I’ve been spending much of my time in special collections lately, burying myself in the large bound editions of old issues of The Racquet. I’ve changed my research focus, which was originally a general history of The Racquet, to women’s changing roles and realities as portrayed by The Racquet. I’ve been researching the early 1970s this week, and it has been wholly engaging. Bold headlines about Women’s Liberation and marching to legalize abortion sit beside advertisements for bust enhancers and pictures of doe-eyed gals hawking engagement rings. If needing to complete my research soon wasn’t such an issue, I could pore over these pages for months.
The gem of this article, of course, is UW-L students experiencing a “psychological put-down after having to consult with any of the personnel.” Almost exactly forty years later, we still grapple with the same stern n’ scary librarian conundrum.
This was written during the days of a physical card catalog and physical resources. Thinking about it is blowing my mind a little, because all I’ve ever known have been electronic resources. In 1971 it was stated that you could be successful with a little “self-education,” and I feel that that same message is pushed to students today. My first semester, I attended a mandatory informational course in the library as part of my speech class. A librarian walked us through how to access electronic resources and use the online catalog. Let me just say, fifty-five minutes goes awfully fast when the freshmen you’re teaching have never done anything of the sort. I certainly hadn’t. My prior experience with libraries was that they provided stacks of novels to read for pleasure, not tools for research. I was wholly unfamiliar, and it was a bit of a paradigm shift for me. In that brief course I learned the basics, the very basics, and then I was pushed out of the nest, maybe presumed to be fully self-educated.
Well, I wasn’t then and I’m not sure I am even now, though I am certainly much more knowledgeable. The amount of information is overwhelming, and I anticipate much of my future career as dealing with the massive quantities of information out there that can be both empowering and altogether too much to handle. Google and Wikipedia are so appealing because of their simple and familiar formats, and students of my generation have been disparaged by professors and librarians due to this. The more I think about these issues the more I am convinced that there will always be a need for librarians to sift through and navigate, fearless purveyors of information. There are no black and white, right and wrong decisions in this new librarianship. The world is changing all the time, and to be a librarian these days is to be fierce and ready constant challenge. You’ll have to fight for a job, probably fight to keep a job, and you’ll have to make tough decisions. Luckily, I’m drawn to a challenge.
What a fascinating world I am stepping into.