Librarians As Anti-dote for Media Culture

On Blog Catalog we are this November discussing the question

The Biggest Obstacle To Electing The Right Presidential Candidate

and the discussion has taken some interesting turns and brought us down some different paths. And one of those paths leads directly to the library, lobbing the meme hand grenade firmly into the court of this blog, where I have tried all along to promote the use of public libraries and talked from time to time about my experiences working at the library. So when Tiffany’s post argued that an ignorant vote is worse than no vote at all, I have to agree.

But when I hear about a voter who has no idea who these people on his ballot are or what these issue questions on the ballot Really mean, I have an incredibly ingrained urge to take them by the hand and lead them straight to the nearest Reference Librarian. This is something I actually Do when people ask me about complicated issues dozens of times each week. I lead the patron over to the reference desk and say something like ‘This is Vicky, she’s a reference librarian and she can show you how to find out about that.’ I’d leave him to Vicky then and go back to shelving books.

Unless she was on the phone or helping some one else and the patron would have to wait a moment, in which case I would be sure to add that ‘she would be able to provide him with sources of objective information about all of the candidates and issues on the ballot and would be able to point him towards very useful resources of information he may not be aware of at all. ‘ just so the patron would know it was worthwhile to wait a moment for her attention.

I can’t imagine ever needing to add in person, what the patron would soon discover for himself– that she is very helpful and will patiently answer or discuss all of his questions and show him how to find answers and learn more. And that her services are already paid for by his tax dollars and it never costs anything to call or come by and utilize her valuable services.

And the really neat thing about helping this voter find out what he needs to know is that I could do this in any library as easily as I do it in the one I know like the back of my hand.

I absolutely agree that ignorant and ill-informed voting is a Major obstacle to electing a good President. If you care about electing a good President, the next time you encounter such a voter will you take a moment to personally introduce him to a reference librarian? Knowledge is a great cure for ignorance. And a pretty cool ‘industry’ to work in.