“But I can tell you, speaking for every librarian in this building, we wish they would call us more.”
-Glen Creason in “Los Angeles Librarian is All Over the Maps” by Larry Harnisch in LA Times (September 20, 2012)
I’ve been meaning to write about this article since I read it a few weeks ago, because I found it so interesting and inspiring. The quote above is my favorite, because I think Creason is not just speaking for every librarian in his building: I think he’s speaking for every true librarian everywhere. He’s speaking for library staff in general. We’re here, we know things, and we want to share what we know. We want to help you follow your curiosity and your interests. That’s what we do.
Last week, we were doing some brainstorming at HPL about what we’re good at and what we hope to achieve, and we talked about how we’ve become one of the only places where people can come when they have questions and expect to find a human being who will help them find an answer.
That’s kind of awesome.
This article’s kind of awesome, too, about a private map collection that Glen Creason and LAPL were wise enough to acquire.
As much as I think libraries’ future is rooted in our ability to successfully and effectively navigate the world of technology and innovation, I think we need to remember that libraries have always been about physical objects. It’s essential that we can help people figure out how to use their Kindles. It’s more than essential: ebooks are interesting and fun and open up all kinds of new possibilities for us and for researchers and for your average reader. But it’s equally essential that libraries still have things. Important things. The kinds of things people don’t keep. Things like this awesome map we have at HPL that shows who owned what in Henrietta in 1924. That is something that is interesting; it’s the kind of thing people care about. It’s information that’s hard to find in other ways.
There’s another quote I love from Creason from that first article. He gets regular requests for maps of the secret tunnels under LA, and in response he says, “They are secret tunnels and they do not appear on maps.”
It’s funny, of course, in the way that it’s funny that once every few years I get someone who wants me to help them find a photograph of Jesus. But it’s profound, too–the human expectation that everything might be knowable, even though we as a species are so very far from knowing even a fraction of what is or may be.
Libraries sit in the intersection of all that is knowable and unknowable, right smack in the middle of certainty and confusion.
That place is uncomfortable and chaotic and always changing, but it’s where I live.
I love it here.