Once upon a time, I thought I might want to be a librarian when I grew up. I enrolled in graduate school and started night classes, pleased to be learning something new. I didn’t really like my first teacher because he told me most of the people in his class would figure out they didn’t really want to be librarians after all. It was like that speech they give people as freshmen going into college, “Look to your left, then look to your right. Only one of you will still be here in four years.” In this case, I wasn’t the one.
In my second semester, I had a teacher who stood in front of the class dreaming she was someplace else, namely Africa. She wore African dresses and braids in her hair, and she spoke to us of her recent stay in Nigeria. I liked her.
The class was an introduction to reference, dabbling in the vast and varied reference materials you can use in a library. She used the example of tree cults in one of her lectures, trying to teach us how you might use the library to find out what a tree cult is.
Sadly, I was more interested in the topic of tree cults than I was in the topic of reference materials used to find out about them. If I recall correctly, tree cults are cultures that assign some spiritual quality to trees, some of which credit trees with the beginnings of human life. Trees are often personified, providing wisdom to those who would hear them. She cited West Africa as an area of tree worshipers, and I wanted to know more about Africa, more vast and varied than the reference materials she was trying to tell me about.
In the years that have passed since then, the Internet has exploded as a reference resource, but as I search on Yahoo! for “tree cults” I’m still finding the materials are limited. If I really want to learn more, I’m sure I’ll want to just ask a reference librarian.