The man stands up and addresses the rest of the participants of the meeting, who sit in a circle around him.
— Hello. My name is John, and I am a librarian.
— Hi, John — answer the others in chorus.
And John then starts to share all his problems, all his bitterness, all the inconveniences he faces in his daily work as a librarian. Or as a "precari-brarian", as he and his colleagues have begun to call themselves, due to the alarming precariousness of their jobs. The assistants nod, regretfully: more or less, all of them identify with that colleague and with his tribulations. That is why they meet there, in the Association of Precari-brians Anonymous: to share their sorrows, support and encourage each other, share hopes, strategies and solutions...
Fantasy? Yes, indeed. But it is enough to teach a course or a seminar, or lecture on social librarianship to more than twenty librarians to find that the final time for questions turns into a kind of meeting of "Precari-brians Anonymous": librarians who take advantage of the time and the space to complain about their working conditions.
Working conditions, that are in fact increasingly regrettable, and over which, apparently, no professional association, trade union or college has control. There seems to be little left for the Association of Precari-brians Anonymous to go from being a fantasy to become a reality.
"Liber est lumen cordis, speculum corporis" (The book is light of the heart / mirror of the body), says the famous fragment "Quid est liber?" included in the Codex Miscellaneus (fol 26v), a text of the eleventh century kept in Toledo (Spain).
A beautiful definition. Although, sometimes, I like to explore others beyond the classics. Or even invent them.
The problem is that, in the latter case, I get more questions than answers.
If, as the Colombian poet Jairo Aníbal Niño says, "a cat is a drop of tiger" (and a tiger is a downpour of cats?), a book is a drop of what? Of knowledge and creativity? Of memories and dreams? Of experiences, good and bad? Of all of the above (and much more)? Of anything of that?
And a library is a downpour of books (and other things)? Or could it also be a drop of something (a tangible drop of our intangible collective memory, for example)?
Be that as it may, the possibility that the book (and other documents) and the houses, containers and spaces that shelter them (whatever they are called) allow this type of games speaks clearly of their value. It is a pity that the world seems to advance, in fits and starts, towards a reality that turns its back on knowledge and memories.
And that we seem to be becoming, as the Spanish philosopher Julián Marías bluntly put it, primitive beings with too much information.
The topic was addressed by American researchers Jennie Moore and William E. Rees in 2013, in the fourth chapter of The Worldwatch Institute's already-famous "State of the World" report entitled "Is Sustainability Still Possible?" (available online).
Measuring the ecological footprint of the current human population, it is possible to detect that approximately one fifth of the world's population lives in high-income societies (most of North America, Europe, Japan and Australia, plus the consumer elites of the low-income countries). To maintain their standard of living, that fifth part takes over four fifths of the world's natural resources, and generates most of the harmful waste (including greenhouse gases).
Grosso modo, that fifth part, that sector of humanity, lives as if they had the resources and the assimilative capacity of three planets Earth.
And, of course, few of the members of that sector are willing to give up their way of life. Many prefer not to look around, others do not care (as long as their privileges are not touched), and others opt for a utopian wishful thinking ("in the near future we will all go to Mars", "in the near future, Science will solve all our problems ", etc.)
It happens that, at the rate we are moving, there will be no near future. And science is still far from solving our problems.
Meanwhile... do we librarians do something about that? Are we part of the problem? Of the solution? Do we even have a minimal idea of what is going on and what may be our role in this situation? Or are we, too, partakers of the wishful thinking?
About the posts
Texts: Edgardo Civallero.
Las entradas pertenecientes a la serie de notas Conocimiento y biosfera pueden leerse aquí, junto a las de las series Apuntes críticos y Gotas de animación a la lectura. Asimismo pueden consultarse las distintas entradas de las columnas Palabras ancladas, Los muchos caminos, Palabras habitadas y Libros y lecturas indígenas.
Por último, las conferencias, los artículos académicos y otros trabajos similares pueden consultarse a través del listado completo de publicaciones, o bien revisando el archivo de Acta Académica (de acceso libre) o las plataformas Academia.edu, Issuu, Scribd y Calameo.