Thursday, February 23, 2012

Librarian Should Still Mean Priest/ess or Healer

I am feeling vaguely pessimistic. I wonder what will happen when my personal reference librarian doesn't answer the physical phone anymore. My Dad, he is my reference librarian. I had the benefit of access to an ace number one, classically trained mind. (Even when he was busy making sure that we had all of the basic necessities and quite a bit more.)

But, funny side note... My son, Win, bailed on our local library when "his" librarian got promoted. (Mea culpa for writing her a support letter, but, a girl's gotta move on up. I can't be selfish.) Still. I always said to Win, "if you want to know anything and everything, you've got to be very nice to your librarian. S/he will give you the whole world of everything you want to know.” So after she left “our library” we did a bit of Amazon. That became financially prohibitive and cluttery, so we went library hopping. Hoping to find a new "librarian." No one was good enough, until recently.

Win demanded that we return to our neighborhood library where "his" librarian used to “live.” Lo and behold we met Mr. Ian ~ who is every bit as good as Miss LeAnn. Sigh...

However, Mr. Ian only ever seems to be on duty when the other kids are out of school. Win was so disappointed. Miss LeAnn was *always* there. She *always* knew …well..the everything he wanted to read. She was *always* there.

But, he wanted some ….books. Today. And we muddled through. And he was happy enough. But, it wasn’t the same. Miss Denise is sweet and helpful and so supportive. And he truly adores her. She made him feel so welcome coming “home.” (Which is a very special talent unto itself. But, debate the newest Bad Kitty or Chester…not quite the same as his glorious Miss LeAnn and the ever illusive Mr Ian.) And he couldn’t fathom why Mr. Ian is only on duty when the other patrons want to Wii, internet or run screaming through the stacks. It just seemed wasteful to him. (Of course, in all fairness, we only come in and out when books are due. The library can not be held accountable for our serendipitous use of their facilities. And I did explain this.)

He did say Miss Denise made him feel like he was “home” again. And he was so thankful for all of the ideas she gave him for a place to begin his own searches. As a parent, I am over-joyed that she did him a good favor by teaching him the life long lesson of performing his own searches and not just willy-nilly accepting what “the authority” hands him. And that lesson delivered with a sweet smile and a shrug and a “here is the area to search” reads like Dumbledore to me. And I praise her for her soft, loving way of kindly nurturing self-directed inquiry. And it seems that Win had the right idea by going home. He needed balance. he needed the excited "Oh, yeah! Let me show you this book Mr. Ian gives combined with the "You can figure it out dear and I will help you," that Miss Denise offers.

Oh! Librarian! It used to mean priest/ess of knowledge. It meant holder of the secret best books. It used to mean “person who knew what was new and whether or not you should let anyone worthy know that it was the new “new.” Now it means, "Observant Facilitator & Aid To Knowledge Seekers." Something akin to the role in Joseph Campbell's "The Hero's Journey."

Win maintains this reverence. His sister had “a librarian.” And to this day, when we visit that branch, “his sister’s librarian” asks after her. He is amazed. His sister is such an old, grown-up, busy-with-her-own-thing person. How could anyone ask after “dear, little Imani?” She is not little. She is not dear. She is his ~ cranky, loving, self-absorbed, hug him, kiss him, worry about him, give-him-ice-cream-til-Mommy-shows-up ~ big sister. She is in the process of making herself happen. (Glory!) Whatever that means.

But what I have come to know is that librarians are special. Like a found treasure or a happenstance buddha in the middle of the road blithely smiling. One finger pointing in some arbitrary hard-to-read direction. Or Dorothy’s scarecrow always changing direction in that very first encounter. Confusing and heartlessly without heart because he will not give you a direction. He only asks that you choose your own.

And we are lucky to have the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. And our home is Homewood. (How apropos.) And I am grateful for a fluid and knowledgeable staff.

I had a librarian once. And she made me all that I am today. Her name was Mrs. Checkley. And then, I had my father…who brought every gift he had to offer into our kitchen. And I just don’t want to let go of any of my “wisdom-keepers.” They taught me that this perverse sense of planning for loss and dwelling in the deep future will never be worthy of the beauty of “now-thoughts.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have "Mixed Up Bad Kitty with Chester Against Their Artists" hanging prominently in my office.

I refer to it often - whenever I need that special kind of inspiration only someone under 5 can offer.

xoxo - Miss L.