Mombrarian

Well, as usual I’m a bit late with this, but I can’t say if anyone is more or less inclined to read it on the 25th than the 23rd. I sincerely hope, actually, that all my peers in school libraryland are taking a well-deserved rest and reading something unrelated to work!

If you’re not, however, this is for you. As a matter of fact, it’s about what and how librarians read and model reading behavior, sort of.

I started library school in 2003, in a graduate program at the University of South Florida that was already at that time almost 100 percent online, but required appearing in person periodically at a rate of about once every month or so. During these class meetings I noticed many of my schoolmates sorted themselves into categories with portmanteau-style titles. (In retrospect, maybe this is a form of taxonomy? Like they were giving themselves their own Dewey classes or subheadings?) It made sense that we were tracked into classes based on career goals: medical librarianship, law, business, reference, elementary school, etc. but these particular titles went well past that. Some were cute, some were puzzling, some seemed unnecessary, but it ramped up to the point where I started to see custom T-shirts. I’m not kidding. Here are some examples I spotted.

Cybrarian: I confess I flinched a bit when I heard this, as it made me think of the Borg. In 2003 this may have felt cutting-edge, but given the shape contemporary librarianship has taken I hope we are safely past the point where this is a useful designation. (Unless of course we really are all replaced by robots.)

Guybrarian: It’s true, women are a majority in this profession, but just as there are male nurses who are still just called “nurses,” I’m not sure I can condone this either. Since I’m a woman, perhaps I’m underqualified to judge. Men, opine in the comments below!

Gaybrarian: I guess it would depend on your subject specialization.

That’s just a sample, but it brings me to today’s subject, however circuitously: Mombrarian. Feel free to swap in Dadbrarian, Auntbrarian, LegalGuardianbrarian, Neighborbrarian, etc.

I have two children, both boys, aged 10 and 6. I get this a lot: “Wow, your kids must be supersmart! Do they read, like, all the time? I bet they do. Have they read all the books in the library already?”

Sigh. A year or two ago I realized my children spend way too much time staring at screens and I hate it. As I have admitted here before, I love TV. I LOVE IT. But, I also love to read (duh!) and I have found that both types of media have contributed to what I hope is my overall cultural literacy, so I don’t think television is the menace to society some people make it out to be.

When I was a child I caught my mother reading all the time, and we went to the library often. It was quite close to my house, so as I got older I was allowed to walk there by myself and bring home anything I could carry. I was a very regular patron at that library till I graduated high school, and I visited when I was home from college too. How, I wondered, could I instill that in my own children? Here are two perfect little patrons-to-be, ready to be molded into the ideal library users, and I had somehow failed them. Don’t get me wrong: we made regular visits to the public library, the older one helps me shelve in my library sometimes, we take the little one to story time. And yet, every time we’d enter the local branch, they bypassed all the books and made a beeline for the computers.

I’m also teaching the older one to cook, like really cook, with knives and a hot stove and all the dangerous awesome things, as my mother did with me. And one night when we were making eggplant Parmesan together, it hit me. I wasn’t modeling good library behavior, not really. I prefer to read fiction on my iPhone, but what my children see is Mommy staring at a screen. Thus, in the interest of their growth and development I have mostly taken myself back to paper books. Furthermore, I had tried introducing them to books I thought they would like – I am rather vain about my skill in matching books to readers – or things I hoped they would like, because I loved them as a girl, and I just wasn’t getting it right. Rather than base my suggestions on what I as their mother wanted them to embrace, I actually did the good old judgment-free patron interview with both of my kids. It worked. Older Boy is racing through all the James Patterson middle school books, because he loves to read things in a series just like I do, and Younger Boy has read every book in the local branch about insects and snakes because he wants to be the world’s first entomologist/herpetologist.

We’re on vacation now in Cincinnati visiting my husband’s family, and before we left I had developed a nagging question about religion I just couldn’t answer with any database to which I had access. Not only is one of the world’s finest classics libraries located at my other alma mater, the University of Cincinnati; it is also the site of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. This city is like a library jackpot for a seeker of anything related to ancient philosophy or religion. I spent two days researching in the Klau Library and I finally had my answer. And here’s a second Hanukkah miracle: the boys came to visit me there, and read some children’s books together from the fourth floor at while I worked, without asking where the computers were.

It is this Mombrarian’s hope that as they grow older they will also develop nagging questions with no easy answers, and that their first instinct will take them to whichever is the best library for the task: it may yet be full of paper books, or it may be full of helpful Cybrarians.

 

3 thoughts on “Mombrarian

  1. I love this post. It reminded me how important it is to model the behavior we want to see exhibited. It also reminded me of the time I took my five-year-old daughter into the children’s room at our local public library (in the pre-computer early 1990s) and expressed my frustration at not being able to find the book for which I was searching. She watched me for a while and then tugged on my arm and said, “Mom, you really should look in the card catalog if you can’t find it.” Wow, I thought, she has been paying attention! Our children, our students, even our colleagues, watch what we do and follow our lead, for good or ill.

  2. This is from Mombrarian’s Mom. Loved the blog and I am so glad I instilled your love of reading that you are passing on to my awesome grandsons. I will be looking at other comments from your professional colleagues.

  3. Hi,
    Refer to myself on the about page of my personal blog as a “guybrarian” but never really thought much about it. Originally used it because some of my middle schoolers at my previous school and, indeed, some of the kids at my current school use the term to refer to me.

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