Librarians — including the ones at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, who wrote this astonishing description — are heroes. Here are a few reasons why:
First, they preserve our past. The actual bald man with sword attacked by rabid dog and bitten by a snake in the arm can be found on a spectacular website created by the Bodleian Library. For free. To anyone who bothers to look. Do take a look at it. I am so in love with what this particular site accomplishes. If only I had a larger monitor, I could pretend to be a gentleman in a library in an English country house. I'd be looking at my copy of a cistercian missal (or is that missle? You know, the thing that has all the prayers in it) and drinking something hot with alcohol in it. But it's way better how they've done it online — anyone in the world can take a look at these lovely, lovely pieces of the past, for as long as they want, drinking their beverage of choice, if they wish.
Second, libraries and librarians offer us sanctuary. All of us. As a child, I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor of my small local library looking at books. No one ever bothered me, asked me what I was doing or suggested I do something else. No one censored my reading. And they still don't.
Third, librarians kick the government's ass when it gets too close for comfort. See this story for news about that.
Fourth, a library is way better than a Barnes & Noble. At my local library, I can reserve, online, whatever I want to read. I wait a while, and they email me and then I show up and pick it up from the hold shelf. And when I'm done, I return it and do not take up any room storing a book I have finished reading. If you want to start doing this, here's a site where you can find your local library and all the libraries you used to use wherever you lived in the world. You can even see pictures of some of them.
Fifth, librarians are just plain nice, most of them. Dawn, the children's librarian at the library I go to with my boys remembers their names, gives them pencils, signs them up for summer reading, and is so happy when they check out books for themselves.
Visit your library. And while you're there, thank them for preserving our past, giving us sanctuary, kicking ass, getting us the books we need, and being so kind to our children.