It seems to be animal time in libraries the last couple of weeks. The library news is chock full of animals. This story seemed to raise the ire of some librarians who were just appalled that some poor rube objected to a book in a high school library – The Book of Bunny Suicides. I feel a bit sorry for this poor objectionable woman, just like I do for some of my critics. It must be hard going through life with no sense of humor whatsoever.
"Anderson said her son, who usually brings home books about motorcycles and dirt bikes, checked out the book because his friends told him it was funny. But after reading the entire 80-page book, Anderson disagreed.
‘None of it made me laugh,’ she said." QED!
I think that’s how some of my earnest critics must feel about the AL.
Animals abound in libraries apparently, and not just fictional bunnies. By now I’m sure you’re all familiar with Dewey the Library Cat, the little creature who not only warmed the cockles of many a cold Iowan heart but who is now the subject of a popular book modestly entitled Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. The Amazon reviews tell it all. Dewey is "happy, heartwarming, and hopeful," a "sweet animal story," "a must read for all animal lovers," and a "heartwarming tale from the heartland." It sounds very sweet, and I’m planning to buy a copy to read to my kitty Chaps during cold winter nights. Just reading the Amazon reviews caused me to knit a new sweater with a cute little kitten on the front. I even got one of my colleagues to wear it.
Why do I mention this at all? Why do I bring up kitties and bunnies and such? Well, some people ask me, "AL, just what do you stand for? You’re always so critical, and I don’t like criticism because any comments about libraries that don’t sound peppy and enthusiastic make me uncomfortable because I’m a humorless dullard. So can you please tell me just what you actually want to see in libraries? What do you think will make libraries popular?"
Those are good questions, and because of the entirely appropriate tone of abject humility in which they were asked, I’ll answer them.
I want to see more heartwarming stories about little kitties. Isn’t that what we all want? And if there were more kitties and heartwarming stories about them in libraries, libraries would be much more popular.
Just read the astute commentary by a Wisconsin librarian chosen at random to comment on the heartlanding tale of Dewey the Suicidal Library Bunny.
"Eliot Finkelstein, instruction coordinator at the College Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said animal books are the ‘new breed’ of self-help books. [I wonder where he gets this stuff.]
‘With all the bad news surrounding us in the world these days, people want a book that will make them feel good and more positive about life, and pets are the natural antidepressant in our very stressful world,’ said Finkelstein, who also buys popular books for the library. ‘People want a new type of book that will make them feel better about life, and what makes us feel better than our pets?’"
The twopointopians and the gamey librarians have it all wrong. The homey, homely, and homeless people that haunt libraries don’t want videogames. They don’t want to read library blogs or the reference librarian’s latest tweet. They don’t want to upload their grandchildren’s home movies onto Youtube or view the Flickr page of the library’s latest birthday celebration. No, they want more cuddly animals and heartwrenching books about them. Just like all the earnest, peppy librarians out there, they want things that make them feel better about theselves, like cuddly, hearwearming books and maybe some hashish. And since that’s what the people really want, then that’s what I want to, because libraries are all about making people feel good, and so am I. That’s our whole raison d’etre.
So you librarians who just want more folks coming through the door, your problems are now solved. Stuff a cat into your book drop. Rescue it. Let it touch the world. Write a book about it. Get the book to touch the world. Cuddly books that touch the world are good, and don’t you forget it.