DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Sep 24 2012


by Jnai W

I thought of naming this blog post, in homage to the recent spate of feline-inspired writings on DCPLive, “Okay, Enough With The Cat Posts, Already”. But I decided against such a tongue-in-cheek title for two reasons: 1) these cat posts are terrific (big ups to Veronica and Amanda) 2) I’m a cat person myself (big ups to my cat baby, Smudge) and 3) the idea of librarians having a deep-seated affinity for cats is the kernel at the center of this post.

(Okay, that was three reasons…)

There’s an immediate association with cats and curiosity that, as anyone who has even casually observed a cat in action knows, is more than just a stereotype. I beg to suggest that just as it is among a cat’s defining traits, curiosity is also a characteristic that proves indispensable for any self-respecting capital-L Librarian. I’ve come to this conclusion with the help of an incredible book that I’ve been listening to called This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson. I was immediately struck by a passage early on in this book in which Johnson describes the nature of the library field and of its operatives. Any good librarian, according to Johnson, “possess[es] all of the skills and characteristics required for that work: curiosity, wide-ranging knowledge, good memories, organizational and analytical skills and discretion”. While all of these traits serve a librarian extremely well, curiosity, in my opinion, is arguably most crucial to anyone in this field. (And in touching on the cat-librarian dynamic for the second-to-last time here: name me one cat who doesn’t fit the aforementioned description of a librarian…and I’ll name you a very cleverly disguised dog—okay, just kidding, dog people). Johnson’s book is an incredibly insightful, well-written and informative read for anyone who might be curious about why, in the age of Google and Wikipedia, a good librarian is a terrible thing to waste.

My earliest memories of librarians—public, school and church librarians alike—were of people who seemed genuinely interested in answering any question posed to them. A great librarian need not know all of the answers but he should at the very least be as thirsty as his patron is for the answer.  Since the moment I stumble tush-over-tea-kettle into library work myself I’ve tried to treat every patron query as an opportunity to expand my own horizons in some way. Every question is an adventure. Every answer is a treasure. And many times the quest for knowledge is just as thrilling as the attainment of it.

And in touching on the cat-librarian dynamic for the last time: I’m not sure exactly what a cat does when she attains knowledge for a patron. Does she wind The Knowledge around her paws like so much baby yarn? Does she smack The Knowledge back and forth like some poor defenseless chipmunk caught in her clutches?  Or does she leave The Knowledge laying in the floor for me to trip over while she gives herself a bath? I’m curious…

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