I am accepting an Outstanding Recent Graduate award tonight from Emporia State University, for the School of Library and Information Management. All my paperwork for the event had stated that I was to be prepared to respond to the award in a 3-5 minute speech. Knowing this wasn’t going to be a librarian-centric crowd, I prepared a speech that preached libraries and librarians and how we’re transforming communities. Unfortunately, I just learned that that was a mistake and the outstanding recent graduate honorees no longer give remarks.
So other than genuine disappointment, what can I do? I have a blog, and while my site is pretty dormant these days and not far-reaching, I’m going to put it out on the web anyway.
To my chagrin, the tears friends predicted I would have while delivering this speech won’t happen now. That’s probably a good thing. Maybe no one else will appreciate these comments but it’s a love letter to librarians and it doesn’t deserve to sit only on printed paper or in Google Drive. Here’s the speech I would have given tonight:
Good evening. I want to first thank Emporia State and the School of Library and Information Management — SLIM as we call it — for this honor and recognition. I would not be standing here today, without the support and encouragement from my parents, family, friends, colleagues, and my patrons — the librarians of the Northeast Kansas Library System.
Eight years ago I entered the SLIM program, running away from my first loves of politics and public good and I stand here today, having come full circle, in my own way.
Let me start back at the beginning. I am the daughter and grand-daughter of school librarians. I was destined to become a librarian.
I came to SLIM, KNOWING I was going to be a law librarian.
I started SLIM’s foundational coursework, and along the way, technology and social media began transforming everything.
One Sunday morning in March 2007, my reference professor told us of careers in blended librarianship, blending librarian skills with technology. That evening, I applied for the Technology Support position at the Northeast Kansas Library System (NEKLS), and in April 2007, I began supporting the technology in over 30 small public libraries across Northeast Kansas.
Today at NEKLS, I manage a library software platform that connects the resources of over 40 public and school libraries in northeast Kansas. These libraries share over 1 million items with their communities. The open source software we use, Koha, is used by thousands of librarians around the world.
My career-path has been technology-focused, but technology isn’t what fascinates me about libraries.
I now believe, that librarianship, especially in public libraries, is steeped in public good.
Libraries are one of the few democratic places (little d democratic, before anyone misinterprets that) available in almost all communities.
What do I mean by that? Libraries are one of the few places where everyone is welcome and welcome to learn whatever you want, explore whatever you want, and…
Where it doesn’t matter how much money you make or
where you went to school or
how much schooling you had or
how old you are or
where you are from or
what you look like or
what you believe or
what you want to know more about or
what you want to be entertained by.
Librarians want to help you on your journey. We want to see you succeed.
Many of you may think of libraries as a place for books. And that’s fine — that’s our brand. But libraries are so much more. Yes, the Internet allows you to search for and access a lot of “stuff”, but Google will NEVER be as good as your local librarian. A company or platform can’t transform communities — people transform communities.
The librarians I work with, in small Kansas towns and across this country, are transforming their communities through
job searching support,
beer crafting opportunities,
summer reading, and
yes, even the escapist new movie release.
Libraries provide opportunities for learning, offering spaces for collaboration, discussions, and music and poetry performances.
And multimedia labs in some libraries are changing the possibilities, including a brand new sound recording studio in the beautifully renovated Lawrence Public Library.
Of course, libraries still offer spaces for reading. Have a digital device? Librarians can help you with those, too.
What makes all this possible? Your local librarian.
The library spaces and “stuff” and systems are important, but without the trained librarians, particularly in our schools, I would argue libraries WILL fade into the past. The librarians are the ones working with people, connecting them with the “stuff” that they need, that next great book, or even apply for a job.
I could stand up here all night, sharing many more examples of all the ways librarians are transforming their communities. But to end, I’d like you to consider this statement, from ProtectNYLibraries: Throughout our lives, we seek knowledge and information. Throughout our lives, we learn. Throughout our lives, we turn to our libraries to continue learning. How is your local library doing this? Are you supporting them? Thank you.