October 2002

Michael Farrelly

library rakehell

An introduction

We all want to be like Giles. Rupert Giles, to the uninitiated, is the suave and sexy librarian on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He is possessed of, in no particular order, a mysterious past, a compendious knowledge of the occult, a personal library and a really cool English accent. Every librarian worth their weight in Dewey wants to be Rupert Giles. Rupert Giles is a library Rakehell.

If your image of a librarian is that of a spinster woman sitting behind a pile of books only speaking to cry out “Shh!” at some unruly child who has dared to speak above a whisper then you have obviously haven’t been to the library enough. For that grievous crime alone, shame on you.

While it’s true that librarianship is a “pink collar” profession, denoting that it is a field daring to be populated by more women than men, our profession is far from populated by craggy-faced bun-wearers. Let’s set the record straight about librarians.

Librarians are a sexy breed of intellectuals. Most academics can settle down comfortably into one staid field and make their life’s work of it. Librarians cannot. We are voracious readers, insatiable in the quantity and variety of books we require. Librarians delight in the sensuality of books, the feel of fresh-printed pages, the course grain of aged paper and bright simple colors of a child’s book. The process that presses thought onto paper fascinates us. Curious, insatiable and fascinated, librarians are the very definition of sexy.

Librarians are a brave and noble profession. Your freedoms are under constant assault from myriad angles. Whether it’s the book-burners, the government snooping on your internet usage or corporate America looking to use your reading habits to sell you a bill of goods, librarians stand firm to protect your right to read in privacy and security.

Librarians are your digital gods and goddesses. A good analogy for the information available on the internet is if you took all the names and titles out of every book in the Library of Congress, tossed them in a giant pile and asked someone to find something “True”. Librarians are rapidly becoming essentially to navigating the web, finding and assessing good data as well as organizing the digital deluge into something everyone can access.

Librarians have escaped the library. We’re not just sitting behind the reference desks or shelving the periodicals. Librarians are part of the Information revolution. We’re organizing websites, protesting the Patriot Act, invading corporations and keeping the shredders at bay. Librarians are in schools, often called “School library media specialists”, and colleges, where they provide much needed bibliographic instruction.

Librarians are highly educated. To be a full-time librarian you need a college degree. Many librarians have a master’s degree in the library sciences. In the next few years over half the profession is set to retire. Library schools right now are filled with thousands of eager professionals who are set to redefine the library for the coming century.

Librarians know everything, or at least can tell you how to find everything. The sum total of human knowledge is at our fingertips and we are happy to help you access every aspect of it. Even if your requested book is not on the shelves, we’ll help you find it somewhere and get it into your hot
little hands. If information is a currency, then we are the world’s greatest philanthropists

Librarians keep love books and keep them free. While Amazon and Borders are great, where else but a library can you come in from the cold, read and take home any book in the collection all for free? Whether it’s introducing a child to the wonder of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs or helping a Graduate student scrye meaning from the work of Nelson Algren, librarians love the printed word with a passion.

All this said, I’m proud to be a librarian. This column will be a record of the glorious, and not so glorious. I’ll be your Library Rakehell.