Audrey Barbakoff, a public librarian in Wisconsin, says what I've been thinking for a very long time.
Librarians add incredible value to society. We help children develop the early literacy skills that will allow them to excel in school, reduce their dropout rate in high school, and continue on to higher education (and incomes). We help unemployed patrons learn the tech skills they need to find work. We provide enriching books and company to isolated seniors. We are defenders of intellectual freedom—safeguarding free, nonjudgmental access for everybody.
And those are just among the things we are asked to do.
We also do a million little things that were never in our job descriptions. Every day, we cope with patrons dealing with homelessness, mental illness, and extreme poverty—along with their ramifications. We are the default social service for those that have slipped through the cracks. I can’t imagine that anybody would take all of that on just because they want to make $40 grand a year. Like teachers, nurses, police officers, and many other public employees under fire, we do it because we understand how critically important it is.
I think most people have no idea what it is we do. And I don't claim to be perfect.