Reference: Using your powers for good

I’ve had this post on my to-do list for a while, ever since we discussed it in my reference class last semester, actually. But life very often gets in the way, especially of blogging. But I wanted to circle back to this idea for one very important reason: Reference work is in fact why I am convinced libraries are the place for me.

Face in the Pool-Knight Fighting Dragon

Knight Fighting Dragon
By J. Allen St. John Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

You’ve all read my epic tale of battling evil in the armor of a journalist, saving the damsels and knights in distress (it is the 21st Century, dear readers) from the evil dragons of corruption and misinformation. And you may know that after my sword dulled, I spent a good year hunting for a new weapon that could save this fair kingdom. And you all remember that it turned out that the ancient blade that would defeat all foes was named Librarianship, right?

Okay, maybe my original post on the subject wasn’t nearly as epic, but you get the idea. One of the main reasons I turned to librarianship was because of the profession’s inherit goodness. From that position, much of what ails the world can be solved, or at least eased. And reference services are the main way librarians can help.

I first heard the term “radical reference” from a teen librarian who was speaking to our reference class. He described the term as such: Do anything and everything to make the customer happy, including breaking policy and admitting when a program you invested in failed. While it’s an interesting idea, I don’t know how feasible it is some libraries. By I love the phrase “radical reference.” I felt like it had to have some other meaning. So I did what we (librarians and librarians-in-training) do best: I researched it.

And I discovered that there is a volunteer legion of librarians that make up an organization called Radical Reference, which offers reference services to anyone who needs information, but especially those fighting for social justice and equality. Talk about using your powers for good. If you think of information as the great equalizer (and in many ways, it is), then all librarians are involved in radical reference. And that is exactly why the idea of being a librarian has me so impassioned. I know there are negative points (see Librarian Problems for some hilarious GIFs illustrating them), as there are with everything in this world. But the good one can accomplish will always outweigh the negatives in this profession. And that makes everything – loans, the stress of graduate school and fears of never getting that first library job – worthwhile.

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2 thoughts on “Reference: Using your powers for good

  1. Pingback: Landing the job: Be prepared | Beta Librarian

  2. Pingback: Intellectual freedom and the role of the librarian | Beta Librarian

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