What's the heart of a fine library? I guess it's up to debate. Children's librarians instill the initial love of literature. Desk or circulation librarians provide an important social as well as literary function. Head librarians keep the library going, more and more of a challenge these days of shrinking budgets and poor priorities.
Myself, I've always been dependent on the research or reference librarian. How many of us owe that important fact in chapter three of the novel or fourth scene in the play or the B-plus for a high school or college report to the far-ranging mind of a great reference librarian?
``Ok, you're researching the pre-World War I decadence of Austrian society _ I'd recommend anything by Arthur Schnitzler. Say `La Ronde,' or . . . '' ``You're interested in great chess matches? Well, there was Boris Spassky vs. Bobby Fischer in 1968 . . . '' ``That incident with Nixon, Ehrlichman wrote about it in . . . ''
This morning I was in the Monterey (California) Public Library and learned it was reference librarian Joe Johnson's last day; he's retiring. Johnson's one of the best. Always extremely knowledgeable, always plesant and polite. Not always easy to do, by the way, when you've got a kid nervous about a term paper or an adult looking for stuff to help with tax returns.
I found Joe's help crucial when I was a reporter _ he carries a lot of local culutral and political facts in his head and can direct you to the needed clipping or microfilm or data base _ and now when I research subjects for plays or documentaries or art. This morning I wanted an artist's signature book _ I'm researching a painting signed J. Dahl; if it's Johannes Dahl, it's valuable, if it's Jack Dahl, well maybe not.
Joe was already handling a request via telephone and people were beginning to move in on his desk, but he found the signature book. I decided I needed to copy the page with the signature I wanted, and when I had trouble with the copier, Joe was there. It was typical of the kind of service he has provided for Monterey Library users for thirty-three years.
I asked him if it seemed surreal, experiencing this last day. He smiled, ``It does seem a little strange. Everything I do, I think about it, that it might be the last time.''
I went on the internet and put in ``great research librarians.'' I came up with this YouTube film, a guy talking about careers as a research librarian. He seems happy and enthusiastic with what he is doing. That reminded me of Joe, so it follows:
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...