I was a guest last night at the 2017 UW Literary Voices event, an evening of food, socializing, plugging my environmental ethics book, and fundraising for the UW Libraries. After the event, I was thinking about why is it that of all the academic units in a university, it seems to me that it’s the librarians that are the most fun to be around?
Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of fun with my colleagues from every discipline, but there’s something about the librarians that’s special. Here’s my hypothesis: Contrary to conventional wisdom, librarians do not focus only on storing and preserving books (which they do do) but also on enabling access to books (and other resources). Thus, their discipline is focused on engaging with the other disciplines to help those disciplines do research and teaching. By its nature, librarianship as a discipline is outward facing whereas the other academic disciplines are generally inward facing (e.g., focused on their own research questions). And, in today’s world where disciplinary silos are ever more rigid, libraries play a critical role in bringing together the ultimate knowledge resource to help us solve common problems: people.