remember 40 years later. I too had a 280Z back then and our first accountant had his office on Hough Street.

  6. “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries"... (Whole Earth Catalog, 1980)


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