Picture the scene: it’s my sophomore year of college, and I’m feeling a lot like a fish-out-of-water. I’m taking a class regarding research methods. As someone whose prior experience conducting research was for high school classes that probably didn’t double check if a source was considered “academic” or not, I’m absolutely frozen with fear about how I’m going to find the required peer-reviewed academic articles and studies that had been written specifically within the past few years for the several papers due during the semester– even worse, I’m thinking about the looming threat of my senior thesis, which, if I think the seven-page papers are bad, is simply incomprehensible.
I must’ve not be alone, and my professor must sense this, because one day in class she has one of the librarians at my university come in and explain the method behind conducting academic research, from the databases available to us and which ones are best for different fields of research to effectively searching for keywords to evaluating if a source fit our needs, she managed to teach all of us within one singular hour that research wasn’t that bad and could even be fun if we gave it the chance. It was like a whole new world was made available to me.
She asked how many of us knew how to do this beforehand or visited the library on campus, and maybe one or two people raised their hands. I’m not sure if you are conducting research yourself, but my point can be applied anywhere– librarians provide a wealth of resources and assistance to us that you may not even know about. I think many people automatically think that librarians simply are there to show you where books are and check them out for you. Don’t get me wrong– books are of the utmost importance to me, and I’m certainly grateful for my librarians’ ability to find them for me or, if it’s not available at that particular location, what location I can pick up a certain book from. However, that’s certainly not the only thing they do.
In fact, librarians often take on the role of an educator within their communities. This is because a library is a location where people are able to be connected to a wealth of knowledge and information that they may not have been able to access previously. Some libraries may have old texts, photographs, or even magazines and newspapers– making it a place where history is collected for future reference. Librarians help people navigate that information and discover it. Librarians also have to be incredibly flexible as technology changes rapidly and the digital landscape becomes cluttered. As different types of technology emerge, they often must be aware of the developments in order to assist patrons with that technology, whether that be how it works or how to think and read figures you find on it.
Even outside of books and the ever-important need to be able to find and utilize information properly in order to become educated on certain topics, librarians also assist the community by means of community organization. Libraries are often a location for people to commune and find like-minded people, and thus sometimes have events to encourage that communication, whether that be art-related events, book clubs, game nights or more. This is especially important for youth patrons– these events and clubs that are hosted at the library become a place for them to develop skills and relationships. Librarians play an important role in planning these events to keep individuals engaged with their community.
Even though I myself had such fond memories of the library from my childhood and my positive opinion of libraries, I had never known about the research assistance I could receive from academic librarians at my college. Since that moment, and my subsequent decision to additionally major in English, I’ve found myself in libraries more frequently to take a look at information for a project I’m working on, recreation, or even simply a place to relax, and there’s never a time where the librarians at that location aren’t willing to assist me any way they can. To all the librarians: for all that you do for community members by making information available to them, providing events, and of course the books– thank you! And if you’re able, the next time you visit your local library, show some appreciation for your librarians.
Chloe Kukuk, a junior majoring in public relations and English at Oakland University, is an editorial and marketing intern at the Cardinal Rule Press. When she’s not studying or working, she loves taking trips to the bookstore and lazing around the house with her three wonderful cats.