One of the saddest moments of my childhood was the day I realized that life was too short to know everything that had gone on and was going on in the world, whether it was a secret two girls were telling each other in the back of the classroom or all the world’s languages. In fourth grade, I remember standing in the library of Owens Cross Roads Elementary School and realizing that I would never be able to read all the books in this room, let alone all the books in the world.
But I decided to give the OXR library’s collection the old fourth grade try. I soon learned something else about myself. I did not have an onmivorous desire to know things. As I was reading a doctor’s memoir of his practice in a rural town, I had to face the fact that I really didn’t care about birthing babies or curing indigestion. So I gave up my dream of reading everything and concentrated on just a few subjects: literature, history, and psychology.
Still, probably in every librarian’s heart, there is or was this inordinate need to learn things. For some of us, we have narrowed it down; for others, the lucky few, it is still that wide-ranging desire to know something about everything.
Let me use my colleague Pam as an example. Yesterday was a typical day for her. At 3 p.m. a colleague gave her some cashews as a snack. At 3:15, she was online, telling us interesting tidbits about the cashew. At 4:30, I came by the circulation desk to find her discussing with a student the meaning of the name “Woolfolk.” And as I passed by the desk on my way home, she and an international student were looking up his homeland on a globe. I no longer let her check out new books to exhibit or they will go home with her. (Sometimes, this can be a little wearying as when I told her I enjoyed the music of Snow Patrol and she questioned me for thirty minutes on the possible meanings and interpretations of the group’s name.)
But this is not a criticism. It is very important for students to see that research can be a joy and not just a nasty assignment that counts 30% of the grade and requires memorizing MLA rules. And I’m very lucky to have a staff that loves to learn new things.
But this is not something that should be only for librarians. All of us should always be learning something new. Let’s face it. We live in a time when studying anything from a new language to world religions can be just a mouse click away. Even if you have doubts about the validity of the internet, there are excellent sites like ITunes U and BBC Languages that are easily accessible. And, of course, there are libraries with all sorts of materials for you to take home.
So for the next week, make like a librarian and get excited about learning something new.