Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Librarians at work

I was in a public library yesterday, sitting at a table not far from a bank of public computers. A patron, perhaps in her thirties, called a librarian over to help with filling in and printing a form. The librarian guided her: “You need the hyphen — that’s next to the zero.” “Let’s try double-clicking. Try again, faster. It’s really touchy.”

Another patron, perhaps in his twenties, asked questions of a second librarian: “What’s a browser?” “What do I do about cookies?” The librarian said that she usually used Firefox. And she assured this patron that on a public computer, his browsing history would be deleted when he closed the browser.

I thought of something Ira Glass says in a recent episode of This American Life: “One librarian told me that in her job, you really get in touch with just how many people really do not know how to use computers at all.” And I thought about the patience and kindness with which these librarians were solving problems and answering questions. Faulting the mouse — “It’s really touchy” — was an especially deft touch.

[“Digital native”: a notion that presupposes a significant degree of privilege. It’s not a matter of age alone.]

comments: 4

Chris said...

It was a librarian who many years ago first showed me how to use a mouse and introduced me to web browsing (on Netscape). A whole new world.

Michael Leddy said...

Wow. I recall in college a librarian who directed me to the stacks. I thought that the reference room and the tiers were everything. (I was a freshman.) But no — go through that doorway, up or down the stairs, and there was everything else.

Fresca said...

A couple years ago I witnessed a librarian being soooo calm and kind with an older woman who was SCREAMING in frustration because she'd lost some form she'd filled out on the computer. (She obviously wasn't familiar with computers.)
The librarian wasn't able to retrieve it, but he did provide comfort, and the woman settled down to fill out the form again.

Angels among us, some librarians.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, some. And now I’m hearing the voice of my high school’s librarian in my head: “This is my library!”