As you may or may not know, there is a song called “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.” Most days I wish there had been a similarly cautionary folk song about the realities of being a librarian back when I was young and impressionable. Then again I might be the only person on earth who ever expected to have actual library adventures. The closest I’ve come to a library adventure was finding a pet mouse and adopting her which is not exactly as grand a thing as finding the Spear of Destiny or whatever other nonsense Noah Wyle discovers by virtue of pretending to be a librarian in those TNT movies.
As with so many things, I often blame reading both in terms of my career decision and for making me think libraries were action-packed when really I should blame myself. How did I forget all the 80s and 90s slogans about reading for kids? I’m sure you know the sayings:
- Reading gives you wings! Don’t read and you’ll plummet down down down!
- Cowabunga, dudes! Tell your mom and your dad. All the Ninja Turtles love reading! It’s totally rad!
- Books are like special boats sailing over the waters of friendship straight on in to Imagination Harbor!
- You can only see fairies, unicorns, and elves if you get books from the library!
- You bet all superheroes read! That’s how they got their powers!
- Reading takes you to magical places! If you don’t read, you won’t go anywhere at all!
- I pity the fool who doesn’t read books and therefore does not have magical adventures!
Okay, you caught me. I made all of those up, but they’re totally based on the ones you can still see in any given children’s section in any given public library.
As a child it never occured to me that these messages were for children who did not especially like to read. I would see the signs, wonder why gnomes, wizards, and Batman never visited me, and immediately assume it was because I just wasn’t reading enough.
But I digress.
Now that I am grown and allegedly an adult, I wonder why did I forget? How on earth did I not remember this very simple thing? Libraries based in reality are rarely magical while books always are. Libraries do not have unicorns. Books do. It’s all very simple when you get right down to it.
At this point, however, I would happily trade in mapcap, fanciful adventures around Imagination Harbor for patrons who actually want book advice.
I wonder if all librarians despair from time to time of ever being able to reccomend even a fraction of the books they’ve read or purchased for their collections. It’s been weeks since my last attempt to do so, and I’m absolutely consumed with the need to have a patron stop by the desk in need of an actual book suggestion.
Oh to have lived in the days of Kings and Queens! I could have been a Royal Librarian. I could have sent off missives and scrolls of book suggestions. Instead I sit here waiting for Netflix to fail some patron and for them to call up with the sort of questions one asks at a video rental place. I suppose I should simply take comfort in knowing that nowadays even being a King or a Queen hardly matters either, but my unquenchable thirst for reader’s advisory remains.
So should you ever happen to need book advice, do your local librarians a favor. Harken back on my tale of woe, and ask them for book ideas.
If the librarian you encounter seems surly, do not give up the good fight! They might cheer up if you ask them about books. Otherwise, trust me. Just wait a bit and I’m sure you’ll find a librarian nearby who is eying you as though you were a much needed canteen of water in the desert, just waiting to give you a magical book to read.