Dreaming of Astronauts and Librarians

On more than one occasion I’ve thought about being a librarian. I’ve read that it’s a terrible field to get into these days; an overabundance of people with degrees in library science (consider a master’s, though the quality of programs, and therefore graduates, is said to be very spotty at the moment) competing for a small number of positions. A graduate program in library or information science would not be a good investment right now.

Of course I have a degree in education already, so I could become a school librarian tomorrow — if someone were to hire me. I trained primarily as a science teacher, but with a few exceptions, any registered teacher can theoretically be hired for any teaching position, even if it doesn’t typically happen in practice.

This is somewhat of an idle thought, and likely will never come to pass. I’m daydreaming. But why? Who daydreams about the exciting world of librarianship?

Frankly, I’m not sure if it’s a question of my love of books or a certain obsession with organization of knowledge. My favourite topic in high school biology was taxonomy, studying and relating different species, phyla, and other taxa. Similarly, I’ve made a point of both ordering and filling in my knowledge of literature, and I suppose I want some application for that knowledge. What better way than to be the living card catalogue for some eager students? (A dated reference; perhaps a living search engine would be more relevant?)

For example, I’ve lately been working my way through some of the major fantasy canon. The bedrock stuff that has influenced basically everything that is being written in the field today. That means not only J.R.R. Tolkien, but C.S. Lewis, T.H. White, et al.

But these twentieth-century writers have their own antecedents in previous centuries. Tolkien’s influences date to Chaucer’s day — works like Orpheus and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. White, with The Once and Future King, rewrote Le Mort de Arthur, also from the Early Middle Ages. C.S. Lewis, on the other hand, certainly must have thought about Milton, and perhaps Dante during his writing, if we’re limiting ourselves only to literary inspirations.

Of course none of this can be understood without a solid grounding in the classics of Homer, Virgil, and others in turn. And it can’t be only me who collects such information and wants to immediately organize a display of fantasy through the ages, to piggy-back on the buzz of the new Hobbit movie, for example.

It can’t be only me, for that matter, who wants to divy up a science fiction section into cyberpunk, steampunk, alternate history, slipstream, new wave, and so forth. Categories were made to be sub-categorized. Historical trends were made to be explicated to interested library patrons, celebrated via promotions and posters and whatnot.

But it’s just an idle dream. Perhaps I will get a chance to run my own library at some point, even for a year or two. But as likely, not. At least I do have some other application for my carefully organized reading: as a literary critic who knows what he’s talking about. That’s not a bad job either, and it’s not even full-time work.

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