Magazine article American Libraries

Soothing Words Often Begin with "L"

Magazine article American Libraries

Soothing Words Often Begin with "L"

Article excerpt

Like "love," "laughter," and "lullaby," beautiful words in English often begin with the letter "L." For many people, "library" has that same soothing quality. That's one of the reasons I find it ironic that we often now refer to it as the "L" word, thereby avoiding the opportunity to say it at full lilt.

But arguing that "library" should be said often because it's lovely is probably a romantic notion at best, sentimental at worst. There is a much more compelling beauty in the "L" word, a beauty that I discovered recently while talking to other librarians at a journalism conference.

There we were, five librarians explaining to a group of journalists what they had to gain by using libraries and developing a good professional relationship with at least one librarian, when an audience member said she was thinking about changing professions and asked, "So how did you all decide to become librarians?"

It was a question I had not expected and one that I am not often asked. So we told our stories, and we ended up talking about some of the most rewarding experiences in our careers. What impressed me was the variety of opportunities we had all been given by choosing a "library" career - experiences and opportunities that seem to have been in no way restricted by being called a "librarian."

I am frequently astonished at what my selection of librarianship as a career has given me - including surreal moments like finding myself caught up in the 1991 coup d'etat in Moscow during an IFLA conference, or President Jimmy Carter flinging his arm around my shoulder for a photograph after an interview.

I learned from the other panelists that they had had similar moments. What was it that our disparate experiences have in common? Very little, outside of an understanding and love of libraries that got us here in the first place. Ultimately, what we told the aspiring librarian was that the astonishing and little-known thing about librarianship is how flexible and universal it is, especially when you consider the corollary work for which many library schools are now trying to prepare their students.

It occurred to us, in fact, that we were all very much connected to journalists, and equally well connected to physicians, architects, lawyers, teachers, and any other professionals you can name. …

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