Annoyed Librarian
Search LibraryJournal.com ....
Subscribe to LJ
Inside Annoyed Librarian

Public Libraries and Informed Citizens

A kind reader sent this to me.  McCain held a rally in Minnesota apparently dominated by ignorant barbarians. I thought after they elected that professional wrestler to be their governor the ignorant barbarians in Minnesota climbed back into their caves and resumed their primary activities, which include grunting and gnawing on raw goat flesh. Apparently, they’ve emerged and are now supporting McCain. The link is to an interview with a woman named Gayle Quinnell who told McCain at a rally that Obama was an Arab. McCain took the microphone away from her, shook his head, and said, "No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen…." The news site says McCain "quickly corrects" her, implying that no Arabs are decent family men or citizens. I thought this was hilarious before finding out she might have said "Arab terrorist." Oh well.

McCain didn’t want to give her any forum for her crazy views and in fact seems a bit puzzled these days that his campaign is attracting so many ignorant and ferocious barbarians ("ferocity" was his word at this rally. I added the rest.). Fortunately, the ever-vigilant news media were there for all of us. Though the interview is a little choppy, it seems that the woman is a Republican party volunteer in Minnesota (guess Al Franken won’t be getting her vote) who believes Obama is an Arab and a Muslim and a terrorist. And talk about politically active! "I sent out 400 letters. I went toKinkos and I got them all printed out. And I sent about 400 letters. I went in the telephone book and sent them out to people. So they can decide if they would want Obama." Now that takes dedication! Not to mention a lot of stamps. Apparently the Republican Party headquarters she volunteers at is a hotbed of uninformed nitwits who fear that if Obama is elected we’ll all have to break out our prayer rugs. I don’t mind the prayer rugs so much myself because they can really tie a room together, but that giving up martinis thing is definitely out.

So first let’s laugh or cry at all the incredibly stupid and ignorant people out there who always seem to show up in droves come election day. Good, is that done? Now you can wonder why someone sent this to me. Ms.Quinnell wasn’t happy being so uninformed, so she sought out more formation. Where did she get this information? Her local library, of course! "I went to the library inShakopee [MN] and I got lots of … three pages of information about Obama." The person who sent this in wrote, "<Sigh> It ought to be a crime for a disillusioned patron to leave a public library with so much misinformation… If I worked at the Shakopee Public Library, I’d be mortified." I suppose I would be, too, though I think I’m more mortified that people like this are allowed to vote.

I really wanted to end with some comment that the woman walked out of her public library with such misinformation, but at least she learned how to play guitar hero. Something along those lines. However, it appears I can’t. I visited the library website. They have storytimes, book discussion groups, talks by published teen Minnesota authors. I didn’t find anything implying they thought videogame literacy was especially important to promote in society. It seemed from the website like a good old fashioned library that was in the business of providing information and supporting literacy rather than resorting to gimmicks and fads to try to lure teens through the door any way they could. The county system website at the moment of writing is dominated by a big banner saying, "Looking for non-partisan details on national, state and local candidates plus other election information? Click *here* for a list of web sites." Those Scott County librarians are trying. Maybe the same banner should have been on the web page of the Shakopee branch site as well, though. Maybe then Ms. Quinnell would have been able to find some better information.

The question remains, though: how could this happen? It’s almost certain there had to be some intermediation with a librarian if in fact she got any information from the library. Let’s look at the facts. This woman is 75 years old. The fact that she is unable to consider evidence objectively and is willing to accept a meager amount of information on Obama at face value with no consideration of counterarguments shows she’s uneducated and not too bright, like most of the people in the country. She’d need help finding stuff. That she went through the phone book looking for addresses and mailed out physical documents suggests she’s not too facile with technology. Who sends paper these days? That’s just crazy. (What she sent out might not have been the information she got at the library, by the way, but a pamphlet she got from someone at McCain headquarters. Nice.)

She also doesn’t seem to have a computer, which suggests further she’s not web-savvy. Why no computer? If she did get any information from the library, it would have to have been from Internet sources. It’s not like they’re going to have books with this stuff, though I suppose it’s possible that the person at McCain headquarters handing out the anti-Obama pamphlets left a stack at the reference desk. The only place one is going to find this sort of misinformation on Obama is on websites and listservs and such devoted to the hopelessly ignorant. (Come to think of it, that describes most Internet sources. Let’s say dedicated to hopelessly ignorant, stupid bigots and maintained by the people who cater to them. Is that any better?) If she’d had a computer with an Internet connection, she could have looked for the information herself at home instead of going to the library.

If she does have a computer with an Internet connection, she doesn’t know how to do searches. She’d need help, and in walks our friendly librarian. If this is the case, it might be that some librarian helped create this particular monster. How would an uneducated, unintelligent, technologically unsophisticated 75-year-old woman wander into the library and start downloading anti-Obama propaganda? Did she just pop into the library and start Googling Obama? Or did she get any help? Maybe there was some intermediation. What if Quinnell went up to the librarian and said, "I want something saying Obama is a Muslim." What should the poor librarian do?

This would certainly have been an appropriate moment for a reference interview, the bizarre practice based on the undeniable fact that library patrons almost never know what they’re talking about. Keeping in mind that one has to adapt to the intellectual and educational level of one’s interlocutor if one is to communicate effectively (which would explain why some of my critics don’t understand the AL), my reference interview might have gone something like this:

GQ: "I want something saying Obama is an Arab terrorist."
AL: "Why in the hell would you want that?"
GQ: "Because he’s an Arab and he’s got some Muslim in him."
AL: "That’s funny. He doesn’t look Muslim."
GQ: "Really? What does a Muslim look like?"
AL: "I think they all look like Yasser Arafat. Aren’t all Muslims required to wear beards?"
GQ: "They sure all seem to."
AL: "Even the women. That’s why they wear veils."
GQ: "That makes good sense."
AL: "But I don’t think Obama has a beard."
GQ: "No, he doesn’t."
AL : "Then he can’t very well be a Muslim, can he?"
GQ: "No, I guess not."
AL: "And if he’s not a Muslim, then he can’t very well be an Arab terrorist, can he?"
GQ: "That’s true. I never thought about it that way before."
AL: "Do you have any other questions?"
GQ: "No. You’ve been a big help. Thank you."
AL: "You’re quite welcome. Have a nice day!"

Obviously, nothing like that happened, because Quinnell thinks "he’s still got Muslim in him. So that’s still part of him. I got all the stuff from the library and I could send you all kinds of stuff on him." Librarians are all supposed to be neutral, so maybe there’s an earnest and neutral librarian there in Shakopee who instead said, "Okay. here’s a website that says Obama is a Muslim. May I help you with any other information requests?" If this unlikely scenario actually happened, I think we could all say with Quinnell, "No, you’ve done quite enough already."

Does anything like this go on at public libraries? If someone came up to the desk in a public library and asked for something saying Obama is an Arab terrorist, would that be that the proper behavior of a reference librarian? To be neutral and give someone what they want? Academic reference librarians don’t so much hand out information as train people how to do research and evaluate sources, so they don’t have to be so neutral. Do public librarians help people evaluate resources as well? I did a quick Google search for [library "evaluating sources"] and in the first hundred hits found nothing from a public library.

Would interacting with a public librarian have helped any here, or would Quinnell still have walked out of the library with the same thing? And if the librarians are neutral providers of information in situations like this, is that really a good thing? Do public libraries have a mission just to provide information and videogames, or to help produce informed citizens? The strict neutralists might reply that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Academic reference librarians might say you can lead a horse to several sources of water and educate the horse on how to figure out which ones are the best. The gamey librarians might say why lead a horse to water at all if you can lead him to Dance Dance Revolution. What goes on out there, public librarians? An inquiring non-public librarian wants to know.

PrintFriendlyEmailTwitterLinkedInGoogle+FacebookShare

Comments

  1. AL says:

    Someone walks into a library and asks for some misinformation which a librarian helps her find and which she uses to reinforce her ignorant political opinions before sending out the same misinformation to hundreds of people, probably reinforcing the ignorant political opinions of many of them. Yes, this is all I’ve got. Isn’t it enough?

    Oh, and I would like to publicly apologize on behalf of those meanies who tied you up and forced you to read the Annoyed Librarian. Next time, remember, just say, “‘No’ means No!” It always works for me.

  2. actual response to the article says:

    AL,

    As a public librarian, I try my best to evaluate “behind-the-scenes” as it were. I don’t tell a patron “This is a bad source,” I just lead them to the good sources right off the cuff. Of course, the mind set of the public librarian is that we are not supposed to find resources for a patron, but to find the answer–so yes, I spend a lot of time doing other peoples’ homework, something that really rubs me wrong.

    So in this scenario, the woman probably did say “I want something that says Obama is a terrorist” and the public librarian provided such. Neutral? Yes. Socially responsible? No. Good for the patron? No.

    Trust me, public librarians are not in the business of producing an informed citizenry (though they should be). They are in the business of making the patron/customer smile.

  3. AL says:

    I guess I still like this motto on the side of the Boston Public Library: “The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty.” That’s a good justification for a library.

  4. librarydude says:

    The fact that you are using a phrase such as “ignorant opinion” shows a lot about your understanding of basic human principles.

  5. Z says:

    How we do we know for sure that this woman had help from a librarian? Just because she’s 75 and seemingly doesn’t own a computer doesn’t mean she’s technology illiterate. Maybe she’s been to the library before and the librarian showed her how the computer/internet worked on a previous occasion. Maybe she even participated in some swell programming to learn the basics of both computers and the internet. Which means that when she came in to do her research on Obama, she was free to surf around the web all on her own and print out whatever suited her best. It’s not an unreasonable thought. I’ve met many a senior (even work with a few) who know how to use computers and the internet just fine. Don’t be so quick to blame the librarians on this one. This woman is ignorant, not necessarily incapable of learning how to use basic machinery.

  6. soren faust says:

    Of course, I’m not clear on exactly what transpired in the library during this woman’s visit. If the public library I work for is an indicator, there are many ways this person could have come out of there with misinformation, e.g. I’ve seen patrons “help” other patrons with their information needs leading them to some interesting notions about the existence of vampires, for instance.

    But this is all speculation because the woman said it “was a long story” so no one really knows what happened.

    If someone came into my library and wanted documents stating that Obama is a Muslim, I would probably show them where these documents were on the Internet. The patron would quite possible ask for a printout, because if it’s on the Internet then it’s true. However, for all I know, this person wanted documentation of a false story about Obama being Muslim for some research she was doing or some point she wanted to make. In this case, I can’t say to her: well, sure, but only if you use the information for good reasons.

    Btw, there are such things as ignorant opinions, and people do not have a “right” to them.

  7. clear and open mind says:

    Come on Z – making assumptions and generalizations are the hallmarks of all good communications tools.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Seriously, those weird sour grape people need to quit. I think they are mad that no one is reading their very boring blogs. I would like to point out that there are some books that have some information in them that the lady could have found useful. They don’t actually have to say, ”

  9. librarydude says:

    How do you qualify an “ignorant opinion”? Because it is different than yours? Different than the majority? If someone is using incorrect facts, they may be ignorant but it is not their opinion that causes the ignorance.

  10. anonymous says:

    The woman could have walked into a public library, sat down at the computer, and googled “Obama Arab terrorist.” Most people have heard of Google. Even a 75-year-old woman could do it on her own, or she could have brought in a child or grandchild. I, too, have seen patrons helping other patrons with things. I usually intervene and offer to help but sometimes I am rejected.

    What I think is funny is that she really thinks that the 400 people whom she probably copied down from a phone book, will open her mail. If I get unsolicited mail, I recycle it without opening it since it usually comes from a realtor or from someone asking me for money.

    What I find disturbing is the people with an extensive education and the presumed assistance of academic librarians who put out misleading or bogus crap – aka that professor who denied the existence of the Holocaust. However, it would never occur to me to blame the librarians at his insitution for his views.

  11. soren faust says:

    An ignorant opinion is one based on not having correct facts, not subjective feelings or majority rules. I can say that Obama is a Muslim all day and really believe it, that does not make it correct. As I know the following is an impossible dream, will never happen, but ultimately everyone has a responsibility to hold opinions based on correct information. In this case, that Obama is a Christian.

    People like to say they have a “right” to their opinion even in the face of lack of evidence, but with rights come responsibilities and these responsibilities are, in this case, to know you have the correct information before you act, especially on something as important as influencing others.

  12. librarEwoman says:

    I work in a public library and provide reference service. I think that if someone asked me for information saying that Obama is a Muslim, an Arab terrorist, etc, I would first ask her some more questions about what she really wanted, and then point her towards a variety of information about Obama from widely differing viewpoints and tell her that they should sort through it on her own. I would explain that all information comes from a specific political position, and only the person requesting political information is qualified to sift through those viewpoints. According to some people, this would not be neutral, but it does fit the definition of neutrality that I have learned, which is to provide sources from a variety of perspectives and let the information user decide amongst them on her own. Librarians have a responsibility to be neutral, but we also have a responsibility to provide trustworthy, high-quality information resources. I would only provide the user with information sources that attribute their information to specific sources, which automatically rules out many websites out there.

    Like Z said, though, there is a possibility that this woman never spoke to a librarian during her information search.

  13. Rumpdaddy says:

    The ignorance comes from the incorrect facts, not the opinion. The person might be ignorant, but their opinion can never be ignorant. Subtle, but important, difference.

  14. soren faust says:

    Rumpdaddy, you’re right. I see your point. It should have been misinformed opinion or something like that.

  15. PublicLibGirl says:

    I’m also a public librarian libEwoman is right about the process. I think it’s very possible–probable–that the person in question didn’t ask for any help, or at least nothing beyond, “How do I get to this site I heard about on TV/radio/wherever?” That’s the general gist of web questions. Most public librarians who got an actual question about finding something to “prove Obama is a Muslim” wouldn’t be too uncomfortable to do something like lead the patron to the Snopes page debunking the old rumor. Informational literacy is part of the job–what’s a reliable source? Why wouldn’t you use this one? What’s good about that one?

    Of course, that’s with an open-ended question about facts. The patron who’s looking for a specific source or author will get help finding that source or author. (After all, it could be someone doing research on what crazy rumors are out there, right?) So it depends on what the person would have asked.

  16. soren faust says:

    I want to add something to what PublicLibGirl said: One thing I found happening in a public library reference interview is that a lot of patrons don’t have the patience for being taught the difference between a good and bad resource. I’ve had a lot of people who just want a quick print-out or book of something and don’t want to spend a lot of time weighing different resources for their validity. This is not always the case, but it happens often enough to be a factor.

  17. Skipbear says:

    Sounds to me like the lady had just walked in from a Sara Palin event. I found McCain’s handling of the situation somewhat compelling but not enough to support him for the company he keeps. I wonder if the word from the horse’s mouth had much of an effect as she was clearly frightened. What would be interesting would be to sit down with this lady and ask her what her sources of information led her to forming her views on Obama. I doubt you can blame that on anyone at the PL for putting that belief system in place.

  18. AL says:

    I wasn’t trying to blame anyone in the public library for putting that belief system in place so much as asking, if an interaction occurred and the patron really did ask for something saying Obama was an Arab terrorist or whatever, what the public reference librarian could do.

  19. publib says:

    It’s simple. You help the patron find the information they are looking for. Where is the confusion?

  20. jaradams says:

    With most libraries collecting NY Times bestsellers, and with Obama Nation and the The Case Against Barack Obama on that list, anyone could find anti-Obama propaganda without a librarian’s help just by looking at the New Book shelf.

  21. Brent says:

    Obama has a friend that used to be a terrorist, and his name gives the impression he is Islamic to some. If I was an apathetic public librarian talking to a nutty 75 year old, I wouldn’t try to explain it. We aren’t qualified to cure craziness.

    Thank god I don’t care about this election. Someone asks who you are voting for, say Bob Barr. Then you don’t have to talk about the election.

  22. maughta says:

    The truest thing you said (amongst other true things):

    “This would certainly have been an appropriate moment for a reference interview, the bizarre practice based on the undeniable fact that library patrons almost never know what they’re talking about.”

    Wordy McF#@kin’ Word.

  23. another annoyed one says:

    “If someone is using incorrect facts, they may be ignorant but it is not their opinion that causes the ignorance.”

    Um. People sometimes (too often) have opinions that cause them to go looking for incorrect facts to support those opinions. To me, this seems like the opinion is the root cause of the ignorance.

    Or maybe it is ignorance causing an opinion that they then back up with ignorant falsehood?

    In an academic library I’d be helping the user to evaluate the source of the material and place it in context.

    On the other hand, I can see wanting to avoid a contentious political conversation.

  24. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    publib says “It’s simple. You help the patron find the information they are looking for. Where is the confusion?”

    This is what is killing libraries. We are part of the education systems. Back to AL’s comment about MA librarians. Our job as librarians to help create the informed citizen. If you just give them what they ask for you might as well go work for Barns and Nobles.

    This leads back to censorship and collection development and programing. The books we have or dont have are not censored but are selected based on their value as source or quality of literature. We do all our work to help the citizens be fully functional. Computers came into the library to help “disadvantage” people compete in the world not to twitter. Well thats the way I was taught basic library craft 101

  25. THE Anonymous says:

    I guess the AL has a “job jar” of ideas to pull from now that the passion is gone and this is a paying gig.

  26. warm hands cold heart says:

    “Our job as librarians to help create the informed citizen.”

    This sounds like something straight from a library school brochure. Sometimes (more often than not) the citizen doesn’t want you to inform them.

  27. MNLibrarian says:

    I don’t see any specific policy on this on Scott County Library’s Website, but I would bet that campaign literature cannot be handed out at the reference desk. Perhaps AL should do some research into public library policies . . .

  28. irresponsiblelibrarian says:

    Yes, obviously the lowly public librarians are to blame!

  29. Annoyed Reader says:

    Your new feed only shows a snippet of the blog post in my reader. Annoying! Is there any way you can convince LJ to show your full blog posts in our RSS readers?

  30. Conan the Librarian God says:

    I just know that in my library, the librarian is ALWAYS right.

    A number of years ago, we had some crackpot theory that was supposed to change physics around. We certainly steered everyone who was asking to our gilded set of Newtonian books. The facts were in there.

    We chased the heretics into the streets with our official pitchforks and torches.

  31. A person says:

    Excerpt:

    “AL: “And if he’s not a Muslim, then he can’t very well be an Arab terrorist, can he?”

    Yes, he can. He could be George Habash for example.

    (Except for the fact that he’s not George Habash.)

    The point is that AL made a logical error.

    (Yeah, yeah, I know that her overall point in that little mock-exchange transcript is still valid – Mrs. Quinnell would probably neither know nor care who Habash and his PFLP friends are, that they were/are Palestinian Christians (or nominally Christians).

    Besides the PFLP hasn’t been in the news for years.

    (But they were/are lead by an Arab who was a terrorist and not a Muslim. So there. Thank you drive through.)

  32. Smorg the Pixel says:

    OMG!

    People are staying on topic!

    (mostly)

    Good luck with the blog!

  33. ignorantopinion says:

    If you want a definition of an ignorant opinion, read the blog (Public Libraries and Informed Citizens). It was based on few, if any, facts, and myriad assumptions based on a sense of uninformed superiority. The library system web site makes it easy to get unbiased information (the Shakopee branch library does not have it’s own website – only a page with the hours and location of the branch). If someone is looking for biased information, not even a librarian can transform the customer into an informed voter.

    Political information distributed by any party is not available on the reference desk, or even in the lobby of the Scott County libraries.

    Finally, where is it written that librarians are responsible for the opinions of library customers. Are we going back to the days when only “enlightening” fiction was available in the libraries and librarians could deny access to anything in bad taste or contrary to our opinions? I hope not. Despite the occasional embarrassment, I still prefer to provide people with information and permit them to decide what it means. Or maybe we need to have voters solve a quadratic equation before permitting them to vote?

  34. jmo, mls says:

    I have a hard time believing that some superannuated woman goes into a library in the upper midwest and isn’t brow-beaten into converting into a democratic socialist by the uber-liberal librarians or library staff. This is a joke, right?

    Seriously, just give her a copy of any major newspaper in the USA or this month’s Library Journal or Good Housekeeping or INStyle or US Weekly or anything else printed in English and on shiny paper–you will be told that a certain candidate is the alpha and omega of humankind, has never done any wrong, heals the lame, robs from the rich and gives to the poor and was born to a virgin to boot [although there is documentation to prove this, sorry!].

    The real question here is: a) how did the mainstream media fail to reach this 75 year-old woman and could it be possible that there are more like her somewhere?

  35. Kat says:

    You the librarian are not at all responsible for the opinions of others. but when I the tax payer discover that some idiot learned something ignorant thanks to your library services, and thanks to your insane library services protocol you did nothing to correct that igniorant behavior, I am not responsible for hwo my choices will affect the library. Take one guess how I will vote in favor of your organization in the next election!! ;}

    Libraries are civic organizations just like any other, and if the public is not content with the library, BUDGETS WILL BE CUT!!!

    If I am a council member, and I view the library with poor esteem, and the majority of my constiuents do not use that facility due to a range of reasons, guess how I will treat the library budget…

  36. Librarians 4 the 1st Amendment says:

    Jesus, have all of you people missed the HUMOR in the article? Why oh why does this profession take itself so seriously? I thought it was amusing. Please, loosen up. AL,thanks for the laugh.

  37. soren faust says:

    Librarian 4, I’m totally with you on this. Humorless is too kind a word.

    Kat, I’m not sure I agree with you concerning the librarians duty to “correct ignorant behavior,” unless I’m reading you wrong and your talking about skewed taxpayer perception. Either way, I’ve had many patrons, either truly insane or just plain stupid, come into the library and ask for all sorts of strange stuff, e.g. one guy wanted to obtain a cup of blood because he thought it would give him immortality. So, naturally, I gave him directions to the Red Cross. (I bet librarydude will tear me a new one for such a lame attempt at humor). The story is true, however, sans the donated blood.

    The point? Well, the point is that I wouldn’t even think about trying to change or correct this guy. Sometimes, you just need to pretend that the patron is okay and assure him that he will indeed find blood somewhere.

  38. John Berry says:

    If librarians were responsible for correcting ignorant behavior of patrons, who would be cast to determine which behavior is ignorant and which behavior is just different than our own?

  39. Stephen Michael Kellat says:

    When I read what you wrote, it sounded like the person discussed might have been a listener to WWCR or another such station. Such would require the ability to operate a shortwave radio but such is a simple off-the-shelf purchase at RadioShack. The information the lady had sounded like something that would come off a political program on WWCR. I am thinking the source might well have been either Alex Jones or Pete Peters.

    Thank you for a great post. This is a topsy-turvy world lately.

  40. librarydude says:

    You’re welcome.

  41. AL says:

    Oh, just for the record, comments from the John Berry impersonator will be deleted from now on. And how do we know which is the impersonator? We’re Library Journal. We know everything! Make up a name, for Pete’s sake. I did.

    Someone asked about the feed. I don’t like it either, but there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s going to be a snippet.

    As for whether my opinion is ignorant or my ignorance is opinionated or whichever one it was, I have no comment. I just lay it out for you to play it out. And for those just tuning in to the AL not knowing what to expect, if you think this post was strange, wait until you see tomorrow’s.

  42. Ami Segna says:

    Are you even sure she got it from a librarian per se? We had some high school kids caught with lists of p*rn sites, and they said they got them from the public library. They left out the part where they got them from ANOTHER PATRON atthe public library, and we had parents up in arms that we were supposedly passing out lists of p*rn sites to kids! Come on! We only circulate those amongst ourselves!

  43. AL says:

    I’m absolutely positive she got it from a librarian! I have it on good authority that there’s a Shakopee librarian handing out pamphlets claiming Obama is an Arab terrorist to anyone who asks any question about the election!

    No, I don’t. Never mind.

  44. librarydude says:

    Huh?

  45. Degolar says:

    Interesting scenario. I’m glad I’ve never had a patron ask this kind of question. Maybe things shaded this direction, but nothing nearly this extreme. And maybe extreme is a good word to bring up, because in the continuum of possible responses I think I’d try to avoid the extremes. If faced with that request, I would feel the need to respond with some kind of reference interview–probe for a bit of clarification, try to find out more about their information need. It’s impossible to say how things would go from there because I don’t know how the person would respond. If they get annoyed at the probing and get insistent, I’d probably help them get the information without comment. Patrons request books by title all the time that I think, while not quite this dishonest, are not much better

  46. Degolar says:

    while not quite this dishonest, are not much better; I don’t question them or recommend a book I find more agreeable but instead get them what they want. But if my reference interview questions lead to some kind of conversation or opportunity, I might try to offer additional sources or information about evaluating sources. Personally I find it hard to offer anyone anything from the Internet without some kind of comment on knowing where information is coming from, but you have to read your patron and find a way to say it they will be receptive to. It has to be an extension of the service they are requesting from you and not something preachy or disagreeable. If they don’t want to hear it or the opportunity isn’t there, you can’t do a whole lot about it.

  47. clear and open mind says:

    True, we’re not there to try to influence patrons to think a certain way or read a certain type of writing. We’re there to give them what they want, when we can. We don’t create the information, we just provide access to it.

  48. Kat says:

    And when society or a part of society decides we’re providing access to the wrong information or teaching the wrong informaiton such as in our universities, then these civic services can be held accountable in ways that are entirely unfar and inhumane. And yet it happens. I’m in a state where the University Budgets have been cut just about every single year since 2000.

    If it was worth more to them, they would send more money to fund it better, not cut it!!

  49. clear and open mind says:

    They’re not cutting budgets because we’re providing wrong information. They’re cutting budgets because people can find the right information without us.

  50. Chik Phil A says:

    Eat more chikin

  51. anonymous says:

    Tonight I had a small girl ask me for a book about a Native American Tribe. Her dad told her that he had printed everything she needed from the internet. I gave hime the speech about using only reliable websites, that it would be good to have a well-researched book, etc, but he didn’t care. He had his printouts and nothing that I said counted with him because I am just a librarian. I agree with Soren – patrons just want the fastest, not the most accurate information. And many of them do believe in vampires.

  52. jmo, mls says:

    *patrons just want the fastest, not the most accurate information.*

    Yep, these are the same bunch of idiots who think they can learn everything about, oh, the Second World War by simply watching “Saving Private Ryan”, including teachers who would come in and get irate when they’d find our copy checked out the day before they had to teach their “unit” on WW2.

  53. SCOTT CO LIB SYS says:

    Ms. Quinnell asked specifically for a particular article that was featured on the Internet (Obama’s Not Exactlys); she was subsequently provided with that article.

    While we certainly understand your concerns, unless libraries completely deny access to the Internet, the First Amendment (with few exceptions) guarantees that patrons have the right to access all kinds of materials, some that may — as you have noted -– be deemed unorthodox, unpopular, or even dangerous by others. For more information, I encourage you to read the Freedom to Read Statement on the ALA website, or perhaps you have it in your library.

  54. SCOTT CO LIB SYS says:

    Ms. Quinnell asked specifically for a particular article that was featured on the Internet (Obama’s Not Exactlys); she was subsequently provided with that article.

    While we certainly understand your concerns, unless libraries completely deny access to the Internet, the First Amendment (with few exceptions) guarantees that patrons have the right to access all kinds of materials, some that may — as you have noted -– be deemed unorthodox, unpopular, or even dangerous by others. For more information, I encourage you to read the Freedom to Read Statement on the ALA website, or perhaps you have it in your library.

  55. Caitly_poo says:

    First of all, your likening of minnesotans to barbarians is very offensive, have you ever been there? Minnesota has one of the best public education systems in the country. As for this woman and the info she got at the public library in shakopee, in my experience, you can lead a horse to water but that doesn’t mean he will drink it. People with extreme political positions believe what they choose to believe and will only accept sources that support what they think is true. Honestly, get off your high horse and just realize that this lady is just one nutbag in the world, and trust me, there’re plenty more.

  56. kayjay says:

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt, that maybe you’ve just been working a reference desk too long yourself, but you don’t seem to have fully looked at all possible scenarios here. Did you in fact have a reference interview with the Shakopee library? I think not. Your image of these barbaric Minnesota librarians might have been changed. From your description of their library being old fashioned, I’m thinking buns and glasses on chains. Once they don their viking helmets, they’re Conan the Librarian. How can I envision all this – why I happen to be a Minnesota library school student and I know that we trained for reference interviews much how you depicted it.
    (Oh yeah, and I voted for that former wrestler for governor. If you did some research on what politics and the candidates were like at the time, you might actually understand why.)

  57. kayjay says:

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt, that maybe you’ve just been working a reference desk too long yourself, but you don’t seem to have fully looked at all possible scenarios here. Did you in fact have a reference interview with the Shakopee library? I think not. Your image of these barbaric Minnesota librarians might have been changed. From your description of their library being old fashioned, I’m thinking buns and glasses on chains. Once they don their viking helmets, they’re Conan the Librarian. How can I envision all this – why I happen to be a Minnesota library school student and I know that we trained for reference interviews much how you depicted it.
    (Oh yeah, and I voted for that former wrestler for governor. If you did some research on what politics and the candidates were like at the time, you might actually understand why.)

  58. VEDow says:

    Well, I gave you the benefit of reading your entire post. Agitated drivel.
    So long.

  59. AL says:

    I gave you the benefit of reading your entire comment. You won’t be missed.

  60. in the know says:

    Ms. Quinnell asked specifically for a particular article that was featured on the Internet (google Obama’s Not Exactly – there will by many hits); she was subsequently provided with that article. Although we can point out to customers that sources are likely not reliable, we can’t refuse to give out the (mis)information.

  61. in the know says:

    Ms. Quinnell asked specifically for a particular article that was featured on the Internet (google Obama’s Not Exactly – there will by many hits); she was subsequently provided with that article. Although we can point out to customers that sources are likely not reliable, we can’t refuse to give out the (mis)information.

  62. Me says:

    How serendipitous that an Obama campaign center opened in Shakopee the day after AL posted – Barbara Boxer was there, and hundreds of people attended.

  63. Me says:

    How serendipitous that an Obama campaign center opened in Shakopee the day after AL posted – Barbara Boxer was there, and hundreds of people attended.

  64. anonymous says:

    And lost in this entire conversation is that calling someone an Arab or a Muslim is not tantamount to saying “Kill Him” or “Terrorist” when Senator Obama’s name is mentioned. There is nothing wrong with being either a Muslim or an Arab.

    I have read the source of the woman’s information, and while my particular bias means that I don’t believe the statements, they are presented in a plausible and reasonable manner. It isn’t hate speech, and it isn’t obviously wrong, unless you believe it is wrong. I choose to believe Senator Obama rather than Terry Anderson, but that doesn’t mean that I am right either.

  65. merriwyn says:

    To those who seem to have missed the point of this post, it was to encourage discussion about the responsibilities of public libraries in situations like this where someone may have come in looking specifically for dodgy information. Do we just cough up what they want? Do we try to get them to evaluate their sources? Do we try to educate them? What are our responsibilities?
    This is how the AL works, she raises issues in a provocative way to generate real discussion of serious issues. If you can’t handle it then don’t read it.

    P.S. She specifically notes that she has no idea what actually went on at the library or how this woman got her info so get off your soap boxes already.

  66. Mr. kat says:

    mirriwyn, are you familiar with “piggy” in “Lord of the Flies?” You’re trying to talk reason to a mob…which is like trying to teach a pig to sing; you frustrate yourself and annoy the Pig.

    Nice post, btw. If you could post within a few hours of AL, you could post the nice short summary version of the blog for all the ADD/ADHD/Lazy Whiner sufferers.