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Friday, January 27, 2012

Guest Post: The Librarian

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Ben Johnson grew up in the heart of Mormon country, just outside of Salt Lake City. Given the unsophisticated nature of his palette ("what's a filet?") he was sent to Denver on his mission, where he grew to love even more types of cereal. Post-mission Ben broke his mother’s heart by attending and, *gasp*, graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in Finance. Whether he does anything with that degree is another matter. Determined to prove that the system works, Ben met his future wife Katti in a single’s ward. It was nothing like the movie. Ben currently lives just outside Salt Lake City with his beautiful wife and two cereal-eating kids, Elizabeth "Chuck" (8) and Jacob (6). If you missed it, make sure you read Ben's first guest post about Halloween.

photo from UHF (starring Weird Al and Kramer)

I confess that I am a sinner. I’ve been told that in the church we are not supposed to aspire to callings. Nor are we supposed to ask for callings. Yet I did both in regard to my current calling. I’m sure when I tell you what my calling is you will offer me pardon, for you see, I am the ward librarian. Is there a better, nobler calling in the church? I submit that there is not.

My love of the library started while I was serving my mission. It was in these hallowed edifices that my fragile testimony was nurtured by such classics as Answers to Gospel Questions, History of the Church, Doctrines of Salvation, etc. A new world was opened to me.

As my love of the library grew so did my realization that the number of good books contained therein was inversely proportional to the number of years the church building had been in existence: the younger the building the poorer the selection, and vice versa.

So, getting back to my current calling. When our ward was split many positions were vacated and needed to be filled. The bishop asked me and my wife to come visit him one night and he extended a calling to Katti. He then turned to me and said, “We’ll find something for you someday.” Jokingly I said, “How about the library?” The bishop paused for a second, then threw me the keys and said, “It’s all yours.”

Have you ever heard the saying “Be careful what you wish for”? I should have realized something was wrong when I noticed that the library isn’t actually called a “Library”. It’s called a “Materials Center”. What is this, a fabric store?

I’ve got crayons and chalk coming out of my ears but I have yet to find an actual book. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think the library, excuse me, MATERIALS CENTER, needs 14,000 copies of On the Way Home. Could we get by with 10,000 and apply the difference toward purchasing the Encyclopedia of Mormonism? Heck, I’d even settle for the Encyclopedia of Unitarianism just to get some books in there.

You want to know another thing that gets me down about the newer libraries? There is no barrier between the librarian and the members. Look, I love you to pieces Brother Brown but I don’t need you behind my counter getting up in my business. You don’t see me running into gospel doctrine class and grabbing the chalk out of your hand, do you? I let you handle your calling; let me take care of mine. And Sister Smith, do you really need 300 double-sided copies of your fruit cake recipe right this second? Can I first get Sister Jones six copies of a coloring sheet so the nursery kids don’t kill her? Thanks ...

Don’t even get me started on the lost and found. How is it you arrive at church with a baby bottle, diaper bag, winter coat, and pair of shoes and don’t notice that these things are missing when you leave three hours later? Remember that $70 set of scriptures WITH YOUR NAME ON IT? Yep, I still have that on the shelf. When you got to Relief Society and realized you couldn’t see the centerpiece? That’s right; I have your glasses too.

All kidding aside I do love the library. It is a great calling and it gives me a chance to meet and get to know all the saints in the ward. I do have some questions for the community though. Are your libraries lacking in books? Are there no books in the libraries because the church doesn’t want to be seen as endorsing some authors over others? How about your lost and founds? What are some of the strange things you’ve seen there? Lastly, is there a better calling than the ward librarian? I’m open to arguments ...

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