If Bruce Wayne Had Chosen Another Path, Would He Have Become a Librarian?

By JeffHarrison

 

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In today’s indeterminate world, librarians are like dark knights. They exist because they are needed, though not everyone may realize this or even be appreciative of it. But when they come out of the shadowy stacks to help someone, the librarian’s presence is always welcomed. Like Batman, they only have one rule, though it is much less fierce than to never kill; librarians will help the patron to the best of their ability and, as it is with the caped crusader, you will never need to thank them.

When you are running from trouble on the cold and dirty city streets, there is always a library nearby, welcoming you into its cozy book-strewn atmosphere. Perhaps this is as unlike the Batcave as one could possibly imagine, but within, you will still find detectives, always hunting down that one elusive book for their patron.

There is a certain alienation that comes with this profession, which was an idea first touched upon by Marcia J. Nauratil in her 1989 book, The Alienated Librarian. Though there are most likely no librarians who witnessed their parents being gunned down in Crime Alley by Joe Chill, thus burdened with a desire to mete out justice, the alienation felt by librarians comes from a sense of antiquatedness. With the onslaught of the internet, ebooks, and Google, many people assume that librarians have gone the way of the eight-track. Some might say that Batman is antiquated as well, the vigilantism seemingly of a world far removed from our own; one where gangsters and killers got more press than corrupt businessmen and politicians. Admittedly, one finds it hard to picture The Dark Knight roaming the streets of New York today when there is almost no need for his brand of justice. Ostensibly, there is also very little need for librarians. However, as one recent news story from the Washington Times about librarians championing the uninsured points out, this could not be further from the truth.

At this past summer’s annual ALA conference, it was announced that the librarians of the country would be rising up to help those who need to sign up for Obamacare beginning October 1st. In true Dark Knight fashion, the news article states that, “libraries will be particularly important in conservative states that are not making much effort to promote the health law’s opportunities.” Although this is not the vigilantism that comes to mind when you think of Batman, the fact is, that by informing the people of the community about their legal rights and providing them with the computers required to apply for this service, in their own way, librarians will be working outside of the system and helping those who cannot help themselves.

Going back to the problem of alienation, while working outside of the system may alienate those librarians that live in conservative areas from part of their towns, because it is something they know is a good thing, their alienation is not the anachronistic kind mentioned above.  On the contrary, by working towards a more progressive society, they are actually helping to absorb themselves and others into a more hopeful future. They are actually disproving Marx’s idea that mankind is making a history of “increasing development but also of increasing alienation,” making it the actual anachronism (Nauratil 15).

Bruce Wayne chose to become a symbol of hope for the people of Gotham because they previously had none. In the real world we do have symbols of hope, but they are a lot less theatrical and overtly impressive, which is why in recent years, librarians have been viewed so negligibly. However, simple yet substantial gestures like offering to help a single mom get health benefits because her employer refuses to give her full-time work or “even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended” (The Dark Knight Rises 2012). These are the things people will remember most and look back fondly on throughout their lives.

Librarians, like the Dark Knight, are silent guardians. They watch over information, making sure that everyone has access to it. They too make sure there is justice in the world by providing patrons with the ability to sometimes work within the system and sometimes on its border. When we are truly lost, without direction and backs up against the wall, whether it be to find a way to get affordable insurance or sue a slumlord, librarians will be there, utility belt (computer catalog) at the ready. All we need to do is ask. No joke.

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