I have been, in one way or the other, a library enthusiast for almost a quarter of a century – first due to having met one of the most incredible library specialists on the planet at a very young age, and then because I just couldn’t stop being addicted to literature-based workshops and, well, um, reading.
Hell, I’ve even written tens of thousands of words on the deceptively simple subject of being a librarian, over at my library’s (award-winning) HQ. But, the one thing I didn’t really realize until recently is how amazingly great it feels to be a librarian online.
To add a bit of context (and cultural background), the Croatian library classification system is fixed – it doesn’t allow keywords, but rather expands (and shrinks) a book’s subject into phrases connected with hyphens. And it’s at the mercy of whichever one person is the first to catalogue a certain book – it isn’t designed to be built upon and enhanced by other librarians (or, goodness forbid, library patrons), even though it happens out here in the real wild world. (Truth be told, several dedicated and experienced individuals have been trying to liven things up in the past few years, but here on the floor, we’re still waiting to see the practical results of their effort.)
But here (I can’t decide if it’s up, or out, or maybe even in) on the interwebs, librarians are the absolute masters in what we’re all set out to do – and that is, to put a very long (and indelicate) story quite short – to attract traffic to our cause.
No, really – we the librarians have been trained to think in terms of searchability, search terms, to think the way the customers think. So if you were to write, umm, let’s say, a historic romance set in the Austro-hungarian times, no matter if said romance is primarily a paranormal romance, you better make damn sure to tag it historic as well, and austrohungarian (apparently it’s not even an uncommon tag over at instagram – the world is wide enough for all of us weird little history enthusiasts<3), alongside with the classics like whythehelldidIeverthink writingahistoricparanormalromance withwerewolves wouldbesuchagoodidea.
When you’re doing the opposite, when you’re actively trying to find something, you have a go at guessing what the person who tagged the original content could’ve said about it, and librarians have practical knowledge regarding seekers who misremember, mispronounce and misunderstand something the desperately need to find, and they need your help finding it. Sometimes, you have to type in the weirdest things to get the results you were actually looking for, since no two brains are alike (one of the most fun aspects of living among humankind), and no two tags were created equal.
And that brings us to the brand ‘new’ world of shared tags – tags that get tens of millions of posts on the above mentioned
hipster visually enhanced social network, tags someone else came up with and many more somebodies came, saw and used them to bits. (Oh, yeah, I still get a thrill at the simple things like catsofinstagram or everyone is poly because Avengers – because I know that somewhere, not that long ago, one bright, playful mind had to have come up with the term first, and the community accepted it – made it their own, improved upon it and, not that uncommon, abused it to the virtual end of the known online universe.) And no one is more grateful than librarians for the users to give us what we need, expand upon the tags they understand and find relevant, useful and/or fun – helping us connect them more easily with the content they could (and would want to) use.
So, let me tell you a story before we collectively go back to our cell phones and our coffees and our cat pictures. (And/or actual cats – lemme get back to you on that coffee, because, when you have a bouncing cat as a flatmate, every coffee cup left unattended instantly becomes Schröedinger’s coffee.)
Patrons, as well as librarians themselves, nowadays consider librarians to be a dying breed (almost like writers who use pens instead of keyboards, the self-serving bureaucrats and those people who just. can’t. stop. printing.). After all, we deal with books, right? Physical books? Because there’s no way of telling if
vaping reading predominantly electronic media hurts young minds, is there? We’re here to deal with something other people have created, and to protect books, come on, people, protect those damn books!!!1 Books need librarians (need shelves need prime real estate needs funding, funding, funding and neverending legislation, oh, the legislation) and librarians need books.
Well, no. All a librarian needs is their keyboard – and someone to teach them how to tag if they didn’t grow up with the knowledge at their fingertips – and the world will be theirs for the taking.
So, before you start lamenting to, say, a werewolf-loving, cosplayer librarian like yours truly, about the sad reality of losing bright young people to the studies of library and information science – which’ll never get them a good paying job (strike one – they don’t need a job, they need a career, which most definitely doesn’t have to include paid work for someobody else), which could never prepare them for the future (strike two – they will be the ones to create said future, and you will be the one left behind in your physical-only existence and your coffee that only ever tastes like coffee (unless it tastes like cat whiskers, khm)), and which is, after all, a profession on the verge of taking its final stand before it goes out in a blaze of glory…
…just let me say that we can out-tag you, out-search you, and, probably, out-understand you in the realm of a shared virtual reality which has been ours to live in for over two decades because, believe it or not, we are the librarians.
What’s your superpower?
ps. No copyright infringement intended with the featured photo – you know what, now that I think about it, if you happen to belong to the infinitely small percentage of people who still haven’t seen the glorious TNT tv show The Librarians, shoo! It has the librarian seal of portraying librarians heroically and I’m still in love it, even after all this time. Always.