Libraries at the Front Lines (of everything)

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Are librarians superheroes? Are libraries a real-world amalgam of Themyscira, the Batcave, Xavier’s School, and Stark Industries (but made open to the public)? Yes, I think, especially after this past Friday’s conference of the ABQLA (L’Association des bibliothécaires du Québec / Quebec Library Association). The 87th annual event took place in Montreal on May 24, 2019, under the ambitious but apt theme of “Everyday Superheroes.”

Along with Zoe Wake Hyde, I was in attendance, there to exchange ideas about Rebus Ink, our in-development scholarly reading platform. As we get ready to deploy Ink into academic libraries by the end of this year, I’m trying to gather as many insights as possible about the realities of life inside the library. What became clear at the ABQLA gathering, however, was how much libraries operate both within and beyond their own walls. They are spaces of books, digital media, people, and events. But they are also a point of departure for online tutorials, access to cultural programs, and social network catalysts.

What is more—as was poignantly noted during a training session for administering Naloxone injections to people experiencing opioid overdoses—a library is on the front lines of all of its community’s needs. Yes, libraries are knowledge hubs, but they are also about responding to emergent situations, whether learning-related or otherwise. It was a humbling revelation. Yes, as Rebus’s ‘open marketing’ guy, I want to see libraries champion open publishing and open reading. But I also have to realize just how many other things libraries both want and need to do.

Libraries are a nexus of services, resources, advocacy, activism, and knowledge. We ask a lot of them. And they deliver, over and over again. Pretty super-heroic, in my opinion.

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

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