Librarians are not Usually Libertarians


My high school librarian was probably a nice guy in when he started his teaching career even though he wore really tacky bow ties and truly strange string ties.  He was an absolutely perfect  pattern for what used to be the stereotype of the male school librarian. Whip thin, tall, glasses and a protruding adams apple.  But over the years as many of us who live in the world of books do,  he became more intolerant of a real world of shall we say “fractious teenagers.   He had become, as some high school librarians used to be , totally oblivious to the real world outside of the library. Librarians often become what they are because of the students around them compounded by the fact that students do not consider a library as a sort of shrine to knowledge as most librarians and  many of us citizens do. Students through their oft parroted and almost tacitly accepted library misbehavior often make librarians authoritarian, rule bound and commonly a little a weird although with the advent of libraries full of computers the type of  control librarians wield   has changed dramatically from “SsssHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I almost feel that the treatment of  librarians was sort of  a pre-cursor for the current lack of respect for the teaching profession while at the same time librarians, because they often control the computers in the building, have been to a certain extent recently rehabilitated at least in the eyes of the students and public.

When I was in high school we still  had wind up alarm clocks in most houses.  The species was ticking its way towards extinction as they were unable to move or adapt when clock radios started taking their habitat niche next to the bed and thus were sentenced to lingering death.  When they were sickly but not yet dead it was amazing  how many of them found a way to migrate  into the stacks behind books  or taped under tables in Mr. E’s library. It was as far as I know an unplanned conspiracy but when the high school library got really quiet the way Mr. E. liked it disturbed only by the rustling of turning pages the  ticking became quite audible and everyone watched as  Mr. E played Captain Hook looking for his own ticking crocodile, the stifled laughter was hard to contain.  In a testament to Mr. E’s library weirdness his real moment in the sun came when he attempted unsuccessfully to make a citizen’s arrest of a cement truck driver for reckless driving after school one day with predictable results.  .

It is my observation that librarians in general  take more than their fair share of abuse from children but the cruelest trick I have ever seen played on a librarian occurred when the seniors broke into the library for their senior prank and tossed the librarians card file. For the youngsters who may be reading this before computers everything was on cards in long drawers, held in place by a long metal rod.  There was no backup!  The rods were pulled and the card file drawers dumped and scattered.  Thousands and even 10’s of thousands  of cards thrown around the library floor in a truly nasty prank that paralyzed the library for weeks.  The card catalogue was like a true believers Bible it guided all actions and often was the almost sacred fount of all knowledge for the  librarian.   As I remember that  librarian who was the subject of this prank never truly recovered and only worked Mondays and Thursdays for the rest of the year avoiding the schools three-day doctors excuse  rule as a part of the last year of her career.

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
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2 Responses to Librarians are not Usually Libertarians

  1. HaLin says:

    Thank you for sharing these insights. I agree that libraries aren’t accorded the recognition they deserve. In fact, when I was in school, it was thought uncool to be seen venturing into the library (I was among the uncoolest of chaps, by this definition).

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the following. Do you think libraries have a place in the coming decades? With attention spans dropping almost universally and with increased focus on regurgitation as opposed to truly ‘reading’, do you feel libraries, as we know it, would be redundant soon?

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