Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Appreciation for librarians

Suzanne Arruda wrote an article (and gave us permission to reprint) about her attendance at the Authors Banquet sponsored by the Kansas Center for the Book at the State Library of Kansas:

April 15-21 is National Library Week, a week to toast one of the last great egalitarian systems and the people who staff them. I met many of these Kansas librarians at a recent Library Conference Author's Banquet. They are a far cry from the stern, steely-eyed stereotype. They're fun people who love books and, during the dinner, they regaled me with anecdotes. To quote humorist Dave Barry, "I am not making this up." Three different librarians told me that their books on training puppies routinely come back all chewed up. The most stolen audio tapes are those of the Bible. Said the librarian relating that last fact, "Apparently they didn't make it through the Ten Commandments." One patron had borrowed a copy of a book on teaching your child responsibility, and lost it. Another librarian topped that tale. In her library, someone had lost a book on teaching values to children, but flatly refused to pay replacement costs. Maybe they should have read those books. Stories of returned romance books sent my table into hysterical laughter. One woman returned a romance and sternly announced that the book was smut and she marked every page where she found offensive material. A second librarian said a woman slammed a book on her desk and pronounced, "This is the filthiest book I've ever read, and I read it twice to make sure." In the 2001 movie, "The Mummy," Rachel Weisz stands up in the Egyptian desert and proudly proclaims that, while she may not be a gunslinger or an adventurer, she's proud of what she is. "I am a librarian!" Not long after that incident, she uses her librarian skills to defeat a living mummy. Sound a bit over the top? Judging by the men and women I met at the banquet, I would have to say, "No." A lady told about the two young boys who brought in a shoe box, opened it, and dumped out a little snake on the desk. They were concerned that it might be poisonous. Now the librarian recognized it as a harmless little ring-necked snake, but she seized the opportunity to teach some good researching skills. Picking up the snake, she told the boys they would find out together by checking at least two references. The best story was when a man phoned in, asking for a definition. Someone had called him by a rather colorful metaphor. The man thought he had been insulted, but he wasn't sure. Would she please give him a definition? She did, citing the title of the dictionary for his reference. Had he been insulted? Let's just say that if dueling was still in fashion, someone would have been slapped across the face by a glove followed by pistols at 10 paces. So pour a ginger ale, raise your glass and toast the brave men and women who staff the libraries. Pay them a visit, tell them how much you appreciate them, but leave the wildlife at home.

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