Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Focused Forgetting and Remembered Library Duty

I ran across this blog post at ACRLog and thought, yeah, she’s got a good point there. Written after on of the worst mass shootings in American history, although who knows how they rank that stuff anymore, how does one just keep on working and, if a blogger, cranking out the words?

Sometimes it’s just personality. I’ve known people who probably curled into a ball and sobbed the night after the last Presidential election, but they’ve done exactly the same thing after a breakup or if the ice cream wasn’t the right flavor, not even after a breakup.

Do any of those immediately make a better impact on life after the Las Vegas shooting?

We should put all this in perspective, which is usually lacking these days. According to Steven Pinker, who’s a full professor at Harvard so how could he be wrong, world violence is declining over the past few hundred years, despite the blips like Las Vegas.

That’s exciting, right? Why not? What if it’s absolutely true, would it excite people enough for them to stop weeping into their ice cream?

Then the problem might be that you’re too primitive. We’ve all still got 100,000+ years of human evolution programmed into us, and thinking really long term was not part of that programming. It’s like we were evolutionarily programmed not to be able to discover our own evolutionary timeline.

Young Earth Theory  is sort of a joke that human evolution played on those who don’t get it.

It’s important not to get numb, that’s true. Getting numb just makes you want to do nothing, including all that work they pay you the big librarian bucks for.

But it’s also impossible to respond equally to every tragedy, as I see friends doing. Let me put the scare quotes in perspective.

“Oh My God, some nut has killed over 50 people and hurt another 500 or so in Vegas!!””

An hour later.

“Oh MY God!!! Tom Petty just died!!”

Last year Prince and David Bowie alone must have accounted for millions of lost work hours.

But the hard honest truth is that nothing like this affects you unless you know about it, and it all affects you from a distance, I mean unless you were actually close friends with Tom Petty.

Terrible stuff happens all over the world every day. Have you kept up with what’s been going on in Burma, or Venezuela, or the Phillipines in the last few months?

If you haven’t, don’t. It’ll only depress you.

Unless you’re a librarian at a disaster spot, it should be doable to spend a few hours at work just not thinking about Las Vegas or even Tom Petty.

It’s not a cruel thing to do. You go through your life every day not thinking about the awful things happening in the world because of ignorance. This is just focused, temporary ignorance. There will be absolutely no negative change in the world because you do this.

Then when you get home, start watching the news, if you can stand to.

If you can’t willfully manufacture some focused ignorance, then do it for Library Duty. However sad or depressed you might be, there are people worse off, and a lot of those people need libraries, public, school, and academic.

When Ferguson was on fire, did the librarian there have a breakdown and go home? Hell no! He stayed and helped people.

When those Nazis marched on Charleston, did those librarians abandon their library posts! Never mind about that one.

Everyday librarianship can sound boring, because it often is. But it’s being there every day for the public that needs us that makes libraries one of the few special public spaces left.

Come in, do some studying, read a book, drink some coffee, enjoy the furniture, don’t worry about noise or hassle. Comfort and knowledge? We’ve got you.

Besides those sweet librarian paychecks, this is ultimately what we do it for. We just need to recall it during the tough times.

So if the world seems too overwhelming for library work: Forget the World and Remember your Library Duty for a few days, one day, maybe one hour at a time.

And if it’s tough at first, take the sage advice of David Hasselhoff: Fake it till you make it.


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  1. Mary Kelleher says:

    I love this. I think I will hang a sign in my office that says “Remember your Library Duty.”

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