Hammad Rauf Khan is the Head Librarian at the Art Institute of Houston-North.

Courtesy of David Merrett

No job is without its perils, and for a college librarian today, one of those just might be having an associate dean overhear you explaining to a student how to create a more accurate BDSM scene for a photo shoot inspired by “Fifty Shades of Gray.”

“So BDSM is all about control and in part humiliation, you might want to put a collar and a ball gag in her mouth,” I was explaining as the dean walked by. She stopped and looked at me.

It was awkward, but part of my job as a librarian is to help patrons research a topic, whatever that topic might be. Google has many people convinced that librarians are no longer necessary — probably the same people who predicted our demise when the personal computer was first introduced. Yet we librarians are still here, providing free resources, information and computer access to our communities. The profession is evolving, of course: adapting to new technology and, more significantly, being reshaped by culture.

Which is why I have fielded an inordinate amount of requests at the reference desk for information about BDSM, and why I have seen job postings for positions including Hip-Hop Librarian and Wine Librarian. When it comes to the subject material of “Fifty Shades,” none of our librarians have the background to easily service such requests (or at least none of our librarians care to admit they do). We could easily send them out to the darker corners of the Web for information, but it’s our duty to find our patrons legitimate Web sites and resources they can cite, without judgment or embarrassment.

I always enjoyed the atmosphere of the library and being surrounded by the greatest work of fiction, science, poetry and art. I began volunteering at my local library during high school and was promoted to circulation assistant while I attended college. I discovered that, beyond being around books, I was passionate about research, helping people find information and promoting information literacy. Although libraries have changed, this part of being a librarian has not.

After “American Sniper” was released in theaters, numerous young men approached us for information on Navy SEALS. Legal hypochondriacs lurk in almost every library, usually wanting to know how to get divorced, but sometimes seeking legal opinions on polyamory or the age of consent. When the recession hit in 2008, we learned to become résumé-builders. Many people laid off in the following few years were from a generation not born and raised in the era of LinkedIn; we provided free classes on how to write résumés, create LinkedIn pages and use online job boards. When Obamacare passed Congress, many people came to us with their questions or sought our opinions. Later, we helped people get online to sign up for coverage.

Things do get weird. I’ve had visitors to my desk explain that they are “new” to town or just “passing through” and could I please tell them where they could get some weed? (“Try Colorado,” is my usual reply.) One of my coworkers was once asked by a middle-aged woman where she could find real beheading videos to watch. When I worked at a public library, a swingers group began borrowing one of our meeting rooms — the rooms, funded by taxpayers, are open to anyone who lives in the county as long as the program is open to everyone in the community. I guess they were.

The thing I love about my profession is that I am always learning. A patron approaches me with a question, and in helping them I discover worlds I never knew existed. I was introduced to the world of trampling by an older gentleman who was seeking resources on learning Russian, so he could communicate with his Russian girlfriend online. He told me she was into trampling, which I misunderstood to mean “trampolines.” He cleared up my confusion by explaining that it’s a type of sexual behavior in which a woman wears high heels and walks on top of a submissive man. It’s not the sort of thing I learned while getting my master’s in library and information science, but it is interesting.

Librarianship is not, as some would have you believe, outdated, boring or routine, and Google is not a scholarly source. I don’t mind the changes to my profession. This is a customer service job, designed to help people, and as long as the public has questions, I will be here to answer them.