Friday, June 18, 2010

This Book is Overdue! : How librarians and cybrarians can save us all by Marilyn Johnson

If you are a librarian, you may find this book funny, insightful, and gratifying. If you are not a librarian, you will probably not make it through to the end.

Since I am a librarian, I resonated with the author’s description of librarians as: curious, with wide-ranging knowledge, organizational aptitude, analytical aptitude, discretion and computer savvy. She generalizes librarians as adhering to these values: truth, free speech, universal literacy, the desire to help, and belief that free and ready access to reliable information is the foundation of democracy.

In praise of librarians, Johnson writes that “they enable those without money or education to read and learn the same things as the billionaire and the Ph.D”… “in tough times, a librarian is a terrible thing to waste.” (p 8)

Johnson quotes E.J. Josey: “Information justice is a human rights issue; the public library must remain ‘the people’s university’.”

The major theme that carried Johnson through months of research for this book was the concern that digital information is ethereal. “We can copy the same piece of information in endless files… and yet, whole chapters of contemporary history are disappearing into the ether as emails get trashed and web-pages are taken down and people die without sharing their passwords.” (p 12) She hunted down her heroes – archival librarians who are attempting to save pieces of culture that we know are valuable, though no-one other than these few librarians are investing in their salvation.

She also points out the new ways that libraries are serving the public in this digital age – through loaning all kinds of digital formats of media, by checking out Kindles, GPS devices, laptops, holding Blackberry Bootcamp, posting podcast interviews with authors, staff-written reviews, using Twitter, Facebook, Meebo, etc. to meet the needs of the 21st century patrons.

Johnson asks “What’s the difference between a library and a storehouse of books? A library has specialists in acquisition who know enough about a field to stock a collection that illuminates and explains it. A librarian is not concerned with a collection for its own sake, but for the experience people have when they interact with it.”

Let’s keep libraries and librarians around for awhile!

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