I am a teacher and the end of the school year always offers an opportunity for reflection. This is a great benefit of teaching that most Americans whose jobs lack beginnings, endings or meaning never get.
You can’t teach in a vacuum. To teach well requires the support of many folks outside the traditional skinner-box classroom. First among these are librarians.
I love librarians. Over the course of my 54 year love affair with books and learning I have never encountered a more genuinely dedicated, useful group of people.
I currently teach at a local community college and the librarians there exemplify all that is best about their profession. They are knowledgeable, helpful, patient and generous.
They never tire of helping my woefully ignorant students, answering even dumbest questions with tolerance and equanimity. And yes Virginia, there is such a thing as a dumb question. In fact, they are legion and often repeated. Without their guidance, my students – clueless but cute primates that they are – would meander vacant-eyed and hopeless through the library, bumping into trees while wondering where the forest is. The librarians gently take their little critter paws and lead them through the labyrinth toward their goals. If I wore a hat, I would take it off to them. As I look bad with hat hair, this sincere thank you will have to suffice.
They do all of this in college libraries without even being accorded faculty status or the possibility of tenure. They do it without even getting summers off! Not many professors are so dedicated.
But there is much more to thank librarians for.
They are the keepers of civilization, the collective memory of our culture. Their tireless organizing and cataloging makes the advancement of the arts and sciences possible. Without librarians there are no libraries, no research and no progress. They provide the fundament upon which knowledge grows.
They are also the primary defenders of access to information, of keeping it available and within reach. Not by accident are librarians in the front lines of the eternal battle between free thought and dogma. If not for their often unpopular stands against censorship, many great books would now be banned and the human mind and imagination would be sadly diminished.
They are largely responsible for managing an epochal cultural upheaval – the manifestly difficult task of merging traditional print and new electronic information technologies so that coherence is maintained. This is a societal shift of a magnitude not seen since the introduction of the printing press. They show up for work and make it happen.
Thank them. If you value knowledge, thought, the arts, science, freedom, human progress and civilization itself, do the right thing: hug a librarian today.