April 4 – Book ‘Em

Today’s factismal: The Library of Congress is the world’s largest public library with over 160 million different things in its catalog.

There is something special about walking into a library. The hushed air, the smell of old books, and the view of rack upon rack of magazines that are free for you to read make any trip worthwhile, but what really makes them special is the librarians.

The center of the world's largest library (Image courtesy Library of Congress)

The center of the world’s largest library
(Image courtesy Library of Congress)

As is the case with most professions, those outside of it don’t realize just how complex a librarian’s job really is. They don’t just stack books and send out late notices; indeed, those are the least of their duties. What librarians do is help build minds and help turn data into information.

Librarians turn data into information by making certain that it is easy to find what you are looking for (that’s why the magazines are on those racks in the first place).  Tools like the Dewey Decimal system and the Library of Congress Classification system tell librarians (and the folks that use libraries) where information is. In many ways, these were the world’s first search engines! And by offering that information to anyone who needs it, free of charge, libraries help make information more available.

Librarians don't just catalog books; they also help organize collections of fossils, movies, plants - anything that might be important someday! (My camera)

Librarians don’t just catalog books; they also help organize collections of fossils, movies, plants – anything that might be important someday!
(My camera)

And librarians mold minds by helping us use those tools to discover new information. It starts when we’re young; librarians will show us new books that we might like. When we’re in college, the librarian tells us which books to use for that late-night cram session (and where the pop-up Vedic manuals are hidden).  And once we go into the “real world”, librarians continue to mold our minds by preserving important works and making certain that they aren’t forgotten. Given that libraries have been around for more than 5,000 years, that’s a pretty big task!

But librarians are pretty big people.  And so today, why not stop and thank a librarian for all that she does to make our world a better place? And maybe even read a book while you’re there to celebrate National School Library Month?

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