Top Myths About Libraries

I was asked an interesting question today by our Foundation Director. She would like to know what the top myth is about libraries. My first thought is that people still think the library is mainly about books. But, being as I work in a library every day, maybe I don’t know what myths other people may have. I would be very interested to see what the rest of you, both librarians and non-librarians, think about this. What would you say is the top myth people have about libraries?


13 Responses

  1. There are a number of top myths but the one that comes to mind for me is that most people believe that everyone who works in the library is a librarian.

  2. Diane,

    That’s a really good one that I hadn’t thought of! That could tie into a good message to potential donors about the value added service professional librarians provide.


  3. in no particular order…
    Myth 1: all librarians are women over 50. Related: everyone working in a library is a qualified librarian.

    Myth 2: Libraries are just about getting books.

    Myth 3: libraries (school or public or otherwise) aren’t necessary because everything’s available on the internet.

    Myth 4: Libraries have plenty of funding because they get so many donated books and charge so much in fines.

    Myth 5: The librarian can be held responsible for everything that kids check out because they work for government and must protect the kids from bad stuff.

    Myth 6: School libraries aren’t needed because kids can get everything they want at the public library or online.

  4. If you work in a library you have time to sit around and read books!

    Libraries are safe places.

  5. They also believe that librarians wear their hair in buns, have wire-rimmed glasses, and say shhhhh all the time. Oh, and all they do is check out books!

    The myth I run into most frequently is that a library is “a safe place”. They forget that libraries are filled with a variety of ideas that they may not agree with and could be “dangerous” to their kids.

  6. Good point Margery and Joanie. I hadn’t thought about that one. I was thinking mostly about #2 that Gene mentions above. You are all giving me great ideas.

    Do you think the safety issue is as prevalent on college campuses as in public libraries?

  7. Two things.
    1. Everything in the library is free- yes to the user, but the library had to buy it using ever decreasing funds,.
    2. The stuff you find on the web is just as good as what’s in the library databases

  8. That Librarians actually read!!!

  9. I completely agree with Eugene’s myths and would also add the only skills librarians have are related to books: reference, cataloging, readers advisory and circulation.

  10. A couple of years ago I was talking with a woman who had dropped out of library school. She was very concerned for me when she found out I was getting my degree in Library Science.
    “What will you do in a few years,” she asked me, “when librarians are obsolete because everything is online?”

  11. I’m not worried about people thinking everyone in a library is a librarian. It’s just terminology. To users, “librarian” means “someone who works in a library”; to us it means “someone with a library degree who works in a professional job in a library”. Users don’t care or need to care that we have all these distinctions, any more than I need to care that the hospital has all sorts of hierarchical distinctions between various levels of doctors: I just want to get better, and users just want to find information and/or a good read.

    But – that users think that all we do is check out, check in, and shelve books is a problem because it means they don’t realise all the other ways we can help them. I’ve just written a bit about some student feedback we’ve been getting about how they see libraries and quite a bit echos what Sudi says – the idea that the internet will make librarians obsolete.

  12. How about “internal” myths? Are there any myths we as librarians erroneously believe about ourselves (or burden ourselves with)? Here’s one I believed for a long time: I am a librarian so I should have a good working knowledge of circulation, cataloging, acquisitions, systems access, reference, outreach, instruction, and anything else housed under the library’s roof.

  13. Libraries are only for [insert: “people not like me”]. It seems like most of outreach work is convincing people that there is a reason to show up, when kids think the library is only for old people, retirees think it’s only for kids, savvy web users think it’s only for people who need books because they don’t know how to use the Internet, working people think it’s only for people who have time during the day, non-readers think the library only has books and readers think we’ve gotten rid of all our books to make room for other media… and so on. Argh.

    @Gene: in a related vein, I’ve heard the opposite: “Why do we need public libraries when the kids have a library at school?”

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