How to Use the Library.

Yesterday while catching up on some collections work, I stumbled across the first english translation of Umberto Eco’s “How to Write a Thesis.”  It was originally written in 1977, a few years before In the Name of the Rose was published.  Intrigued by the section on “How to Use the Library,” I grabbed it off the shelf. It’s a relatively quick read, and quite delightful.   While many of his practical strategies haven’t aged well (this was pre OPACs), I think that instruction librarians, particularly in the humanities, would find his rich analogies and ways of talking about aspects of the research process really helpful in working with undergraduate students.  I’ve already incorporated a few ideas into my next IL class.

I did laugh out loud at this paragraph:

“You must overcome any shyness and have a conversation with the librarian, because he can offer you reliable advice that will save you much time.  You must consider that the librarian (if not overworked or neurotic) is happy when he can demonstrate two things:  the quality of his memory and erudition and the richness of his library, especially if it is small. The more isolated and disregarded the library, the more the librarian is consumed with sorrow for its underestimation.  A person who asks for help makes the librarian happy” (p. 56).

Almost forty years later, it’s still remarkably accurate.