Intersections | Librarians are Superheroes

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samanthayanityheadshotBy Samantha Yanity ( | As a child, I began my life as a voracious reader hungry for knowledge and enamored with words. Feeling left out that my older siblings and my mother (all avid readers) were regularly engaged in conversations about their current read, I begged my mom to teach me how to read at age four. My mother brought me to the public library routinely as part of our regular outing. Library visits, to me, became as exciting as going to the zoo, park, or a museum. To this day, I find comfort in the library and often when I am stressed out, I visit a library to decompress.

My heroes of ordinary life were my teachers and librarians. They, like storytellers of my life, were the keepers of the stories. When I was enrolled in school, I could not wait to befriend our school librarian and get my own card. In the classroom, I adopted many labels that kept me eating or playing alone. I was the shy kid, the weird kid, the tallest kid in class, and often the new kid. However, in the comfort of the library, I could enter magical spaces where kids, like me, who were out of place had the power to solve mysteries, confront their bullies, and create magic. It did not matter who I was, in the library, I belonged.

As I got older, I began to see librarians as truth -seekers. They, like knights, worked to protect the dignity of the human narrative and history. They fought valiantly to protect critical thinking skills, intellectual freedom, and factual and accurate history. Entering my long pathway way into higher education, I found myself seeking out the truth tellers and agents of change. These keepers of the human story have challenged my way of thinking and have even aided me in finding my own story.

I saw firsthand the magic powers of librarians once I entered the workforce. In every role I had, there was a librarian around to help me find resources to help me thrive. When I was an ESL teacher in Europe, I befriended librarians from a hybrid library (part public- part academic) that worked in conjunction with a language institute that provided resources for native English speakers. Where I lived books in English were expensive and hard to find, and the library helped me find free resources for myself and my students. When I began my career in social services, I met a group of public librarians that welcomed my clients with disabilities to their local branch with patience and love. When our organization expressed that not all of our clients were mobile, they arranged Bookmobile visits to our senior center.

Countless times I witnessed librarians cloak themselves in superhero capes and enter unfamiliar scenarios- offering support for an overwhelmed client with Autism, retrieving citizenship materials in Urdu, and even lending a hand to a client having a grand mal seizure. No matter the situation, the librarians in my life, have granted my former clients and myself accessibility, inclusive, and equality no matter what messages we received outside. In the library, superheroes work, and they often go unacknowledged, but their work is vital for our society. Without their powers, we would be at a great loss for accessibility, inclusiveness, and diversity. Without them, where would the outsiders go to find a magical world where they belong?

Share your Library Superhero Story!

Help us celebrate National Library Week - April 9-15, 2017 by sharing your superhero story on Intersections! To learn more, please contact Intersections editor John Amundsen, or call 800-545-2433, ext. 2140.

Samantha Yanity is Continuing Education Assistant in ODLOS