Whenever I hear the credit to “librarian Kee Malesky” on National Public Radio I give a nod to that unknown librarian for her professionalism – and to NPR for overtly acknowledging that librarian’s role. Though librarians always get sometimes condescending mention in prefaces to historical tomes and doctoral dissertations, NPR puts it right out there. Kee Malesky, who I always assumed was a male librarian, has become somewhat of a hero to me over the years. I knew instinctively that she – or he – has to be good to get public appreciation. I think I even took a little professional credit for our collective contribution to combating ignorance.
Now I know, Kee is a woman, a delightful, vivacious, vociferous, dedicated and determined woman who keeps the information wheels greased at NPR. I know because Kee has just published All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential Knowledge (Wiley 2010), a catalog of some of the facts that she has researched over the years as NPR’s longest-searching librarian. From what I heard in her conversation with Weekend Edition host Scott Simon, the book is a lovely read, especially for anyone who savors the quest for good information – anyone who understands that the joy is not so much in the fact as in the thrill of the quest.
Good librarians have that thrill of the quest in their DNA – time on task just sharpens the skills and expands the possibilities. Kee’s librarian DNA comes to the fore most prominently in her affirmative drive to get ahead of the questions reporters may initiate. “We (librarians) read all the time,” she says. “We’re constantly looking at new sources, at websites, at all kinds of things that are happening in the world….We’re all very proactive. It’s really a part of the proper job of a librarian.” In spite of a hint of hyperbole in her description the “proper job of the librarian” she describes is as it should be in the best of all information age worlds.
Kee’s work makes a difference. For one, the NPR reporters, editors and hosts have ready access to the facts, even before they need them. For another, she deserves and probably demands credit for her work. She’s also created a template that other high test librarians might emulate – the compilation of the searches, whether proactive or reactive, of any good librarian offes not just a reflection of a profession but a small glimmer of the many information paths being explored within any community of ideas, whether it’s a small town, an elementary school, a corporation or a university.
Fun staff, particularly since in today’s technology the information barriers are minimized and the quest is of the mind.