Monday, August 23, 2010


Thanks to librarian and cinephile  Martin Raish
As a fan of librarians in general and spouse of a librarian in particular, I really appreciate their role in communities and schools. In the community at large, we have seen the many benefits of a strong library, as our town library offered a variety of excellent programs when our daughter was young. This has made her an ardent defender of the institution!

I have had the added advantage of taking a library course in graduate school, and I guess my connections started even earlier than that. At Brentsville District Middle-Senior High School in Virginia, I hung out at the library before classes most days. Because audio-video equipment was handled by the librarian, I was able to earn a sort of A/V "driver's license" to operate all kinds of projectors -- a sort of super library card for those days.

At the moment, I am thinking about the role of libraries in higher education because of a few blog entries I read recently, related to the broader debate about tenure in higher education. Tenure is often understood simply as job protection, but in reality it protects creativity and dissent while ensuring that professors are deeply invested in the success of their institutions. On Andrew Sullivan's blog, one reader's attack on the idea of tenure for librarians reads as a virtual catalog (no pun intended) of common misconceptions about librarians and what they do. Sadly, many of the arguments he/she makes are all-too common, even among academics who should know better.

Fortunately, the responses of librarians and their more sympathetic defenders provides balance, and explains why librarians have not been made obsolete by the Internet. In fact, because the Internet makes available far too much information for most users to comprehend and far too little information on the validity of sources, librarians are more essential now than ever!

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