Changing the rhetoric from “I love libraries” to “Libraries love communities”

What should libraries and librarians be advocating for? It’s something I think about a lot with my collaborators. There’s such a trend right now for librarians to double as promoters not just of their libraries but of their own personas.

It’s something I think about a lot each year as I prep for our Professional Practice class. Each year in that course, as students examine blogs and online library communities, they notice a sense of “celebrity” over service among some folks. And similarly, I sometimes wonder why we are spending so much of our collective energy running around telling everybody how awesome we are, when, in reality, we’re only in business because of the financial generosity of others.

So is our goal to cheer that “We love libraries, and you should, too”? Because I sure don’t hear people shouting, “We love biology, and you should, too!” or, “Love your Tax Assessor’s Office!”

Sarah Houghton writes in a recent post for the Librarian in Black blog:

If we know that we’re essential to the community, that people love and trust us…why are we constantly expending energy to remind the people we serve of that very fact? …

I can’t get away from the image my brain conjures up of a librarian hurriedly following someone on the sidewalk shouting pronouncements like “All your neighbors love libraries!” and “You love us. Don’t forget that you love us!”

Are we truly that defensive that we feel we have to prove our worth through reminding the people we serve that they think we’re so frigging awesome that they’d better keep loving us or else risk societal shunning?  This defensive posture does not serve us well.  It does not prove our worth, but rather sounds like a whinging adolescent …

I don’t think we focus on “library/librarian love” for the sake of our communities … We do it to make ourselves feel better …

Most library staffers I know bend over backward to serve people.  We live in the communities we serve.  We love our neighbors.  We love information, freedom of access, education, and entertainment.  We who work in libraries love them more than anyone else.  But what do we love more than libraries? The communities we serve.

Nobody gives a retort when we say, “Your work matters, and we want to support you.” Who votes against oneself? Whereas, in one of the LiB comments, someone said, “I only love some libraries,” making the, “Come tell us how much you love us!” argument weak.

What do you think?

Image: “I Love You” by kennethtristan02 on Flickr. CC-BY. 

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