By Rusty Tryon, MLD, MDiv, DMin
Tryon is the director of the library and an assistant professor at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Having spent nearly two decades in librarianship, I have learned there are some common misconceptions about the work of librarians. One such misconception is that our job entails reading books all day. The truth is that modern libraries are complex organizations with many moving parts, all of which require professional expertise in order to provide essential and expected services.
While the work of librarianship leaves little time for reading “on the clock,” I still do love reading, even if I don’t get to do so as often as I would like. My favorite genres are historic fiction, especially early to mid-20th century, and biblical fiction. There are many benefits to reading books, regardless of the format (Personally, I still prefer holding a physical book over using an eBook, although there are certain advantages and conveniences associated with digital books.). A few benefits come to mind immediately.
- Reading for pleasure reduces stress. Taking some time for yourself away from the busyness of life to settle in with a good book can help to recharge you mentally. Reading provides a brief break from the pressures of life and you get to focus on you by choosing to read that which interests you. The only trouble with this type of therapy is that you may find yourself engrossed in a really good book that can be hard to put down when it’s time to get back to real life!
- Reading encourages creativity. When reading, you may often find yourself forming mental pictures of scenes, characters, etc. This type of creative exercise can help in other situations requiring innovation and ingenuity. Having practiced creativity in the sphere of reading will make it easier to leverage and employ your creative tendencies when needed in other contexts.
- Reading builds community. Beyond belonging to the great community of readers, in a sense, when you read a book, it connects you with others who have read the same book. Book clubs are little communities unto themselves. When you see someone else reading a book you have read, you feel an immediate connection with that person and feel comfortable engaging them in conversation. “Which chapter are you in?” “What do you think about Character X?” “Can you believe what happened to Character Z?!” These focused conversations can lead to other meaningful conversations, perhaps even forming bonds of friendship.
- Reading results in learning. Whether fiction or non-fiction, reading promotes learning. Reading non-fiction helps us learn new information and facts about the world. Reading fiction increases literary and cultural knowledge. Both forms can help us engage in critically thinking about the world around us.
- Reading improves communication skills, especially writing. The more well-read you are, the better you write. I have always been told that you write like those whose works you read. If you are reading well-written books across various subjects, your own writing will likely become better and more well-rounded. Your vocabulary will improve, as well.
While books are most-commonly associated with libraries, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to libraries. The mission of the Rooney Library at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (library.smwc.edu) is to support teaching and learning by providing information resources and services to produce information literate learners.
To do so necessitates more than simply having books. It requires identifying appropriate resources, acquiring resources, effectively organizing resources, making resources accessible, instructing others in finding and using resources, promoting the use of resources and related services, etc. That sounds like a lot of work, and it is! I think I need to slip away and read a book!