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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Librarian Highbrow

Librarians have a love-hate relationship with Google. They love it because it does much of their job for them so much better than they do it, and hate it for the same reason. Librarians used to like to whine about how bad the search results were. "But we’ve got so many great things that aren’t on the Internet." "People just use stuff because it’s easy to find."

It might be true that libraries have all sorts of great stuff not found free on the Internet, like copyrighted books. Those are good things.

The problem isn’t with Google, of course. The problem is the coarseness and vulgarity of our culture. Once upon a time we had libraries to  improve the culture by trying to get people to read good books instead of doing whatever they did before: milk cows or plant corn or fondle sheep or whatever those mostly rural people did back in the day. I wouldn’t know.

These days librarians have given up the fight. At some point in the last few decades, librarianship was taken over by vulgarians. Where librarians used to want people to read more and better books, now they want them to play more and popular videogames and assure the perverts that they have a Constitutional right to view porn on the public dime. Libraries were like a leaven of intelligence and high culture in a loaf of mass culture garbage. These days the librarians promote the mass culture garbage, because that’s what the people like! Or maybe it’s just what the librarians like. Regardless, that’s what we hear about all the time from the librarians.

But now Google – always the innovator – has done the right thing. Google is standing astride the vulgarian culture yelling "Stop!" What am I talking about? The new Google Highbrow, of course.

"Google is set to launch a new version of its omnipresent search engine that will question the cultural validity of people’s enquiries. Rather than instantly offering a comprehensive list of the most popular websites and images related to the keywords, the new version will offer its opinion on the subject of the enquiry and if it finds the request to be intellectually vacuous, will steer the user clear of the original search altogether."

All I can say is, about bloody time!

"Tests of ‘Google Highbrow’ have shown that a search for Oprah will ask ‘Do you mean ‘Opera’?’, and ‘Rambo’ was presumed to be a miss-spelling of the 19th century French poet ‘Rimbaud’. A search for Pamela Anderson enquired whether you were referring to the 18th century novel ‘Pamela’ by Samuel Richardson or perhaps the film director Wes Anderson."

Finally, something from Google that highbrow librarians like myself can approve of. I know it works, too. I tried searching annoyed librarian, and it responded, "Do you mean librarian of congress. Are you aware the Jorge Luis Borges was a librarian? And Philip Larkin, who was often annoyed? Perhaps you want pages related to them?" Color me impressed.

Librarians should now do the typical librarian thing and imitate Google. We’re always hearing about how library websites or opacs should be "more like Google." I think opacs and circulation desks should be "more like Google Highbrow."

Someone searches in an opac for a trashy dvd, the opac could suggest a performance of Shakespeare. Someone comes up to the circulation desk with a true crime book or celebrity biography, and the library assistant could suggest they exchange that trash for some quality literature. Or better yet, just throw away the trash and force them to check out some quality literature. Either way, the circulation stats go up!

We could call this initiative Librarian Highbrow. With the Librarian Highbrow initiative, librarians could finally serve worthwhile goals in society. They’d have something honorable and important to do and wouldn’t have to get so excited about videogames and library blogs because they desperately hope these things will bring in the masses. Librarian Highbrow doesn’t pander to the masses. It educates the masses. Surely now that Google is doing it, we can do it, too.

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Comments

  1. anonymous says:

    Brilliant.
    All through library school, we heard “Google is BAD – there’s no controlled search terms! you get everything, even unauthoritative sources!” etc. And, yet, just today I took an audio course extolling the virtues of free Google tools which could enhance a Library’s Web 2.0 services.
    The reality is that Google is a tool, and as tools go, it’s a powerful, cheap, multipurpose tool. Libraries can use it, or not. We can go the Highbrow route. Or, we can change all our computers so that the Google language setting is on Pirate, Klington, or the Swedish Chef. No matter what you say about Google, it DOES provide us librarians with options!
    (seriously – if you go to Language Tools on the Google Homepage, and scroll down to the “use the Google interface in your language” section, you get some interesting options. Any tool which offers the option of searching using Elmer Fudd as a language can’t be all bad. Or highbrow.)

  2. petter says:

    You are citing a UK source, but I believe nonetheless that it should be “a misspelling [not a miss-spelling] of the 19th century French poet ‘Rimbaud’”
    Also, “19th century French poet” is clutter – “a misspelling of Rimbaud” will do.

  3. Detached Amusement. says:

    GIVE ME A BREAK!![as John Stossel would say]. I once did an article for a state library publication about some books that should have been classified as “Spurious and Doubtful Works”, but were instead lumped in with legitimate sources by LC. This was in the days before the web and the almighty Google. The subject in question was later proven spurious by other means, aka Forensic Science. A few years later a mainstream NY publisher came out with a book which used as its prime sources some of the same works I’d taken apart. Humbug [check it out on Google] is still alive and well and playing at your local library, OFF the web. In fact I picked up a copy of the latter mentioned book at a sale of discards at the public library here. I’ll have to check and see how it was cataloged. The publisher was pushing it as legit on the DJ. There’s a lot of crackpot matter that circulates. Look at the stuff that was revived in nthe wake of the DAVINCI CODE going to bestseller. That’s in another sub-category of what I’m speaking of, as are the works of Erik Von Daniken and his imitators. Of course we could discuss how some search engines block politically sensitive matters relating to dissent in China, and may even turn you in to authorities there if you attempt to access things of this sort.
    Nah! that’s another matter. “To the Egress” for now, as P.T. Barnum would put it. He was right about suckers.

  4. Fact Checker says:

    Click on the Google Highbrow link in AL’s post. You’ll see it leads to a site named NewsBiscuit which proudly displays the tag line ”

  5. htmldude says:

    It’s satire, it’s not real.

  6. Rhett Butler says:

    People have always gone to the library for trash. You think Gone With the Wind is literature?

  7. Frogger says:

    There was a highbrow guy in my library school class. Oh wait, that was a unibrow. Never mind…

  8. publibchik says:

    Oh great. Another post about highbrow vs. popular culture in the library. I guess you’re reducing your carbon footprint by recycling old posts.

  9. Fruitcake says:

    At least there was a reference to Google. That’s original.

  10. Mr. Kat says:

    Things take their identities from what they are NOT … The concept of a highbrow culture, the culture of great books and the like, depends on the CONCEPT of a lowbrow, or popular, culture, whose characteristics highbrow culture defines iself against. Of course, there have always been good books, and bad books, serious music and easy listening, coterie art and poster art. Making these distinctions is easy if you just put EVERYTHINH on a continuum, and rank things from worst to best. The mid-century notion of highbrow culture required something different – it required a rupture between the high and the low, an ABSOLUTE difference, not a RELATIVE one.

  11. Brent says:

    Netflix seems to think I am a snob. Maybe one day Google will, too.

  12. Morse says:

    The birth of art, and the inevitable afterbirth: the critic.

  13. Thanks says:

    Thanks for taking me to a make believe place. It made my day!!!

  14. a person says:

    Serious researchers have some use for Google, but they do also for OPACs and scholarly databases. What’s the big deal?

    One of the examples in the satirical article about Google Highbrow – Richardson’s Pamela – was itself considered trash by many contemporary commentators back during the mid eighteenth century.

    Ideas of what’s trash and what’s legitimate literature change. Work out for yourselves the implications of that.

    Those implications, however, are probably less important content and subjects for the blog than AL’s satire and snarkiness. And I doubt any well-thought-out analysis of those implications would affect her point.

    That’s all fine and is also the reason I’m going to go do something else now.

  15. jmo, mls says:

    This sure was a long and convoluted way of saying “Hey, check out this funny story I found.” Also: just how many “The Onion” rip-off sites does the world need, huh?

  16. jmo, mls says:

    *Ideas of what’s trash and what’s legitimate literature change. * Indeed, they do. As cultures deteriorate, last century’s garbage looks more and more like a treasure.

  17. Christmas in Islamisbad says:

    jmo, you need to read something different than Revelations: perhaps Psalms or Proverbs for a change. You have a real fixation about the End. What exactly about culture do you find deteriorated? And, if true, that is, what you think is negative about culture, then I’d be curious to know what you think got it this way.

  18. her_welshness says:

    My gosh if only we did have Google highbrow – or the Frasier Crane guide to the Internet. It would kick that silly 2.0 bollocks into touch.

  19. her_welshness says:

    My gosh if only we did have Google highbrow – or the Frasier Crane guide to the Internet. It would kick that silly 2.0 bollocks into touch.

  20. dork says:

    That’s stupid. Why would I want someone, let alone some artifical algorithm, tell me what’s good or not or what’s authoriative or not. Real college and grad students make judgement for themselves.

  21. dork says:

    On the topic of literature, true, what might have been deemed trashy and bawdy at one point might be praised and revered as great literature at another and often later point. Ever read some of Chaucer’s stuff in the Canterbury Tales? The CT is without a doubt considered great literature today.

  22. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Ah Dork … “Real college and grad students make judgement for themselves.” Seems like a lot of ours are making really bad decisions regarding resources. Good thing librarians don’t have the power of the grade here. I’d flunk 95% …

  23. jmo, mls says:

    *jmo, you need to read something different than Revelations: perhaps Psalms or Proverbs for a change. You have a real fixation about the End. *

    Yep, because anyone who notices that, inevitably, civilizations rise and fall simply MUST be a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth Christian.

  24. AL says:

    “This sure was a long and convoluted way of saying ‘Hey, check out this funny story I found.,”

    Perhaps, but if I’d just said that, you’d complain that the post was too short and unconvoluted. As for the whining about “recycling” or “this sucks” or whatever, most readers seem to realize that I really don’t care about your emotional reactions to the blog. Don’t like it? Then don’t read it. Any comment not about the subject of the post says something about your expectations and emotions, but nothing relevant about the blog. So continue to emote if it makes you feel better, but don’t expect to be considered anything other than a whiner who whines about a blog they don’t even have to read.

  25. Christmas in Islamisbad says:

    That wasn’t my point. You still haven’t stated what it is that you think is so bad about culture and how you think it got this way. You may be surprised that I might agree with you. On the other hand, I might not.

    In fact, it in my mind that culture has the characteristic of hiding or revealing what is already there—in this case, a sad and beautiful human nature. Nothing’s changed; it’s just more evident than it was 50 years ago.

  26. Andy Rooney says:

    The only thing worse than a curmudgeon is a curmudgeon without a sense of purpose. All that comes from that is “hey you kids, get out of my library and stay off my lawn.”

  27. penn girl says:

    Most of us like this blog because of the comments, not the topical postings (are video games and cats in libraries really interesting to anyone?). The AL seems to be going to a lot of trouble just to get a conversation started, that ususally ends up going in different directions anyway. Maybe this should just be an open forum, where we can start conversations about anything we want.

  28. AL says:

    “Maybe this should just be an open forum, where we can start conversations about anything we want.” That’s pretty much what this blog has been all along, and I’m perfectly happy with that. Someone compared it to a call in radio program. Because the comments can be anonymous, this is a place people can discuss pretty much anything library-related. What I can’t allow are just any random obnoxious comments. Those have no place in a discussion of anything. Eventually the children go back to staring at their televisions and things calm down.

  29. Rush says:

    “What I can’t allow are just any random obnoxious comments.”

    Maybe you should look at what you write sometimes.

    Anyway, I am a long time caller and a first time listener. I say we should shut down all libraries and go with Google Hi-Brow.

  30. moderator says:

    The reference librarian is a dinosaur. Discuss.

  31. Mithrandir says:

    Moderator said “The reference librarian is a dinosaur”

    I directly helped a dozen people today who needed my reference help. I provided the info they needed and wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else, for a variety of reasons.

    So the allosaurus on reference is not extinct.

  32. AL says:

    “Maybe you should look at what you write sometimes.” Ahem. What I should have said was that I won’t allow them from YOU. I can do whatever I like. It’s my blog.

  33. Steve Irwin, Dinosaur Hunter says:

    Moderator said “The reference librarian is a dinosaur” I directly helped a dozen people today who needed my reference help. I provided the info they needed and wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else, for a variety of reasons. So the allosaurus on reference is not extinct.”

    I was watching you in your library, yes you did help a dozen people, but a gross of people (no not gross people) came in and got what they wanted without your help.

    Plus, six of those were asking for the bathroom, so you can’t really count them.

  34. moderator says:

    Once those sources becoming available on the web (and they will eventually) your help will no longer be needed.

  35. Andy Rooney says:

    Did ya ever notice that the people who resort to asking the reference librarian for help can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?

    I have.

    Pathetic sots.

  36. Mithrandir says:

    Moderator is delusional.

    that is all

  37. AL says:

    At first I thought someone was saying that once restroom facilities became available on the Internet, nobody would need reference librarians. That’s probably true. And if libraries just installed toilets right at reference desks, then there would be no need to refer them.

  38. a nonny mouse says:

    My time at the reference desk mostly involves showing mouthbreathers how to work that durn copy machine, looking for that twah-laht movie, and get on them interwebs.

    I also drink heavily and long for the sweet embrace of death.

  39. S.K.F. says:

    I’m forty bushels beyond bamboozled as most of my reference requests involve locating schematics for 1940 transformer units used in highly critical Oil Burner operations.

  40. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “We could call this initiative Librarian Highbrow. With the Librarian Highbrow initiative, librarians could finally serve worthwhile goals in society. They’d have something honorable and important to do and wouldn’t have to get so excited about videogames and library blogs because they desperately hope these things will bring in the masses. Librarian Highbrow doesn’t pander to the masses. It educates the masses. Surely now that Google is doing it, we can do it, too.”

    Gotta love it…..

    Google Highbrow….well I was searching for my Credit Union’s website, and they asked me if I was searching for “lbafinancial.com”, whatever this is! How “Highbrow” is that? But when searching Oprah and being referred to Opera…well hey, let’s hear it for being “Highbrow”

    Videogames??? Oh, Please Do Not get me started on that one! Our “Teen” programs are mostly attended by our staff members!

    I am happy to continue to purchase more “classic” music rather than “Parental Advisory..Explicit Content”…

    I also have a very ugly habit of teaching my customers how to use the opacs and library databases, as well as how to conduct their own research!!!

  41. Mr. Kat says:

    hehehe…I love it when you ask a reference librarian for something like that!!

    Suddenly you see the light in the back of their head under the smoke machine that has been masking their faux intelligence all along. Because they haven’t even go ta clue where to start looking, and it’s going to take them the rest of the week to find it!!! And they will look even if you say no just to please their internal drive that says “I can NEVER be defeated by a reference question!”

    Ha!!

    All I need librarians to do is to fill the information infrastructure with the raw data in a consistant logical manner. I need the smart people in library school to go on into infroamtion architecture and build the infrastructure that will make this online environement successful. Meanwhile, since the journal database providers actually do this and do it so much better, I use them instead. and since wikipedia does that idea so much better too, and becauae librarians have such a general distrust of allowing commoners to freely amend and add on to wikipedia pages or informaiton pages at all, I have to sign and agree with JMO that the end is nead…for librarians.

    P.S. This is persoanlly My first post today.

  42. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “The Reference Librarian is a Dinosaur”?

    Um last time I got out of the shower (this morning in fact) I was pretty sure I was a woman with two arms & legs and a female body. I was not large (well not overly so that one might notice), I was a pinky colour, and I had a nice head of hair.

    I am Definitely NOT a dinosaur, otherwise, how would I ever be able to sit at the Reference Desk, proffer Storytime, teach patrons how to use the opacs, let alone get into the library itself?

    Silly……

  43. Toady the Sock Puppet says:
    Perhaps, but if I’d just said that, you’d complain that the post was too short and unconvoluted.

    You’re basing this on the dozens of times it’s happened before? Maybe you should re-christen yourself the Easily Annoyed Librarian.

    What I can’t allow are just any random obnoxious comments.

    Unless those random obnoxious comments are about someone’s skull or trying to guess someone’s gender or what religion they may practice or what they may read–then they’re good enough to reside on the server forever or until your bosses say otherwise.

    As for the whining about “recycling” or “this sucks” or whatever, most readers seem to realize that I really don’t care about your emotional reactions to the blog.
    If you really don’t care why are you even mentioning it?
    Don’t like it? Then don’t read it.

    How is one supposed to know whether they like something or not unless and until they read it?

    I assume that also means that if one does read it but don’t like it, one should not comment on it. Wasn’t it just the other day that someone was talking about how wonderful the world would be if only there were nothing but slavish yes-men commenting on this and everything else posted to the internet? Seems like that caused a lot of huffing indignation at the time, too.

  44. AL says:

    Your powerful logic overwhelms me.

  45. Library Cynic says:

    The reference librarian may be a dinosaur but the patrons are like penguins in Miami.

  46. krispy kreme says:

    P.S. This is persoanlly My first post today.

    Thanks for adding that critical piece of information.

  47. Toady the Sock Puppet says:

    The Easily Overwhelmed and Annoyed Librarian. Aggressive then passive. Whatever gets you through the night, it’s all right.

  48. Library Cynic says:

    That last post attributed to me was by an impostor, but I tend to agree.

  49. Mr. Kat says:

    I love people who complain about that which is both free and voluntary. If you don’t like it, quit showing up!

    Obviously there’s something useful here or you wouldn’t KEEP showing up.

    Krispy Kreme, it is vital informaiton because htere is an earlier post attributed to me. I just had to set the record straight. Naturally four more imposters will try to set this record straight anew, even denoucing this current post as again another imposter post. All this attention!! The price of popularity?

  50. Jim Rettig says:

    Come on over to the dark side and I’ll call off the dogs AL. Reed dragged you into this with cheap software on their blogs.

  51. krispy kreme says:

    “Obviously there’s something useful here or you wouldn’t KEEP showing up.”

    Actually this was my first time here. I just thought your post was a little self-centered. For the veterans here, do they really care how many times today you have posted?

  52. AL says:

    And they just keep coming back for more. I love it.

  53. Library Cynic says:

    That last post was also by an imposter. I don’t agree with the first imposter. So if I disagree with an imposter, does that make me agree with myself? I’m confused.

  54. anonymous says:

    Re: “the reference librarian is a dinosaur”
    There are a few lines from Mo Willems’ book, Edwina the Dinosaur who didn’t know she was extinct, (in which everyone loves Edwina except Reginald von Hoobiedoobie, who takes it upon himself to convince her that she is extinct) which I offer in response to that comment.
    “Reginald was loud. He was expressive. He was very, very convincing. In the end, Edwina had to face it. She knew she was extinct.”
    “She just didn’t care.”
    “And by then, neither did Reginald von Hoobiedoobie.”
    Stop being such a Hoobiedoobie. We may be dinosaurs. But in the end, we do exactly what people want: we listen to them.

  55. Billy Bob says:

    We may be dinosaurs. But in the end, we do exactly what people want: we listen to them.

    That’s great – an advanced degree so that you can listen to people. Reference librarians better start working on different skills – there will be no reference librarians in 20 years.

  56. Mithrandir says:

    if there are no reference librarians in 20 years is that good or bad for society?

  57. penn girl says:

    if there are no reference librarians in 20 years is that good or bad for society?

    It’s good because it means that more information is available to a wider group of people and it means that we (society) have learned how to find the information for ourselves. Self-reliance is a good thing.

  58. Mr. Kat says:

    Self reliance is a GOOD thing…as long as you’re not trying to make a living in a public service industry, such as libraries, travel agents, etc. For those of us in those industries, society’s self reliance is our self DESTRUCTION.

  59. librarian formerly known as soren says:

    People have been engaged in some form of information seeking since the beginning. And even with an increasing, albeit sometimes slow, technological advancement to aid them in their endeavors they still can’t tell their left hand from their right. Reference librarians may not be around in 20 years, although they probably will in some form, but there will always be someone capitalizing on the disability of the average person.

  60. Guybrarian says:

    You don’t think people can tell their right hand from their left hand? You need to start hanging out with a better crowd (or stop exaggerating).

  61. librarian formerly known as soren says:

    There are in fact people who have a problem telling their left from their right. Left/Right Confusion is the difficulty some people have in distinguishing the difference between the directions left and right. It afflicts between 15% to 26% of the population[1]. Dyslexia is one of several conditions that affects a person’s ability to quickly and easily consciously realize the difference.
    –Wikipedia “Relative Direction”

    Is this the “crowd” you suggest I avoid?

  62. Mr. Kat says:

    My imposters…what a life. Intelligent to make great posts once in a while, but not brave enough to put their own made up name and a face behind them.

    krispykreme, we currenlty have n issue of people using other people’s pseudonym handles.

  63. dork says:

    On the topic of highbrow, is LJ a legit, peer-reviewed acdemic journal? Because if it is, I don’t understand where these ads like Hollywood Booty and what not come into play.

  64. WebbyGrl says:

    Oh great. So first my MLS from library school isn’t worth poop and now that reference position I’m up for will no longer be needed either. Rats… Good think I know how to bartend. You get asked where the bathrooms are about as much as in a library but the music and perks are better.

  65. WebbyGrl says:

    Wups – shouldn’t type with a hangover.

  66. Darryl E. says:

    She makes a valid point about vulgarian librarians, though…

  67. WebbyGrl says:

    Therein lies the dichotomy between librarians and their public. It’s because librarians are the champions of liberal political correctness, equality for all, and unsensored freedoms. Librarians, so as not to seem as if they are judgmental or elitist, sink to vulgarian behavior to appease the masses. It is frankly impossible to retain the lofty positions of intellectual superiority librarians hold so dearly and still be able to give the average public what it wants. Should the reference librarian seem highbrow at the desk, the patron would be offended by the snob and never return. But if the reference lady is hip, talks “street”, and successfully reboots the PC, she is a hero. Unless the librarian is in a special library, I just don’t see another way around it. Vulgarian librarians are here to stay.

  68. Mr. Kat says:

    I say we find out where this nation “Vulgaria” is and we level it on the playing field, starting with some severe economic sanctions, trade embargos, and travel restrictions. If that doesn’t work, then we need to declare their illegal alien residents political invaders and declare war on their country. This war wil lbe easy, as we bomb them into submission and then invade with our vastly superior electronic gadgetry and robotic warplanes. We round up all enemy fighters and classify them as combatants, not prisoners of war, and ship them off to Gitmo!

    And we ban their way of life. We ensure that the only language allowed for all government discourse is of course Elitest Highbrow Intellectury, which of course takes five lawyers to write and five thousand lawyers to interpret. That should solve our Vulgarian problem!!!

  69. librarian formerly known as soren says:

    Webbygrl, America is vulgar, not just librarians, and this includes both Conservative and Democrat librarians. This is a country for “the people” i.e., the vulgar. Democracy is a vulgar political system. And there is nothing wrong with this, but you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. To institute anything beyond vugarity is to set up an elitist, aristocratic system, something of which is anathema to Americans.

  70. Mr. Kat says:

    Vulgarity oozes through society like a toxin. Television commercials, bumper stickers, radio programs, music videos, T-shirts, magazine covers and motion pictures poison minds and corrupt souls.

    By definition, vulgarity involves words or behavior that violate good taste, usually involving slang for body functions or body parts. While such language was once reserved for private conversations and disreputable establishments, today it is becoming acceptable in the public arena.

    The Internet has only exacerbated the problem. When people communicate online, sometimes anonymously, they may type words they would never utter in person.

    The music industry has also changed in the past decade. Under pressure in 1990, music executives agreed to voluntarily label explicit content. Regrettably, the warnings have become a drawing card for many teens. A Federal Trade Commission study last summer showed that 85 percent of children ages 13-16 who attempted to buy music labeled “explicit” made the purchase without being questioned. One vulgar-laden album in 2000 became the fastest-selling hip-hop compact disc in history, selling 5 million copies in two months.

    In the 1950s, TV standards forbade the use of toilet and pregnant on the airwaves. Times have changed.

  71. Vegans For Meat says:

    “Mr. Kat,” The Pentacostals have no place deriding vulgarity. If anything, they are the Icon of vulgarity in America.

  72. EDUman says:

    You are right, Google is a Tool.