Sunday, February 7, 2010
This Book Is Overdue How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
This book is a feel good book about librarians. It celebrates what is wonderful about libraries. The book is very entertaining. Marilyn Johnson introduces the reader to many interesting facets of librarianship including blogging, book cart racing, zines, second life, boxing archives and other quirky, geeky, and artistic facets of librarianship.
There is a very strong future orientation to this book. It celebrates the new web 2.0 librarianship and the more participatory style of providing people what they want. The section on the move away from research in libraries was sad. I lament the passing of the old style New York librarian, especially the librarians described like David Smith who supported authors and writers, and John Lundquist who ran the Middle East and Asian studies branch of the research library.
Quite a bit is written on the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act gave access for the federal government to search library records. Marilyn Johnson wrote about a court case on seizing patron library records. There is also a section on librarians protesting a Republican convention in New York. Sometimes, there is a sense that librarians are very left leaning.
The entries on technology were very interesting. I found the section on blogging useful. Tame the Web and Free Range Librarian are both excellent blogs she mentions . The section on Second Life was not what I expected. Like many librarians, I view Second Life as a kind of Alice in Wonderland place. It does generate a lot of new ideas. However, in my experience, I get easily hypnotized by virtual worlds and cannot spend a lot of time in them.
There was a little bit on the problems in the library catalogs in Westchester county, New York. I can relate to this where I work. Technology is always an interesting challenge in the library setting.
There is a realization that libraries are becoming more like media centers. There is a shift from answering peoples questions to finding material which people want. This is partially due to the idea that circulation and head counts is the primary source of state funding.
The focus on circulation and crowds misses something. For example with New York Public Library it does not get more funding because of circulation, it gets more funding because of its prestige which I think comes from its special collections. Queens Library has much higher circulation and head counts than New York Public Library, but it does not get more money.
I am not sure the general public or politicians pay that much much attention to statistics or head counts as many librarians think. The public and politicians want to know how it affects them; can I get my resume done, can I use a computer, will I find the latest test book, can I get a computer class, where is the audiobook which will help me learn chinese, where is the drivers safety course, where is the latest action film or bestseller. In my, opinion finding out what people want and then providing it to them is what matters. Translating this into statistics may be more important than head count.
But, I digress, thoughts on prestige and funding are a separate topic. This book made me think. It showed how wonderfully quirky and entertaining librarians can be. It surprised me. The section on the boxing archivist and person cataloging zines was a bit of a novel experience to read about.
If I wrote about everything in the book, it would spoil your reading it. If you are a librarian or book person you should read this. For book people, you will definitely learn something new. It is clear that the author also has editing experience, she writes about it briefly in this book.
The structure of the writing is also excellent. There is a decent amount of dialogue, the paragraph lengths vary considerably, she also occassionally adds an extra line between paragraphs to indicate the finish of an idea, and Marilyn Johnson occassionally throws in questions to catch the readers attention and make them think.
The book is very well laid out and follows very smoothly from chapter to chapter. There are both notes about each chapter and a bibliography. The notes are worth reading. They include information about classes like "Five Weeks to a Social Library" or the journal of librarianship in Second Life, rezlibris.com
The acknowledgements include many names I recognize from people I have met. If you are a librarian in Westchester county, New York you will want to read this. It gives many names of people who are active in the library community.
The author has a website http://www.marilynjohnson.net/ . This is an excellent read.