Librarians: Community Leaders and Knowledge Keepers
When you first step foot into a library, you’re overcome with the expected calm and quiet, but there’s an unexpected electric zing of magic in the air. You are surrounded by countless thoughts, feelings and ideas bound into tomes, all at your fingertips. You can feel the power of knowledge all around you. And, most importantly, you are always welcome at the library, which is why they've become pillars of reliability in their communities.
Libraries are a safe haven and a place of self-discovery.
Libraries are a neutral environment in which a patron can discover a wealth of information, allowing them to form opinions without influential bias.
Libraries are vital to the communities they serve; anyone can come to a library and learn, regardless of socioeconomic status or background, and connect with others in their community.
In the words of Robert Putnam, "People may go to the library looking mainly for information, but they find each other there."
"People may go to the library looking mainly for information, but they find each other there." - Robert Putnam
In the library, it can be overwhelming, having infinite knowledge on any topic at your disposal. Librarians are there to help you find exactly what you need. Librarians act as guides to help navigate the plethora of information in order to foster inner growth, creativity, and help you to connect with the world around you.
Forrest Evans is a Reference Librarian at the Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta, GA which specializes in African American Culture and History. The Auburn Research Library is one of three libraries in the country that house African American archival collections and literature. Forrest has been in the industry for six years. Her passion is evident while she talks about her role at Auburn; "Work on yourself must be done individually, so as a librarian, I'm here to support and empower people to explore their independence. There's nothing like seeing someone's face light up after they've explored their independence and find information that makes them feel alive." When asked what she loves about working at Auburn, Forrest explains, "Literature helps us to explore culture, history, injustices, and also certain ignorance’s that we are not otherwise able to verbalize."
Literature helps us to explore culture, history, injustices, and also certain ignorance’s that we are not otherwise able to verbalize.
After COVID-19 sent our country into lockdown, closing libraries in the process, librarians have changed their approach to how they connect and help the communities that need them. Evans has taken to Instagram to post several book recommendations a day, ranging across all genres, from reference books about spirituality such as Voodoo, children’s literature, realistic fiction, queer literature, and even comic books - all exploring African American culture. "Many of us are engaging in social media to interact, so I wanted to provide a patron the same non-biased experience they would have at a library and provide titles for them to explore what resonates with them, and provide them support to progress electronically as they would in a library."
Kelly Staten is another librarian based in a large library system in Indiana who has taken to social media to connect patrons with literature. Her Instagram showcases not only her recent book recommendations but also her fashionable style. "I wanted to break the norm that librarians only wear cardigans and tight buns." Kelly works to coordinate different programs for her library system, including discussions with visiting authors, summer reading programs, and even a literary music festival during the summer. Her favorite program is Project Prom Dress, which helps youths in the community get formal wear for their proms when they may not otherwise be able to afford it. With COVID-19 canceling many of these programs, Kelly is using her Instagram to connect literature with beautiful clothes and trendy style that resonate with young people.
Kelly shares some odd moments from her job: "Working with the public always comes with its exciting moments. Nothing surprises me anymore. For some reason, people have brought in a lot of strange animals; there was one lady who came in, and I heard squeaking from her bag. When I asked her what she had in the bag, she looked at me strangely and said, 'my pet monkey?' and out popped a tiny monkey. Another time someone was using the ceiling of the bathroom for a stealing ring. They would hide stolen merchandise in the ceiling, and someone would come and pick it up. Weird stuff."
When I asked her what she had in the bag, she looked at me strangely and said, 'my pet monkey?' and out popped a tiny monkey.
When I asked both Kelly and Forrest what their advice would be to readers, both of them agreed that it's wise to read a wide variety of books and to diversify your reading list. As librarians, they are regularly exposed to new books, and their reading list is never-ending. Forrest left me with this piece of advice, "A book can be the first instance to acknowledge that you're not alone with how you feel and what you're going through and can be a great first step feeling less alone."
Follow Kelly here: @librarian.style
Follow Forrest here: @favoritelibrarian