Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saint Jerome

When I said that I rarely heard about the saints in real-life I forgot about Saint Jerome. He is the patron of libraries & librarians & today is his day. But more to the point, he comes up at the very beginning of the first Ghostbusters movie (which is how I heard of him in-real-life).

According to Saints Index, he is best remembered for his bad temper; I am sorry to disagree but he is best remembered as the delusion of Alice the Librarian's Uncle. Before that, he was the 'bald man' trigger in the movie Compromising Positions that solves the case. Two 1980s movies with people who either think they see or are Saint Jerome & since then nothing, so far as I have come across.

I probably should not be so delighted with myself for remembering Saint Jerome. Or rather, not-quite-contemporary references to Saint Jerome. But along with himself, libraries have been lost in the digital shuffle. Or have they?

Earlier this year, there was a vocal minority (I think it might just be one person) who was advocating the dissolution of the our local library on the basis that books are cheap & so is the internet, the money & volunteer hours would be better spent elsewhere. Sure it has won awards & is so well supported by community donations that there has been money to spare helping Katrina-victim libraries & other projects, but why not toss the whole thing & free up that valuable downtown real estate? If you want to ruffle feathers in a college town, suggest closing the public library.

This is not the first asinine library encounter I have had. Several years ago I was doing work for a large government institution in Ohio & my contact person there was a librarian. The title on his paperwork was something else, but his nature was librarical (that's right: librarical. It is like rabbinical only librarical), making him very well suited to his job.

He also volunteered at his local library & he told me the following story: a group of people who thought they had more public support than they actually did made a move to ban Harry Potter books from their library shelves. The first books had been ordered but had not yet arrived (did I mention this was a while ago). They lost, but enough influence was brought to bear that the order was canceled & the district did not feel they could purchase the books: funds were limited & would be better allocated to more widely circulated materials, blah ba blah bablah. They would however be happy to accept them as a gift.

Talk about a flood. Many members of the community decided to take this opportunity to stock the shelves with books that had been left off previous purchases without any discussion. I personally donated a copy of what I fondly call The Users Manual & I hope it is still there today.

Even further back, I was once sitting at a fund raising table for a library, in front of a grocery store when I got an earful on the topic "public libraries are communist institutions". That I gave as good as I got (our first library was founded by that well-documented capitalist Ben Franklin & so forth on the history of the American Public Library) remains a shining moment in my self-aggrandizing memory.

I have a bad librarian story, too: my high school librarian Sophie Brophy (not quite her real name) refiled all the Mark Twain books under Samuel Clemens because That was His real name. At least I think that is why.

She also used to sneak up on me when I was tutoring, jumping out from behind whatever she was hiding behind & scaring the crap out of me. In retrospect I realize she was trying to catch us making out (we were not, I would tell you if we were) but at the time I thought all the henna & home perms had rotted her brain.

Saint Jerome, as I believe I have already alluded, was bald. & I take it back about him not being remembered as difficult. Every librarian I ever encountered was difficult, just usually in a good way.

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