Our Mission, according to Professor Lankes, MLIS kids, is well known:
“To Improve Society by Facilitating Knowledge in the Community.”
We give people the information resources they seek, and in doing so, we serve the community.
So…DaveHeart/Braveheart…We are essentially saving the world.
In class we discussed the need for recasting the question: “What problems are you facing?” A member may resent an assumption that I am crippled and you know best how to stick my leg in a cast. False! Who are you to tell me I am broken? You know the story.
The African American Community in Syracuse NY is a case-in-point of how wrong-headed this public outreach question is. The community resents being called “broken.” Not only is phrasing the community-building question”What’s wrong?” morally wrong, but it also makes it more difficult to work with and connect with the community for the same reason: Asking “What’s broken, and How can I fix you” undermines a person’s sense of dignity, control, and sovereignty over their life and affairs.
So now what?
Everyone has problems.
Again, we are here to help; to serve. By giving community members information.
Assumption: More information is better than less information.
Let’s say you are a frustrated student. You feel anxious about your school work, and simply wish you had more time to train a yellow Labrador puppy, bake chocolate cherry bread, meditate, go to NYLA, start a henna art business on the side, read 3 banned books, run a tough mudder, and learn to play accordion.
So you go to your library. Tell them you’d like a book on time management…and ask whether you need a license to charge people at the local craft fair for your artistic Mehandi skills.
A better question for community improvement, then, is: “What are your passions?”
I will assume that people know what is best for them. While I am a librarian, I am not a God. Not omniscient, I am an expert in how to find information and serving the community by creating spaces for people’s passions, needs, and conversations.
But though I will be a specialist in finding specific subject areas, I am not, then, a specialist in every subject area.
It may be an open question as to whether a librarian is also a TEACHER a LISTENER a COMMUNITY BUILDER. I am not, nor will I be, a trained therapist, an educated doctor, lawyer, or businesswomen.
It is important to acknowledge these facts, as we learned in Reference and Reference Services.
While I am good at listening, I cannot say what will most help you. You must learn for yourself. Yogi, Sufi, Bartender, I can be, perhaps.
I am taking a position. I am stating an opinion. Is not that what you want, oh educators of mine?
Please open fire at this position: I really want to shape my and others attitude about how to interact with other people.
Position: The community should be the ones who decide what is best for them. As a librarian, I will operate under this assumption. The person who knows best how to enrich their own life, and who has a right to their own making or un-making is the individual in the community. I have no place in telling them what to do, what is best for them.
People need privacy.
Would you be comfortable if your librarian knew your child’s name? Yes, because your kid went to the craft show last week.
What if he knew your favorite blueberry scone recipe book? That would be cool!
What if she knew that you frequently take out books on natural hemorrhoid cures?
What if she knew you are a conservative republican?
Or a liberal democrat?
Or a dog-lover?
Unless we “let it all hang out” and talk about what you love, hate, need, feel, we are going to feel alienated, disconnected, alone, and still without help or hope. Perhaps it would be good to get touchy-feely and ask people what they want, what they love, what they wish they had more information resources to explore, from career goals, to artistic projects, to historical interests.
A dare for myself, and for you if you can steel yourself to undertake it. Go ask a librarian to help you with your passion. Walk up to the reference desk and inquire how to figure out video-editing. To help me with time management skills so that I am able to meditate, write music, run, and make tantalizing chocolate cherry bread.