Librarians, Giving Thanks

It didn’t originate with me, but one of the regular features of our Bethel University Library staff meetings is a “What Are You Reading?” discussion. It could hardly be simpler: we work our way around the table, offering (preferably!) concise comments on books we are reading, and sometimes on movies or documentaries we have recently seen.

You can easily imagine how enjoyable, and how useful, this routine is to a vocational community such as ours. And it might surprise you how varied our recommendations have been: from War and Peace, to books on how to run more effective meetings, to Marshall McLuhan, to graphic novels, to Wendell Berry on audio, to Muppet movies, to Harry Potter, and everything in between. (I recently heard someone on the radio say that some discussion “ran the whole gambit” from one subject to another – didn’t he mean gamut?)

There are at least two excellent reasons why these conversations are such a welcome part of our gatherings:

a. Since so much of what libraries do is energized by the spirit of inquiry, it’s a great indicator of our library’s health when we are relentlessly curious. So, when we have these meetings, we’re eager to hear not only what our colleagues are presently reading, but why? We want to know what piqued their interest about such-and-such. Also, did it deliver? Was it what you hoped for? (Each of has our own criteria for whether to persist with an item, or bail out and move on to something more engaging.)

I can’t quite fathom how somebody could enjoy library work without possessing a strong dose of curiosity. But it can’t be a coincidence, either, that I’ve never met a librarian who wasn’t deeply curious, about something. Sometimes about everything.

b. In the same vein, there’s no such thing as being too eclectic, and – quite wonderfully – this is another trait that comes to the fore in these discussions of ours. What interests you might leave me gaping with incomprehension, and vice-versa. But I’m glad you find whatever-it-is interesting, and am eager to know why.

When we pause to think about it, all of us are blessed to be “in the curiosity business”, sometimes feeling that in some way it is part of our calling to have at least some interest in every subject imaginable. Of course this extends far beyond our staff meeting conversations, to the Prime Time presentations we host, the resources that comprise our collections, the reference questions we respond to, the classroom sessions we provide, and beyond.

Curious, eclectic: that’s us. And deeply thankful, as well.

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