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All hail the information alchemists

This Is London reports on a British councillor, Alex Aiken, who has called on the library field to redefine itself.

Mr. Aiken, a former policy director for the Tories, told a conference of the Public Library Authorities: “The concept of the librarian has to change and perhaps a start would be to abolish the title itself, with its connotations of middle-aged conservatism.”

Telling the librarians how to get pro-library articles into the press, he said: “From racy books to photogenic librarians and new services that counter outdated perceptions, media is a powerful tool to shape image.”

The library community’s response has been one of predictable and understandable outrage and/or scorn (see the comments section below the article). One blogger, David Rothman, ran a poll asking readers to suggest and vote on new job titles to replace the archaic “librarian”; his favourite contender — and Quillblog’s too — was “information alchemist.”

As any Quillblog reader undoubtedly knows already, librarians are some of the coolest people around. But they’ve often been treated unfairly by popular culture. For example, now that the holidays are looming, let’s think back to a certain classic, heartwarming Jimmy Stewart movie about the true meaning of Christmas….

That’s right, Rear Window. Nothing says “Christmas” like spying on your neighbours for cheap titillation.

Nah, just kidding. Anyway, you may remember that late in It’s a Wonderful Life, as George Bailey tries to wrap his head around the grim alternate universe into which the angel Clarence has dropped him, his thoughts turn to the fate of his wife. We’ll let the script take it from here.

If you know where she is, tell me where my wife is.

I’m not supposed to tell.

(becoming violent)
Please, Clarence, tell me where she is.

You’re not going to like it, George.

Where is she?

She’s an old maid. She never married.

(choking him)
Where’s Mary? Where is she?


Where is she?

(in self-defense)
She’s just about to close up the library!

It loses something on paper, without the apocalyptic “Dear God, not the library” music, but you get the idea.

Related links:
Click here for the This Is London article
Click here for the David Rothman poll
And yes, click here for the complete It’s a Wonderful Life script