Libraries: not just for being shushed

I love libraries. I taught myself to read when I was about six and I’ve been a dedicated bookworm ever since. And libraries are where they keep the books.

During my years as a smoker, however, I got out of the habit of spending time in libraries. I’d go, take out the books I wanted and leave so I could light up. Since quitting I’ve started to rediscover them a bit. There’s something kind of wonderful — in the right libraries anyway, some newer ones hold no real appeal for me — about the stillness, aside from the odd cough, scrape of a chair leg or dropping of some massive tome on a hardwood or concrete floor. About the smell of all those books. About the sheer volume of possibilities every time you turn a corner. I like choosing a random stack and just pulling out books as titles catch my eye, and opening them to find out something I didn’t know before. A world of discovery there.  I even still mourn (in a small corner of my mind; not, you know, daily) the burning of the library of Alexandria, and when and if I ever go to Egypt, my inner book geek will insist on visiting the new one if at all possible.

And since some of my best friends are librarians (seriously, people I care for deeply have chosen this as a profession), I can tell you with some authority that librarians are smarter than the average bear in both the traditional sense (that is, that they know a lot) and in what I’d call the Socratic sense (that is, they’re aware they don’t know everything, but they do know the questions to ask to help them find out). Mind-blowing, really, to watch a good reference librarian at work.  If you need to know something, asking a person who’s smart enough to find the answer is a good way to find the answer.

So given the fact that libraries and librarians are both repositories of things I didn’t know, I shouldn’t have been entirely surprised to discover that my local library is a terrific resource for those seeking employment. It not only has the books with the lists of, for example, trade publications that I could approach for freelancing, and other resources on paper, it also offers seminars for job-seekers and wannabe small business owners; help writing resumes and discovering markets; information on how to set up a business — what you need to know and where and how to look for the information. Talk about your founts of knowledge. It’s ecstacy for information addicts.

I’ve been to the library a few times for research purposes since my layoff. Even though I have loved libraries more in theory than in practice even since I quit smoking, I’ve been gratified by the number of people I see using the facility in the middle of the day, working at the computers, availing themselves of the information in the reference section — and of the knowledge held by the reference librarian.

I know that not all of my readers will have access to a downtown public library in a big city, so the resources where you are may be more limited. But if you do have a library nearby, go in. Say hello to the librarian (quietly). Ask what resources the library might have to help the job-seeker. Ask any job-search question you may have, and just see if he or she can’t answer — or at least know where to find the answer for you.

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