Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Librarian's Book of Quotes - edited by Tatyana Ekstrand

I recently became the owner of an iPad, and found this book while browsing my library's e-book collection in the hopes to teaching myself how to download them. I failed at the download, but was able to read this online. It was a quick read, but apparently I read it too fast because I was prompted twice to enter one of those codes to prove I was not a robot. My reading was interrupted by a message that the way I was reading was inconsistent with a human reader. What? Turning the pages one by one? I find it especially annoying, ironic, and rather post-modern, that I to had to prove to a machine that I was not a robot. Anyway, I finished the book despite this inconvenience. The book is not much more that what the title says it is. It is just over 100 pages of library-positive quotes from well-known celebrities, authors, United States presidents and first ladies, and some folks who are not so well known, or perhaps only well-known in library circles (e.g. Nancy Pearl "the librarian's librarian"; and Herbert S. White, Professor Emeritus of Library Science).

There were a lot of great quotes here. I added one to my Banned Books Week Guide. I've commented on some of my other favorites below.
News flash! When your teachers told you there was no such thing as a stupid question, they were lying. Garrison Keillor knows this, and recognizes librarians for putting up with it. He says:

Librarians . . . possess a vast store of politeness. These are
people who get asked regularly the dumbest questions
on God’s green earth. These people tolerate every kind of
crank and eccentric and mouth-breather there is.
--Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion,
13 December 1997
GraceAnne DeCandido expresses something that I find especially exhilarating about my job. A lot of our work is serendipity; we just never know when something we've learned will be useful to someone else.

One of the great joys of being a librarian is that it is the last
refuge of the renaissance person—everything you have ever
read or learned or picked up is likely to come in handy.
--GraceAnne A. DeCandido,
“Ten Graces For New Librarians”
Isn't seeing our name in print what we all hope for?

I always tell people that I became a writer not
because I went to school but because my mother took
me to the library. I wanted to become a writer so I
could see my name in the card catalog.
--Sandra Cisneros
There were quotes from four different presidents, but I thought this one from First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, outshone all of those.

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally
democratic as the town library. The only entrance
requirement is interest.
--Lady Bird Johnson
Melvil Dewey did more than invent a decimal system for classifying books; he was also founder of the first Library School in the United States. His quote, which exalts women, belies that fact he wanted to populate his school with them because he knew they wouldn't be paid much. His legacy lives on today.

To my thinking, a great librarian
must have a clear head, a strong
hand, and above all, a great heart
. . . and i am inclined to think that
most of the men who achieve this
greatness will be women.
--Melvil Dewey, Library Journal, January 1899
This was the only quote from an athlete I recognized.

I’m not comfortable being preachy, but more people need
to start spending as much time in the library as they do on
the basketball court.
--Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
This one, from a person I have not heard of, was the most thought-provoking

I have never met a public librarian who approved of
censorship or one who failed to practice it in some
--Leon Carnovsky, Library Quarterly 20 (1950)
For those who cannot afford to travel, the library card is more important than the passport.

The three most important documents a free society gives
are a birth certificate, a passport, and a library card.
--E. L. Doctorow, New York Times, 27 March 1994
The book's editor ended with a few of her own quotes, this one made me smile.

Catalogers are some of the few
professionals who take pride in being anal.
--Tatyana Eckstrand
One observation I made reading this was that however much librarianship is a female-dominated profession  (over 80% of librarians are women), the quotes in this work were, by and large, from men. At first I thought is was my imagination, but all sources were listed at the end of the book, so I counted them up. This was a count simply based on first names, so although it might not be completely accurate, even taking into account some guessing errors, the proportion of men to women represented is over three to one. I am not sure what to make of this. Do men really say more pithy things than women? Or, is it simply that, as a society, we still pay more attention to them. I remember doing some research in my own library school days, and reading about a librarian from the early 20th-century who pointed out that in her day, if they wanted to see anything accomplished, women just had to let men take the credit for everything. I frankly don't think we've come very far in the last 100 years.

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