I am planning a regular series of posts highlighting books that I would recommend reading. Good Reads, if you will. These will be books coming from my personal reading list related to librarianship, information, and/or technology. So for those who like to curl up with a good book (or ebook reader), I hope you will find something from these recommendations that pique your interest.
I thought it fitting to kick off the “Good Reads” series with a book by Nancy K. Maxwell entitled, Sacred Stacks: The Higher Purpose of Libraries and Librarianship (ALA, 2006). Maxwell, a veteran librarian currently serving as the library director at the Miami Dade College North Campus Library, reflects in Sacred Stacks on the nature of the library profession, drawing correlations to the sacred/religious. The book grew out of her experiences while a librarian on a Catholic university campus.
An initial reaction might be to assume a religious motivation and focus for the book. Actually it is a professional reflection on the “higher purpose” of librarianship that suggests similarities between libraries and religious institutions–between librarians and ministers. (A quote from the Encyclopedia of Career and Vocational Guidance appearing at the beginning of Chapter 2 helps to illustrate this point nicely.) Following two “introductory” chapters that set the stage for sacred correlations for libraries and librarians, each subsequent chapter deals with a specific aspect of libraries/librarians:
- Organizing chaos
- Bestowing immortality
- Uplifting individuals and society
- Providing (sacred, secular) space
- Promoting community
- Transmitting culture to future generations
The book ends with a final chapter of implications for libraries and charges to librarians.
As a fellow librarian, I can appreciate some of Maxwell’s observations about libraries and librarians. More specifically, as a librarian at a church-related academic institution, I can identify with her perception of libraries as analogous with the sacred. I have always considered my career choice a “calling,” and that perception is confirmed for me daily in my tasks and interactions with library users.
Take a preview of the book and then find a copy that you can read from cover to cover. It has a lot to say about a profession/institution that serves a higher purpose for society.