ministerial librarian

A few months ago I stumbled upon a new bookstore, virtually. It exists in Pennsylvania, and I hope to visit it someday. How I learned about it, I cannot recall, but I signed up to receive their newsletter in which they highlight recently received books at their store. In the meantime, I look forward to its fabulous newsletters. Hearts & Minds Books describes itself as “unabashedly Christian” but also “different than most religious bookstores.” And I so agree.

As a long-time recovering preacher’s daughter, who rarely steps foot in religious-affiliated (oftentimes my fingers type afflicted instead of affiliated; must be a Freudian slip) bookstores, the newsletters and thoughtful reviews of books, as well as their selection of books are so appealing. I order from them often. As an example, two of the books they promoted, that hadn’t crossed my radar were The Mind and the Machine: What it Means to be Human and Why it Matters  and The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Reader, I bought them. And others as well. Such as Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir. Love, love, love memoir and biography. People fascinate me. Peeking into their lives, their motivations, triumphs and failures reinforces the universality of our human condition.

Another book mentioned in their newsletter’s year end round-up of best books of 2011 was Raised Right: How I Untangled my Faith from Politics by Alisa Harris. So yeah, as much as I support indie bookstores of all stripes, I try not to buy every book I want. This one I borrowed from the public library. And I thought I had it rough as a preacher’s child. Note: I loathe the word kid, unless it’s used properly referencing juvenile goats.

Harris was homeschooled and made fun of the sorrowful, secular creatures such as myself who attended public schools. She grew up picketing abortion clinics and was taught the Four Killer Questions, a rhetorical trick used to frustrate secular humanists or Democrats or basically anyone who held opposing viewpoints. The questions were:

What do you mean by that?
How do you know what you’re saying is true?
What difference does it make in your life?
What if you are wrong and you die?

She was belligerent and unlikable until she had a LIBRARY experience. She worked at library one summer whilst home from college with a bunch of heathens who liked books. She liked books, too, by the way. She ended up having fun, even befriending her co-workers who dressed funny. One day she realized she was at peace. She’d lost the “compulsion to argue people into worldview compliance.” She says:

Although our Christian friends exhorted us to do our duty by creating conflict where there was none, I never unleashed the Four Killer Questions. I didn’t chide my friends for swearing or sinning, I abandoned the need to be always, forever, noting how other people were wrong.

A few sentences later she reveals:

For once, I just wanted to care about people as people—not as enemy combatants, potential converts, or notches in my holy belt of truth.

And THAT, my friends, is the power of the library as a place of peace. As library workers as people of compassion and love. Well, and swearing and sinning a little bit, too, according to Harris. But, it helped her re-direct her energy and endeavors from those originating from conflict and anger to ones of caring and love. It’s interesting to find the library’s role as a place or space of healing and peace in the lives of people. I didn’t expect to encounter that at all in this book and it was such a pleasant surprise. Dead Dad writes at Inside Higher Ed this morning about the cockles of his heart warming because the library at his community college set aside quiet study space. Quiet can be a respite in our world gone mad. Libraries have the power to heal all sorts of wounds. Librarians as nurses to the wounded souls. How can we serve? No doubt that is more than what many signed on for.

Well, it’s also the true power of love, which may or may not emanate from the library, but should come from your higher power/source/Jesus/God/Buddha/Allah.

So, I haven’t finished this memoir yet. But, it’s quite good. Harris intrigues me. She has/had a hard on for Ronald Reagan. There probably won’t be any other library bits inside, and that’s sad.

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