Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I am he as you are me and we are all together.*

We are no longer individuals. We are the world.** And I guess that's not a bad thing. The world raised lots of money for Haiti.

But I was raised to think as an individual. To try to be myself in a world that wants me to be like everyone else. But the Internet wants me to be just like everyone else, to be a seeker, to not be satisfied with what I have, and to keep searching.

I see that Bing commercial where everyone is just repeating unrelated facts:
"We need a new place to eat..."
"Eat my dust!"
"Wolf spiders eat their young."
And it finishes with the tag, "What has search overload done to us?"

Are we just information aggregators who regurgitate data without processing it? If so, why is that surprising? It's what librarians have always done. We make information easier for others to find. We categorize and organize. Unfortunately, the Internet forces us to do it faster and faster and faster or someone else will do it first.

The earliest memory I have from researching the career of librarianship had me visiting my local library to find out where the best or nearest school was. And there was this old dude there, one of the librarians, sitting at a desk and clipping news articles out of the old magazines with a large pair of metal scissors. I guess it was for some file of local interest stories or something. And my only thought was, "Hell, I am not doing that."

But then he looked up at me as he was snipping away and his eyes were dead like this was the most mundane, soul-stealing task one could ever perform. But then behind those eyes, I felt his anger, his pent-up rage at giving his life to such a thankless profession. His eyes said, Make a joke or crack a smile at what I'm doing and I will kill you with these scissors. And I felt as if his body might spring out of that chair at any second. Okay, spring is a little too strong. Rise up slowly, reach for his asthma inhaler, clutch his chest, lean on the desk for support, and shuffle towards me.

I thought, "Cool. Librarians have weapons." But the real point is that librarians have always worked to spread information. But did any or you ever do that? Clip stories from the paper and file them away? Why? Yes, I understand why, but WHY? Was is indexed? Because we had a vertical file, but it only had full pamphlets or complete sections from the paper, not just random clippings. Did you have to write the date and page numbers on each item? I'm sorry if I'm bringing up horrible memories.

Oh, here is my earliest memory of a librarian:

The Public Library; the local public librarian met with my mother and explained the rules of library and lending rules, etc., and I remember being asked if I could follow the rules and borrow the books without damaging them and to return them on time. Yes, I remember this. I remember what the room looked like; I remember signing the card and I remember the librarian placing my signature card in a box with all the other cards. I was thirty years old.

[*with apologies to John Lennon]
[**with apologies to Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie]