This Book is Overdue!
By Marilyn Johnson
My Rating: 3 Stars
An interesting look at librarians and librarianship though by far not entirely all-encompassing. Johnson makes some interesting arguments for libraries and librarians and is, most decidedly, a huge library user and fan. There were several quotes from the book that I had to write down in my reading journal so I could refer to them later.
“In tough times Librarians are a terrible thing to waste.” I love this quote, mostly because I find myself saying this very thing to those whom I have to convince to give my library money for new books and why we have to have trained librarians and technicians on staff and that not just anyone can come in and provide library services to our community. My master’s degree really did teach me something valuable and needed to run the library. I’ve never quite understood why libraries are one of the first organizations to see budgets dwindle when the economy takes a dive. It’s those very times when the community relies on them more. It’s during those times when people can’t afford internet services, Redbox, a new computer, new books (print or electronic). Why do we have to keep explaining this? Shouldn’t it be obvious? Apparently not…
Other things that Johnson talks about just gave me a good laugh and simply had to be remembered. Phrases like ” Cybrarians are part cyborg part cats-eye reading glasses.” This left me with the strangest picture in my head and I just had to remember it. I liked how she focused on the different kinds of librarians out and about in the world. We aren’t just middle aged women with buns and glasses telling people to “Shhhhhh” all the time. We are a diverse population which is what makes the profession so great. Each librarian brings their own life experiences, interests and desires to the profession, allowing us to provide unique and specialized services to the populations we serve. The more diverse the library staff the better for the community.
And finally, there was an example of the absolute idiocy that librarians sometimes face with their leaders. She balked at one library calling their librarians “Audience Development Specialists.” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Nothing angers me more than people, who don’t understand what Librarians do, belittling the career path I’ve chosen to devote my life to. To imply that the thousands of dollars spent on my master’s degree is pithy and useless. We aren’t glorified cashiers, the keeper of dvd’s and libraries are not simply warehouses for books. There is true value in what we do for the community and the world. Sometimes I’m asked a question by a leader and I say, I’m not sure what the answer is to that, and they quickly respond with something along the lines of “Well aren’t you a librarian? Shouldn’t you know everything?” To which I respond by saying, “Yes, absolutely, I’m a librarian, but that doesn’t mean I know everything, it simply means I know where to find the answer to that question.” It means, I possess a unique set of skills that will allow me to track down the answer to any question presented to me, and if I’m not able to find it, I have a worldwide network of fellow professionals that will be sure to help me find it for them.
I would also like to point out that Johnson’s chapter on the librarians who challenged the Patriot Act and how it pertained to libraries was fascinating. I knew the story but didn’t know all the details and I found their plight to be fascinating and terrifying. I salute those librarians who stood up to the Federal Government to protect personal rights of librarians and library customers.
Overall, this was a good read. And I recommend it to librarians and library users. I think it provides a valuable look at librarians today and the diversity of not just those in the profession but of the vast kinds of work being done in the field. I think the general public would be surprised to see how diverse the field is and that librarians aren’t just sitting behind reference desks looking up the latest John Grisham book for customers. Librarians provide a much bigger service to the world that should be valued and quantified more often. Librarians and libraries serve a greater purpose to the world than people realize and it’s time that it is acknowledged…though you won’t see librarians asking for this recognition…since truly we are a humble group who value our customers and communities. We don’t do the work for the recognition, we do it because we love it and value it.