Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Librarians Saving Lives

While there are librarians out there who think academic and public libraries have so much in common they should crowd together under one big tent, I tend to think they’re different enough that the elbowing and clawing in the tent would be unbearable.

However, I agree that both public and academic and probably most other sorts of librarians have one thing in common: they tend to be invisible and they desperately want to be liked.

Academic librarians are especially vulnerable and insecure. Public librarians don’t really have any professional peers in their institutions that aren’t librarians.

Neither do academic librarians, but they believe they do, which is why they’re always comparing themselves to faculty. Some of them even believe that having “faculty status” means that the real teaching faculty believe they really are faculty. It’s crazy.

Through Infodocket comes this article from a university news site that is a case in point: Librarians save lives during research paper process.

It’s always good to make the library more visible, whether to the general public or to college students, but the headline is a bit over the top. The article could at least have pointed out that librarians never actually save lives. At best they save time. At worst they bore you to sleep. At least it got some attention, though it’s possible more librarians have read this than college students.

The librarian quoted comes off pretty well, presenting a clear case for what academic libraries tend to do for students, if only those students would ever bother to contact them. Most of the students don’t, which makes librarians lonely and sad.

It’s the comments from students that are so fun to read. One senior – that’s right, senior – “had no idea that the library had research services.”

I would say that someone somewhere is falling down on the job, but I know that even at universities with libraries that promote themselves like crazy the students are clueless. My library has solved this problem by offering free pizza and beer every night at the reference desk.

The library or the reporter might have made too hard a sell to that student, though, since after hearing about the library services she said, “That’s like having someone write your paper for free — almost. That most definitely would have made my G.E. years easier if I had known.”

Having someone write your paper for free would indeed be great. It would mean that students could save the money they spend purchasing essays from online college essay mills.

Maybe librarians should just start writing the papers, or at least doing all the research required. Providing such a service would mean that librarians would finally get the attention and admiration they desire so much. In fact, they could finally get more attention than the real faculty on their campuses.

Librarians could possibly get away with this without even advertising it. Word of mouth might not do much for ordinary library activities, which are after all pretty boring. But if a couple dozen students get their research papers written for them by librarians, the college student grapevine would be buzzing, if buzzing is what grapevines do.

Also, it’ll fit in perfectly with what one new book claims is the proper mission of librarians: “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.”

What could do more to facilitate knowledge creation in their communities than to actually create knowledge? I mean, if college student essays can count as “knowledge.” I’m assuming for the purpose of the book they would. I tried to confirm this, but the book is strangely organized and provides no index, so eventually I gave up and just stared at the pretty atlas for a while.

So we have a perfect storm of wonderfulness in this plan. Librarians helping students do research is boring. Doing all the research and maybe even some of the writing will be exciting, both for librarians and students.

Students will be excited that they don’t have to do as much work, or at least suffer bad grades for the work they already weren’t doing. And the librarians can be excited that someone finally appreciates their contribution to the university. It’s a win-win scenario, and how often does that happen in the university library.



  1. I really enjoyed reading this one. Might have to steal your free pizza and beer idea.

  2. And I have to add that I always feel awkward/embarrassed whenever anybody points out that I’m “technically” faculty. Mostly because I’m a young librarian who routinely gets mistaken for a student.

  3. It might be necessary to limit the staff involved in this experiment. I’ve read some academic librarian writing and the resulting cribbed research papers might not result in positive reviews for the library. On the other hand, a little honesty from some librarians might lead to a revolutionary system in which the level of student ability can be matched with the appropriate staff to produce a plausible result.

    • dragons redemption says:

      poor librarians, nobody loves them, i’ve experienced to same lack of use by many students in my university, some people in my degree had never even step foot in a library for research, it was a sad day for all librarians, future, present and past.

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