Libraries prepped authors for their careers

Patience or Fortitude

“Books are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind – humanity in print.”  Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989)

The United for Libraries site  features quotations about libraries, including Barbara Tuchman’s.  Many authors have found libraries to be their “university” or source of information for their books.  Ray Bradbury is an example of someone who had a high school education but by “spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter” from 1938-1943, he was able to become a full-time author.   Neil Gaiman, chair of National Library Week 2010, described the importance of librarianship as:  “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”

Other authors such as James Alexander Thom, Barbara Tuchman and Georgette Heyer thoroughly researched their books based on history with the help of libraries.  Louis L’Amour is an author who never finished high school but due to voracious reading at libraries and whatever he could lay his hands on helped in developing his writing.

In the past many authors didn’t have access to the internet or e-books but the use of a physical library is still helpful in this computerized information age for authors, academics, the public, etc.  The argument has also been made that the stacks of books, particularly in academic libraries, should be eliminated.  The proponents of this theory believe that the patrons only come to the library to use the internet, online databases, group study rooms, and carrels.  While these are valuable there is something to be said for serendipitously stumbling upon other helpful books and materials while looking for something else in the stacks.  And while acknowledging that the internet and e-books have their place in research and reading for pleasure, the library has access to materials and resources which aren’t digitized and on-line.  

In the digital age librarians interact with patrons via instant messaging, e-mails, and phone but sometimes a face-to-face interaction is what is needed.  At a university reference desk a student came up to the desk and said she had a paper due urgently but couldn’t find any information on the topic.  Upon being asked what databases she’d looked at she said only Google.  When pressed she was unaware of Google Scholar so I asked what search terms she had used and typed them into Scholar.  The first article was exactly what she needed and she became excited.  I showed her how to extrapolate from there to find additional articles on that angle of the topic and she went to a desk to see what she could find using the techniques shown.  She stopped by later to thank me effusively because it had saved her a lot of frustration.  She could have requested the information via the instant chat or e-mail but by being shown how to do the search and a better resource she would know how to repeat it and that librarians are approachable.

Despite the ease of obtaining the information by various computerized/online methods, people can still find that personal connections and discoveries in the library are beneficial.  Explore your library and connect with the librarians, you never know what you’ll find.

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