Sunday, 10 February 2008

Heroic librarians

We all know librarians are perceived as geeks - not that heroic. Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's watcher - is pretty typical for a librarian - bespectacled and tweed - but there's always the possibility he could break out and do something physical. In real life, however...
There's Alia Muhammad Baker - who risked everything to save the collections of Basra library when the second Gulf War began in 2003. Iraqi government officials moved into the library, and installed an anti-aircraft gun on the roof. Alia began smuggling books out of the library to the restaurant next door then, eventually, to her and friends' homes. She saved 30,000 books. It's a fabulous story - and it shows the love that librarians have for the physical collections - and the freedom and knowledge they encompass and embody.
Then there's Miss Clara Breed, who epitomises the other - sometimes even more important - aspect of librarianship the people. Miss Breed was the first children's librarian in San Diego and her customer base was predominantly Japanese American. After Pearl Harbor, their lives were uncertain - many fathers were taken by the FBI. When the worst happened and her 'children' were due to be interred in camps, Miss Breed gave out stamped, self-addressed postcards to as many as she could. When they wrote to her, she responded - sending out books, gifts, and the knowledge that not everyone on the outside - not every American - hated them for their heritage. Yes, the books were important - the access to knowledge - and those 'children' carried that message for the rest of their lives, passing it on to their families. But what Miss Breed did for them was far more - hope, and humanity, small actions taken by someone who knew that what her government was doing showed that it had lost its humanity and purpose.
I wish I was more like Miss Breed - I despair that I'm not. A wonderful person - who lived the highest professional, and personal, ideals.
If you haven't read either of these - bad you! Read them forthwith!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting and sharing... please share your name, too...
I'm going to check the comments first - and it might take me a while to remember to look - sorry!