1947 vs. 2015

For a class assignment we were asked to watched the following video made in 1947 and create a blog post in reaction to it:

This video is very much a product of the time, however there are some universal truths about librarianship that still ring true in both positive and negative lights. The basic job requirements are still the same, you need to love books and be good with people. It’s hard to imagine that those things would ever be removed from the requirements because when you break librarianship down into its most basic parts that is what is there: a desire to serve the public, a passion for information, and an enjoyment in connecting people with information.

The problematic element of this video is that it is a product of quite a different time, a time we have largely evolved from socially (she says hopefully considering recent events). Looking at this from the lens of an independent single educated woman in her 30’s it’s impossible NOT to see the sexist slant taken. Of the 17 examples of librarians in the video, 14 were female and 3 were male and the only example of a librarian as a manager was male. The scene that I found that specifically demonstrated the subservient nature desired for women at that time had the medical librarian adequately completing her job but the telling the doctor she had trouble with the pronunciation of the terms. It just made her seem less intelligent than the doctor. It’s quite obvious that there are huge issues with racism and classism in this video also due to the complete lack of diversity shown. Personally, I try not to take it to heart in this context because that was the climate of the time and I chose to believe that today we work towards a world that is more inclusive of all types of people. This may bee seen as idealistic but it is grounded in the realism that things will not change unless we have greater aspirations and a plan to achieve them. That doesn’t mean we can sit back and let every single thing go, there are moments that require action and a voice to stand against what is unacceptable. In this specific instance I believe it’s important to note how far we’ve come from that time and use this video as a point in time to measure current successes and failures that we need to address.

Our graduate classes tend to move in parallel motion and so we tend to discuss similar topics in different contexts. Lately we have discussed the class-driven nature of the library and its inclusivity of marginalized people. In this video it’s obvious that white men run the show and white women run the day-to-day operation for white patrons. Yikes! That is in no way representative of the world then or now. That kind of blind ignorance to so many other groups of people is dangerous because it breeds a culture of insensitivity which leads to the tragedies we see occurring more and more often in the world. Librarians need to be MORE, we need to set the examples of what we wish to see in the world. We need to take care not to shame people who come looking for information but instead guide them to more information to educate themselves. One of the ending quotes of the video summed it up quite nicely when it stated, “You will derive satisfaction from a knowledge that your work is vital and essential in forming the kind of world in which you want to live.”

I wanted to include the following link to a story about the famous bookstore Shakespeare and Company in Paris and how they sheltered their customers during the terrorist attack on November 13, 2015. I feel that bookstores and libraries share a common vibe, a sense of safety for people who don’t always fit in elsewhere – a place for togetherness for the misfits. In this instance the store was literally a safe haven for people seeking sanctuary. They stood up for what they believed in and kept to their motto “be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.” They did the best that they could in the worst situation and did what was necessary.



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