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The Legend Behind the Library Myths

by on December 5, 2014

Let’s be honest, if you’re not in a profession, it can be hard to know exactly what goes on in it. Everyone has their stories about the misinformation that people believe about their jobs, but this is Public Libraries Online, so we’re going to talk about a few of the misconceptions dealing with our field.

Earlier this year, the Huffington Post ran an article from the co-founders of the Library as Incubator Project, 7 Big Myths about Libraries. The first myth mentioned is one of my favorites: libraries are places where you will be shushed if you emit a peep.[1] While that may have been truer at one time, we definitely aren’t the quiet type anymore. Sure, you might have a quiet area, but it can be hard to contain “the joyful noise,” as one friend calls it, from a children’s program when you have an open concept design. If you have an area for business where co-working, collaborating, and hoteling is encouraged, conversation and phone calls definitely ensue. If you have teen gaming, the event can get a little boisterous. As we evolve more and more to a place for community gathering, you’re bound to bring a little noise in.

Another huge myth mentioned in the article is about libraries being all about books.[2] We’re librarians, we love reading, we will always promote reading, and we will always provide reading in some way or another. However, we’ve all seen loads of articles lately showing that libraries are about so much more than just books. Libraries are meeting places, learning environments, collaborative spaces, innovation centers, and entertainment spots, as well as a source for reading. We’re hosting Mini Maker Faires, concerts, zombie dances, and book clubs.

Another misconception that needs to be set straight is that libraries are just for kids.[3] Libraries offer something for everyone: from story time for babies to teen gaming to computer classes for older adults. With lifelong learning being a key tenet to libraries, programs don’t end at a certain time of life. Oh, and this library stuff is not boring.[4] With new technology being added to every facet of services and energetic librarians presenting, nothing is stale in the library. Plus, did you see earlier when I mentioned the zombie dances?

The article covers a few other myths, but a couple that always come to mind for me weren’t there. I’ve been told more than once. “You’re a librarian? It must be so great to get to read all day!” I agree; that would be pretty awesome.

The other misconception that used to bother me was when people, including family, would say to me, “We don’t need librarians; we have the Internet.” I don’t take it personally anymore because I realize that the person saying it doesn’t really know what a librarian does. We don’t just find facts. We help people find the best, most reliable facts, not just any information. We develop programs and classes that enrich people’s lives and help provide a place for community. My advice? Take comments like that as an opportunity to help someone learn.

Some of the myths around librarianship are funny and innocuous. Some are a little harder to battle. We just have to keep showing what we do and who we are.

Got a myth you didn’t see? Please share!

[1] Batykefer, Erinn and Laura Damon-Moore. “7 Big Myths about Libraries.” Huffington Post. April 29, 2014. (accessed November 18, 2014).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Cover Image Credit: David Rees, Environmental Protection Agency

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