We love the Avengers just as much as the next person (unless you are strictly anti-Marvel, to which we must ask: “Why not DC and Marvel?”). However, this week is National Library Week and the more we thought about it, the more we realized that librarians are the real superheroes. Here’s why:
1. Librarians know how to locate every witty thing Tony Stark has said as well as every interesting or intelligent thing recorded in history. Iron Man is great at cracking a joke (causing massive amounts of collateral damage), but librarians are masters of research. They know that the key to knowledge it not knowing the answer to every question but knowing how to find the answer to any question. This is what lead Einstein to say: “The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” If you are on a mission to learn about something, talk to a librarian. So, Iron Man you might be able to think of some pretty witty one-liners, but librarians can basically find all the most hilarious one-liners in the history of ever.
2. Librarians are way more experienced at their jobs. While Thor has been saving Earth for at least 1,000 years (more likely 2,200 years), the other Avengers are superhero toddlers. In comparison, librarians have been organizing and caring for books, helping seekers find answers, and leading adventurers to their new favorite books for nearly three millennia. (That’s not including the cumulative experience of all those amazing library workers.)
3. They have personal relationships with their communities. Sure, the Avengers are fighting to save Earth, but in between epic battles that destroy cities (in multiple worlds), they remain somewhat detached from their communities. In contrast, librarians are on the ground every day helping community members find employment resources, teaching children to love reading, and generally making our neighborhoods better places to live.
4. When saving the world, they don’t destroy anything except simple minds. It can’t have gone unnoticed that the Avengers are pretty destructive in their defense of Earth. Of course, the attacks the Avengers have countered were corporal threats, but really? Thankfully when librarians wage their war, they don’t destroy anything but stereotypes, hate, and simple thinking.
5. Librarians are all about sharing. Unlike the Avengers, librarians don’t keep their superpowers to themselves. Librarians love to share information — how to find something, which book to read if you want to learn more about anything, what author to read if you enjoy doing X, Y, or Z. Librarians are all about sharing their skills to cultivate armies of people capable of taking knowledge and learning into their own hands.
6. Librarians don’t fight with weapons. They fight with ideas. Some librarians have effected massive change with their ideas. But all librarians help their communities by providing better access to better information.
7. They don’t get a break. After saving the world, the Avengers go on vacation or work on other projects that don’t require them to be an Avenger. Librarians don’t get much of a break. They are dedicated professionals working day after day to rid the planet of ignorance. It’s tiring work, but they are indefatigable.
8. They are accessible. As stated earlier, librarians are in their communities. This means that when anyone from the neighborhood has a question or wants some reading advice, they are there — ready. I have a difficult time believing that the Avengers are so easy to find or generous with their time.
9. Librarians have lifted stacks of books heavier than Thor’s hammer. Let’s face it. These people move a lot of books. Books are heavy.
10. They are inspiring.
“I’m of a fearsome mind to throw my arms around every living librarian who crosses my path, on behalf of the souls they never knew they saved.” — Barbara Kingsolver
We’re not trying to say that the Avengers can’t inspire you to be a better person, but librarians have a few advantages: 1) They are relatable. 2) They are accessible. 3) They are real. For inspiration to be effective, we have to know that it is possible to achieve. When we see intelligent, creative, and hard-working people around us, it provides a compelling example for us to emulate. Trying to emulate the Hulk is probably just going to get you a few awkward looks and some vandalism fines.
11. They often do all of this with budget cuts. Though not strictly so, a librarian’s ability to “make due” borders on supernatural. The truth is that librarians are waging war on ignorance with pure human talent and a Xerox machine running out of toner. No military elixirs, mishaps with gamma radiation, or “billionaire philanthropists” help librarians to provide interesting seasonal programming, update the computing systems, or cover subscriptions to several cutting-edge journals. The work is done on shrinking public budgets and local donations.
This week is National Library Week and April 14th was National Library Workers Day. Tell us about your amazing library or librarians in the comments!