When I was a kid, my favorite place to hang out was the library. In middle school and junior high I used to help the librarian (Hello, Mr. Wolford!) shelve books and set up displays. The library was my refuge. And the librarian was my friend.
Jump ahead many years and I’m now a librarian. With a side hustle. I teach American History from 1877 to the present. My students are often confused and a little amused the first time they walk into class and see my face. “Hey, you’re the librarian!” I smile. “Yes, yes, I am.” Then I go over my credentials. Because I feel like I have to justify my place in the classroom.
I explain the intersection between librarianship and the study of history: it’s the story of us. Librarians share information. At its core, our job is to make sure that the public is able to access information. And information comes in a variety of formats: books, art, music, oratories, diaries, etc. These are the same formats in which history is collected, studied, and shared.
Every day that we wake up, that we create or share something (a Facebook post, a random sketch, even an emoji…), we are becoming part of history. Our written words, our digital footprints, these are records of our living, of our existing. They are the stories of us.
When my students leave my classroom, they may not have a deep love of history, but they do understand their place in the narrative. We are shaped by our past experiences and, whether we’re aware of it or not, our national history shapes who we are, how we experience life, and how we react to past (and present) experiences.
History is a collection of stories and my job, as their teacher and their librarian, is to share those stories with them.