Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Working with Humans

I’ve a brother-in-law who’s a minister. In fact, he’s a Baptist minister. His calling has two definite sides to it.

On the one hand, he’s a “preacher” and has the traditional responsibility of writing and presenting his Sunday sermon. On the other, he’s a “pastor” and charged with tending for the spiritual welfare of his congregation … which, as a practical matter, can be just about anything.

There’s not much training for that in seminaries. There’s a hope that with the right attitude and life experiences as person can find a balance between the two great demands that make up a minister’s calling.

Reference librarians are put in a similar place. On the one hand, there’s the “book learning” needed to understand a question and find an answer. On the other, there’s the learning you need to have in order to understand the person who comes to you with a question … and that’s often a very elusive thing.

Anyway, my brother-in-law chose to read the “classic” novels in order to get more experience with the human condition than he had obtained while growing up on an Iowa farm. This included Dickens, Austen, Dostoevsky, and the like.

I’ve long thought that he made a very good choice and that it’s one that many reference librarians could follow.

Even those of us who were English majors.

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