Sunday, January 11, 2009



Well, okay, you probably shouldn’t walk up to just anyone and hug him or her. You might get punched in the face. You can, however, offer a warm handshake, a big smile, and a sincere "thank you." However you choose to do so, you should commend a librarian for his or her assistance. Consider the following story:
* * *
Sally walks into the library full of confidence. She has just finished reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. She enjoyed the story so much that she wants to find a similar book to read. “Welcome to the Children’s Library,” says the librarian. “May I be of assistance?”

“No, thank you,” Sally replies. “I just need to use the computer.” Sally considers herself to be pretty computer savvy. She will simply pull up DiCamillo’s book and search for similar listings. It seems easy enough.

Moments later, Sally walks away from the computer distraught. She drifts toward the assistance desk.

“Do you need help finding something?” asks the same librarian. The calm tone of her voice soothes Sally.

“I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and want to find a similar novel, one with more about the personification of the toy.”

“Have you read The Velveteen Rabbit?” The librarian produces the call number with a few quick taps on the keyboard. “Toys Go Out is another good one.” More clicks produce another call number.

The librarian’s knowledge amazes Sally. Her agonizing search on the computer produced neither of these books. When another librarian retrieves the books, Sally skims the jacket of Toys Go Out and finds it is just what she’s looking for. It would have taken hours of searching the database to find this book. It would have required her to open the summary of each of the 100+ books on her search list of similar subjects.

Having regained her composure from the agitation of her own computer search, Sally decides to test the glorious cataloged mind of the librarian. “My son reads only Captain Underpants or Magic Treehouse novels. He is also into everything science. Can you recommend other books he might enjoy?”

“How about Frannie K. Stein?” offers the omniscient librarian.

Sally would never be able to obtain this kind of information from a computer search. The librarian possesses extensive knowledge about the many books shelved in the library. It is part of the job, right? However, who would expect someone to be able to cite the perfect book at a moment’s notice and off the top of her head? Sally realizes the invaluable service of the librarian and is grateful. She wants to hug the librarian. Instead, she checks out her books and walks out of the library full of gratitude and awe.
* * *
The library is a wonderful place to gain knowledge on a variety of subjects and at relatively low cost. The staff works hard to make the experience as convenient and painless as possible. It is a public service usually offered with a big smile and an eagerness to help. So, the next time you check out the latest book or DVD at your public library, stop to hug a librarian (or at least give a heart-felt “Thank You”).

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