Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Have You Hugged a Librarian Today?

Next to running in the park with my two best friends, spending time at the small library on the corner of my street was my favorite thing to do in the summer when I was growing up. My girlfriends and I would go there almost every other day to get a pile of books to read at some comfortable place, often a park about a mile away. We were into bike riding, too.

Fast-forward a lot of years to when I started my writing career as a journalist. Then I wasn’t just going to the library to get books to read for myself or for my kids. This was a time when I relied heavily on libraries, and the wonderful reference librarians, to help me when I needed facts and figures for articles and my nonfiction books. (Kudos to the librarians at the Plano Public Library. They saved my bacon more than once.)

During that time I wrote nine books for Rosen Publishing that included Coping With Weapons and Violence in School and on your Streets, and the librarians proved invaluable in steering me toward books and articles that were helpful with research. Even back then I was a real non-techie, so the librarians even had to help me with the microfiche so I could read back issues of newspapers and magazines. They always did that with a smile.

I’m not going to tell you how many years ago that was, but you can probably make a good guess.

Jump ahead quite a few more years and all of a sudden we have at our disposal, and at the other end of our computers, this wonderful thing called the Internet. There we can find answers to all kinds of questions. Yesterday, I found out what size square I need to cut to make 12 inch triangles for a quilt. Early in the plotting of the next book in the Seasons Mystery Series, I found out how the street-drug cheese is made. (I’m so glad someone from the DEA didn’t show up on my doorstep after that Google search.)

As the wide world web expanded and electronic devices for reading books came along, I started to wonder if the library as we knew it would fade away.

Luckily it hasn’t, and librarians are still very much in demand.

According to Mike Miller, the manager of the Austin History Center (Texas), "Reference work in public libraries is identical and dramatically different at the same time. It's different because the tools are different. Gone are the Encyclopedia Britannica volumes and other print reference works, replaced with online databases and other networked resources - some free to the public, most not.

"Where it is the same is in the idea of learning how to use the tools, evaluate the veracity of the content, and teach others how to use the tools, either in the library or through online instructions and webinars.”

When asked why people should come to the library for research instead of just doing it all online, Mike responded, “For the same reasons they would before the Internet. Librarians are trained to evaluate and assess tools and to sort through material to find the relevant information. In the digital age, with so much more bad information out there, information literacy skills that are the core of librarianship are more important today.”

Something else that keeps libraries viable in communities are the variety of educational and recreational programs that they offer for adults and young people. The Decatur Public Library in Decatur, Texas has themed overnight locks-ins for the young people, special workshops for adults, and a podcast that is both informative and entertaining. Like so many libraries across the county, they also offer programs and resources for helping people with filing income taxes, understanding Medicare and Medicaid, and navigating this ever-changing world.

So, we thank our librarians, as well as all library staff, on this the second day of National Library Week, for gathering and preserving our history and offering so many wonderful community services. And books. We can't forget books.
Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. She won her first writing award at age twelve with a short story in the Detroit News Scholastic Writing Awards Contest and continues to garner recognition for her short stories, books, and screenplays. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Pageread her Blogand follow her on Facebook and TwitterHer online workshop on self-editing, part of a series of online writing workshops from Short And Helpful, can be found HERE

8 comments :

  1. You've reminded us that, no matter what artificial intelligence is available, we still need humans, aka librarians, when we seek accurate information. When I think of artificial intelligence and robots, I remember Data, the robot on Star Trek, the Next Generation. Despite his incredible programming and memory banks, he longed to be human. Why? He wanted the agility of the human mind; he wanted to feel emotions; he wanted to winnow through the chaff of all the misinformation that abounds and get to the grain of what he needed to know. He needed a librarian. Bottom line: librarians are indispensable when it comes to research, as well as for helping us to find the book(s) necessary for whatever need we have. So, yes, we absolutely owe librarians a huge thank you for their ability to "evaluate and assess" available materials for accuracy and relevance to our needs. Thanks for this reminder, Maryann. :-)

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    1. Thanks for the analysis of Data, and you are so right. AI can only take us so far. My son, Mike, who started his library career in Dallas as a reference librarian before moving to Austin, keeps reminding the family that we should not just count on one source for veracity of information.

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  2. People forget in this interconnect web world, there are millions of people, young and old that do not have access to the basic services we have come to expect like the internet, iPhones, and Kindles. The library was crucial for me growing up. Without it, I would not be who I am today. I could not have read enough to know I could change my destiny. We cannot take that away from people who desperately need access to books and knowledge and resources.

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    1. The library of my childhood opened up worlds to me, as well, Diana. That's one reason I started taking my kids to the library on a regular basis when they were young. Our once-a-week outing was to the library, then a visit to the park, ending with some shopping at a nearby store. Great times!

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  3. It would be the greatest tragedy of modern technology if it resulted in the demise of the physical library and print books. I visit my library at least once a week, but am very grateful that the catalog is now online! And next time I go, I'll remember to offer a hug to a librarian. Thanks, Maryann.

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  4. I agree, Pat. I can't imagine a world without libraries. I need to make a point to stop in at mine this week to thank the folks there for their dedication.

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  5. Great post, Maryann. Libraries don't only have books, which I borrow constantly. The other day, before a long drive, I rented an audio--Tami Hoag's Cold Cold Heart. It kept me so interested I followed the car in front of me without looking where I was going. 18 miles later, I realized I was on the wrong road. I finished the book on the way home and got there without getting lost. I took out two audios, so I have another treat waiting for me. And don't forget the videos. All free.

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    1. LOL, that's why I don't listen to audio books in my car. But then, I'd probably finish more books quickly that way. Right now I mainly listen to the audio books at night when my eyes are too tired to read print. Get those from my library, as well as a few e-books.

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