There's hope.

This is not a rant, nor drivel, nor vanity. I suppose I ought put more effort into it and make it into a proper article or something, but as a somewhat anonymous librarian says "Effort begins with eh."

We work in an awesome Field.

None of this should work.

We do it anyway.

Good stuff happens, bad stuff happens less.

We do work in an awesome field. I know this is chipper, and it's early, but bear with me a bit. Have some coffee or something, grumble your mandatory grumble about the current administration of the US and keep reading.

Almost every time I set foot in my Library or anyone else's, something cool happens. I have a cool discussion, or weird back to back subject leaps. (Metaphysics to astrophysics, where else are you going to go for that?) The overwhelming majority of Librarians are so polite that their company is infinitely desirable. (My most recent anecdotal evidence here is that at one point a few months back, I cut my hair by hand. This happens when I mourn. Needless to say, it looked like crap. I got quite the chewing out when I got to a real hairdresser a few days out. "Oh my gooooood! This is like 2 inches off in the back! Oh my goooooood! What a butcher! I can't BELIEVE I have to fix this!" But, the entire time I was exposed to Librarians, they lied through their polite teeth about how great the new style looked on me.) Despite our thin lacquer of pessimism in some cases, at the end of the day, we roll up our sleeves and get stuff done, which really means we aren't pessimistic at our core. My first exposure to the field was in an academic library where someone (or more likely several social Greek someones) tipped over a stack. An entire array of stacks ended up down, making a mess of a Library floor. Folks just kind of shrugged their shoulders, talked about it over coffee, shook their heads, rolled up those sleeves and had the whole thing sorted by the end of intersession. Any thing goes in this field, too. You want to study cataloguing - knock yourself out. Reference? Good for you. This of course extends to Patrons, which is also awesome. We are all terribly dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, but really to the pursuit of self actualisation. We do everyone else's job with a smile. As I lobby, I point out the social services, economic, educational, informatics and slew of other needs that we fulfill because they ain't gettin' done elsewhere. We're a nexus of subjects and concepts that do not quite belong elsewhere, but if left unaddressed would prove disasterous.

So, we're great.

But seriously, none of this should work.

For free (or very nearly free) we offer Patrons stuff. If you're fortunate enough to be automated, a simple look at the total value of the items out on someone's card is a shocking glimpse at how valuable our services really are. This tended to be several hundred dollars worth of stuff at a time at my last job where I had such luxuries. Sometimes this average can tally in the thousands - academic anyone?

We take this system for granted. We fall over ourselves getting more folks through the door so they can see how cool our stuff is and take it at no charge. Could you imagine this rubric elsewhere in our overly corporate society? Why don't you show yourself into our delightful clothing boutique, pick out what you want and bring it back in a couple weeks? No, no, don't trouble yourself, we'll wash them. Oh yes, that is out of fashion, we'll get new ones for you. Not sure what to buy, well, come on over here and I'll tell you for free.

It shouldn't work, and yet it does. So we keep doing it. It's terribly addicting, isn't it? That high you get from answering someone's incredibly obscure question is good stuff. Seeing that kid make sounds out of shapes is heady, too, init? Having folks desperately proclaim computer illiteracy and look to you for help is great if they eventually learn to navigate things themselves. Folks get health questions answered since the system doesn't give a darn about the uninsured. Watching generations mix and talk and generally get on is nuts. Gathering place that the mall is said to be, this ain't happening there. Indeed, thanks to Pyramid draconian policy, teens aren't welcome anymore. I'd like to think their bottom line will suffer for the insolence of booting out the demographic with the most disposable income, but that's a different story.

By and large, we learn from our years in the trenches that this stuff works. When people check out whatever they like, they learn. We see lives shaped and changed and improved in many different ways that we precipitate. Learning begets learning, the spirit sparks excitement, and that excitement and sense of belonging translates directly to cash donation and municipal support.

In general, we get what we lend back. Everyone would have barren shelves if people really were thieves and out for their own self interests. Even in the worst urban environments, there's the Library, there's its collection. (Don't get me started on the inequity inherent here, but still it's there) Yes, there are map thieves and jerky Patrons and perverts and pilferers, but they are seriously outnumbered by solid Patrons. But more than simple in and out (quiet you Clockwork Orange titterers) we usually get MORE than we lend out. Ever so slightly. We get those thank yous. We get those "Wow, that was a great read" comments. We get to see people grow and encourage others to do the same. The compound interest on those millions of transactions is a bipartisan positive Library PR that we aren't tapping properly for the most part. Beyond that, we've inculcated a true love of learning. Thanks to our voluntary nature, we get real results.

There's no cost to benefit on that. Aren't the best things those that aren't subject to survey? Aren't the most needed things and changes and concepts the ones we can least put words to? And that's societal hope.