Monday, October 10, 2011

How Can We Help You?

A few weeks ago, I was in Bird library, and was trying to use a photocopier to scan a page from a book (a Visual Thesaurus for a class assignment) to a .pdf file. The scanning was free, but it required a copy card. I couldn’t get a copy card without putting a minimum of one dollar on it, which bothered me—it wasn’t the money, it was the principal—a free service should be free. I asked the student worker at the desk about this problem, and he was clearly confused (I imagine the question had never come up) as I tried explaining my problem again, a girl who had been copying pages of her own came up to me and offered the use of her copy card.

The student worker slinked away, and I started talking with my fellow copier, Katie. She noticed my Visual Thesaurus, and asked what is was for. When I told her, she mentioned that she was a library student as well, getting her PhD in LIS from Syracuse (it was all very exciting, hooray libraries!)

So, why am I telling this story? The same questions keep coming up in conversation, in class, and on this blog: what is a librarian? What does a librarian look like? What does a librarian do? Why are we all here? For whatever reason, the answers to these questions have been focusing on librarians as agents of change; as critics and innovators and radicals. And sure, when I asked about scanning without a copy card, I was asking because I saw something wrong, which I thought should be fixed. Maybe that makes me a librarian.

But, I think, Katie is the real librarian in this story. When she heard me asking a question, she didn’t know that I was an MSLIS student, and she wasn’t acting as an employee of Bird. She heard me ask a question which she had an answer to, so she answered it.

We are all here because we love libraries, and we love librarians. Remember going to your local library when you were little, remember the thrill of asking your favorite librarian about what to read next? Or how about visiting your library in college, asking a reference librarian for some direction for your research, then curling up in an armchair with a stack of books? I'm here because if I could be anything in the world, I would be a librarian. Librarians are curious, librarians are selfless, and librarians always want to help. As I’ve gotten to know my fellow library students, I’ve realized that we are all interested in different topics, have different outlooks on life, come from different backgrounds, but we all love to help. We help each other, we help strangers, we are addicted to helping—“here, use my copy card—here, read this book, you’ll love it—here, try this recipe, it’s amazing—here, buy this melon, it’s riper—here, use this software, I use it all the time—what’s bothering you? What do you need? OK, so how can I help?”

1 comment:

  1. This is a GREAT post! And it is so incredibly true, Ben. It's not about who can be the most innovative or the most radical or the most WHATEVER. It's about helping, just as you said. Excellent story.