Got Libraries? Why We Need Libraries in the 21st Century


Hannah Sherman '22

Mayfield’s Sr. Barbara Mullen Library is a hub for learning and a productive study space. Books are set aside for the World History class Americas Project.

Sitting in the Sussex room after school, the dark grey clouds of the autumn afternoon looking in the sky, I had a sudden realization: libraries are treasure troves of knowledge and information. I was brought back to countless hours spent at the Pasadena Public Library browsing the science fiction section and reading books cross-legged on the floor. I was reminded of how important libraries and reading were to my childhood. Wanting to dig deeper into what makes libraries so special and so important to our society, I talked to Mayfield’s very own librarians, Ann Pibel and Cheyenne Sons. 

First, libraries and librarians are our line of defense against misinformation. Fake news, biased sources, and inaccurate information are all floating on the internet and in the media we consume. And we come in contact with an overwhelming amount of information on a daily basis. A simple google search of “Covid-19” yields 4,180,000,000 results. How do you know which of those sources is reliable? How do you recognize when a source is biased? 

That’s where libraries and librarians come in. 

“Librarians have evolved and I would say that it’s critical for our society to have people who can help make sense of information.” Pibel said. “Who can help guide people in a direction of thinking critically about facts and truth, especially lately.” 

With the rise of fake news and the quick dissemination of posts over social media platforms, it has become easier for people to contact misleading information. A 2018 MIT study using Twitter data collected over a decade found that false information on the platform spreads deep and fast, reaching up to 100 times more people than true information. 

To combat this problem, Pibel and Sons help Mayfield search across curriculums with a critical eye for finding good sources to use. Whether it be in a World History NGO project or a Theology research paper, Mayfield’s librarians guide students to search effectively for information. 

“It’s a life skill to understand how to critically think about what is coming at you from social media, from news sources, from people who have an agenda,” Pibel said. 

“So that’s really what we’re trying to teach you,” said Sons. How to think critically.”

In addition to our librarians, Mayfield’s Virtual Library page, home to research tools and the online book catalog, has a page with resources for students to find transparent information and learn about strategies for identifying misleading information. 

“When people think of libraries and librarians, they think automatically that ‘whoa why do we need this anymore?’” said Sons. She added that libraries and librarians continue to adapt with the times. 

“We’re not just taking books off the shelf,” Sons said. “We still do that, yes, but we change with how information is being available and we are always learning with how information is being made.”

As more information becomes digitized, libraries and librarians will be in charge of managing new electronic reference source catalogs so the public can easily find and use information. 

Libraries also encourage reading for fun. Getting lost in a good book can lead to better vocabulary skills, reduced stress levels, and may even lead to an increased lifetime. Mayfield’s library is in the process of adding more young adult novels to its collection and promoting recreational reading through Page Turners and reading groups.  

“Since I came here I’ve always been really evolving into being a teacher librarian. And to me that’s why we’re here,” Pibel said. Their goal is to instill a love of reading and being lifelong learners. “So when you folks go on to college you are well prepared to do that kind of work and that you feel confident in your work.”