Librarians, stereotypes and the reason behind budget cuts?

25 May

I’ve recently come across a book by Larry Beinhart called “The Librarian”. Even though I haven’t had much time to read these days, apart from university courses, I thought that a nice police novel would clear my mind a bit.

Not surprisingly, after a few pages, I realized that I was going to be taken into a hell of ride…. emotionally distressing to see so many cliches abounding after the first chapter. I still haven’t finished yet so I won’t tell you of the plot but rather what stuck in my mind after a few pages.

First, the hero is a MAN, not that it’s bad, or wrong in any way… but he starts off his journey firing… a woman librarian… a mousy, nondescript, middle-aged librarian. Well with Facebook groups like this one and articles like this one, I quote :

“Some wear tattoos, piercings and dress like they belong on the streets of Brooklyn instead of behind bookshelves. They’re also trying on new titles. Instead of librarians, they’re “information specialists” or “information scientists.”

…. We are a long way from our usual stereotypes associated with librarians. But let me go on to what really ticked me.

The author makes a great job by explaining WHY he is firing her: chief amongst the reasons are budget cuts in public and academic libraries and that government officials are more willing to fund a digital library than an actual library with real books and real people behind it. I am very grateful to Mr. Beinhart, author of this novel to have given me this opportunity to remind my readers that even with a magnificent digital library like Europeana or Gallica you always  have librarians, systems administrator, cataloging teams and computer specialists behind it. Although many public libraries are still being threatened by budget and staff cuts, there are many of them that have made the leap from paper to digital to reach out to their users. We should continue to encourage those efforts, in and out of the “brick & mortar” of our libraries.

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