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Nebraska Gamey Librarians Audited

It seems that some people aren’t taking the gamey librarians as lightly as the rest of us. I find the gamey librarians a fun distraction from reality. Sure, they’re trying to destroy our country and do their best to make sure we amuse ourselves to death, but they’re just so earnest and fun-loving that it’s hard to take them seriously.

Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley isn’t getting into the spirit of things, though. He’s auditing the Nebraska Library Commission (NLC) and questioning their use of state funds to allow librarians to purchase and demonstrate videogames and post videos of themselves playing videogames on YouTube. He’s not even complaining about libraries buying the games for kids, just the notion that the librarians have to spend all this time gaming and making videos of themselves.

You can read more here and here. The first link takes you to the Omaha World-Herald and the second to a newsy article from the other AL. Reading them both can give you a short lesson on spin. The World-Herald article opens with a joke: "How many state employees does it take to assemble a Sony PlayStation? Five, apparently." When put that way, the gamey librarians do seem a little ridiculous.

The other AL opens thusly: "A 10-minute YouTube video posted by the Nebraska Library Commission on January 18, 2008, to announce the Commission’s purchase of Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution has resulted—roughly a year later—in an audit issued February 24." Note that phrase "roughly a year later." What’s that supposed to mean? The AL writer seems to imply that there is a statute of limitations on audits of public agencies, or that audits of annual spending, if they’re going to occur, should happen on a daily basis, instead of at the end of the year. It’s been a year, let’s just forget about this silliness! As for the video itself, I won’t comment. My mother always told me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all.

Foley’s report questions not only the use of funds to purchase and demonstrate the games, but the inappropriate payment of sales taxes and the use of state employees’ time to post videos to YouTube and photos to Flikr without any managerial approval or control of the public image of the library. It also questions regular payments to Second Life for leasing "land" there. Videogames are one thing, but Second Life? Good grief. "State equipment and time should only be used for official Commission business. Employees playing games or accessing virtual websites on State time appears to be inappropriate."

What Foley doesn’t seem to have realized is that these things are FUN (!) as well as being the sadly dessicated future of librarianship.

After all, some people spend entire classes in library school playing video games and learning about Flikr. Sure, out in the real world, ordinary people pick this stuff up on their own, but we’re not talking about ordinary people. We’re talking about librarians, who apparently need their hand held using technology that even my septuagenarian mother has managed to learn on her own. "One grateful attendee of a gaming demonstration … told AL that without the session, she ‘wouldn’t have a clue’ how to use the video games." Hmmm. Aren’t the kids supposed to be the ones using the games? And anyway, is anyone supposed to learn anything from this video?

The NLC is fighting back, though. The AL article naturally focuses more attention on the response from the NLC. Regarding the YouTube video: "’It was a marketing piece,’ [NLC Director Rod] Wagner countered. He told AL the video that raised the taxpayer’s concern was hosted on YouTube and also embedded in the NLC’s blog not only for the purpose of advertising the purchase but also to show librarian viewers a simple, economical way to share and distribute media."

Again, hmmm. The 10-minute video is in fast motion, and it’s hard to tell how much time the five staff members actually wasted (um, I mean spent) making it. It seems to me there could have been an easier and cheaper way to advertise the purchase. Email works pretty well, for example, and doesn’t require several hours of staff time. And couldn’t librarians have been shown "a simple, economical way to share and distribute media" without actually spending the time and money to create that media? Email might work here as well. They spend all the staff time making this video and posting it to YouTube. They could have emailed: "Hey, Librarians! Look at this nifty way to share and distribute media! YouTube! Yay!" Pretty simple, huh? The only difference is that email isn’t FUN (!). That’s the point that seems to have been lost on Foley.

I’d hate to be the one having to defend librarian FUN (!) in tight budget times. I don’t know much about Nebraska, but someone sent me a story last week about the Pennsylvania State Library and the 50% budget cut they’re facing, this coming after the Philadelphia Free Library cuts that have made the library news recently. From what I’ve been reading, there’s a big recession going on. Maybe Nebraska’s finances are hunky-dory (I’m just imagining that’s they way they talk out there in Nebraska), but that doesn’t mean that Nebraska librarians can’t use the recession to justify spending state time and money making videos of themselves playing games. Maybe they could respond like this:

"Sure, there’s a global recession going on and the world economy is shrinking for the first time since WWII and the US unemployment rate is rising and the Dow is falling and people are losing their homes and their jobs and federal and state budgets are shrinking, but in these tough times it’s more important than ever that librarians have some FUN (!) playing videogames. After all, they never really benefited from the boom times, now did they? It’s not like librarians were raking in huge bonuses or flipping houses for millions of dollars or watching their portfolios blossom. And now, these poor librarians look around and see that ordinary people are whining and moaning about having the kind of financial difficulties many librarians have had all along, and they’re starting to get so depressed that they missed out on the good times that are now long gone that it seems only fitting that we use just a tiny bit of state funding to let them play videogames and sit around and post YouTube videos and just relax from all the hard work they normally do. That’s okay, right?"

Playing the sympathy card might work, because normal people might otherwise have a hard time understanding why this kind of thing should be publicly funded. I have a hard time understanding it, too, but then I’m not normal person. I’m just a librarian.

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Comments

  1. A pudgy librarian says:

    This audit should be welcomed by all. With an outside disinterested party passing judgment on the wisdom and utility of “gameyness,” many of the issues librarians have raised, both pro and con, about the “gamey librarian” might get resolved.

  2. Mr. Kat says:

    I often wonder how the Old Guard is going to deal with the New Yuppie Generation. The two are so vastly different: whereas one group still remembers the first polaroid cameras and shooting cimematics on 8mm film, where very few were able to take advantage of the technology and distribution networks hampered anything but great productions form ever going further than the garage; the second group spends its free time singing to Numa Numa while creating a new Myspace profile layout, playing ap games on Facebook, and sharing their latest party adventures on flikr and photobucket.

    In this age of competitive crporate giants, even the smallest of business will happily Google your name to see jsut what crap you have tied to yourself. It makes the deselection process so much easier. I’ve been with companies who viewed just having a Myspace page as adolescent and unprofessional, in a way that jsut having would suggest the candidate is less mature than the people the company seeks. Thankfully I learned a little lesson back in my computer class back in high school over ten years ago: Never, say NEVER, use your REAL name on the Internet! Use a handle, a calsign, something unique to you but in no way conspicious to your real person.

    An even better lesson for the newer age is to never let yourself appear in a Youtube video. Sure, you can be there whle it is being filmed, but keep a low profile. You never know WHEN that stupid thing might come back to bite you.

    It seems the nebraska librarian kids have broke a very simple rule: thou shalt not get caught!!!

  3. Nonny the Mouse says:

    you know, I’m as big on marketing as the next person, and heaven knows we need to do a better job of promoting the excellent things we do. but really…they thought a youtube of a gaggle of adult women playing with Guitar hero was going to bring the teens there in droves?

    As for me–we’ve discovered a few things that are actually useful for our patrons–we have a blog where we post current events, and we’ve found a semi-locked down wiki useful as our ”

  4. oldyuppie says:

    Hmm, “…old guard dealing with new yuppies?” Yuppies are like, 80s. Dog, the yuppies ARE the old guard. In fact, I’ll bet Foley was a yuppie, oh, maybe 30 years ago. WTF, dude?

  5. anonymous says:

    According to the article, The soundtrack to the video is “Yakety Sax,’’ a song often used as background to slapstick humor acts such as those in “The Benny Hill Show.’’ Wonder if they cleared copyright? Foley might have better questions to ask.

  6. sidney says:

    I watched as much of that video as I could stand, and auditing is is the least problem for these librarians.

  7. longtimereader says:

    I enjoyed the video. I didn’t know chubby librarians could move that fast.

  8. Tutu says:

    Good Lord! Those are uniquely unattractive human beings. Remarkable that they could all be gathered in the same place at the same time.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Foley probably spent more money on writing the report than the librarians spent on gaming.

  10. Yimir says:

    I seriously hope AL is joking here. Narrow mindedness is not a virtue

    Librarianship is a stagnant backwater of academia because librarians have some crazy fear of new ideas. We should all be supporting the librarians in Nebraska and their efforts to explore new ideas. Win or lose, at least they tried something new.

    If you aren’t excited about bringing games into public libraries you need to retire. Fuddy-duddy librarians need to open their minds or step aside and let the rest of us get on with the business at hand.

  11. QIN says:

    Working in a government controlled library means just that. Here at work, we have to get permission from the press secretary before anything is posted to the web. The web is a communications venue and content HAS to be vetted.

  12. Jenica says:

    The amount of meanness in the comments to these Annoyed Librarian posts are one of the reasons I dislike the Annoyed Librarians. Shame on all of you, if petty personal insults are the best level of discourse you can come up with.

  13. Vegans For Meat says:

    Jenica, that was mean of you to say! Be nice.

  14. Morse says:

    “We should all be supporting the librarians in Nebraska and their efforts to explore new ideas.” Without trying to be mean or petty, does fiddling with these video games and making a YouTube video count as “exploring new ideas”? I’m all for being paid to play around and have fun, but lets not be too grandiose about what’s going on here. And as for remarks about chubby or unattractive librarians, let you without sin cast the first stone.

  15. Dr. Pepper says:

    I agree with Morse. While I am in favor of games in libraries (heck we’ve got videos and music and magazines about gardening!), I think that libraries need to do two things to not get in trouble over such things: (1) Go over the vision and mission of their library to make sure that these endeavors are supported. Get justification in case people decide to audit you. (2) leave the marketing to professionals! Just making a video and posting on youtube isn’t going to get you new patrons, it can probably get you in trouble. If this video were made when these individuals were done for the day, I would say OK, but still don’t post them on YouTube! Let people who know about marketing help your library.

  16. Hunkey Dorey Nebraskan says:

    We’uns here in Nebraska greet you’uns. (give me a break).

    The Nebraska Library Commission is not a library. It is a commission. And those are not librarians. They are employees.

  17. BTY says:

    guvmint employees wasting the taxpayer’s dime. I want to see their job descriptions explicitly stating that they can play games and post to Youtube.

  18. Mr. Kat says:

    Whatever the yuppies of 2009 are called, there’s a new crop every generation. But anyhow…

    If these librarians were truely smart, they would have had 4-5 kids come into the library and direct the video for them, with the librarians merely acting as the executive producers. This would have accomplished the same goal, only things like these are funny and apropriate when kids do them, but ridiculous when adults try to do the same thing.

    Cya…

  19. VNT says:

    Lord knows that I go to youtube to find out what is happening in the library world.

  20. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “If these librarians were truely smart, they would have had 4-5 kids come into the library and direct the video for them, with the librarians merely acting as the executive producers. This would have accomplished the same goal, only things like these are funny and apropriate when kids do them, but ridiculous when adults try to do the same thing. ” I actually agree with this statement >^..^< Kids really don’t want to see adults at the library “gaming”, they’d much rather see themselves & their friends on YOUTUBE gaming in the library.

  21. QIO says:

    Yeah, nerd kids with no where else to go or nothing better to do than to make videos of themselves at the library playing games.

    **sigh**

  22. Pseudo-Librarian says:

    Oh, so I shouldn’t be playing games on State time?

    Whoops.

  23. Hunkey Dorey Nebraskan says:

    “If these librarians were truely smart, they would have had 4-5 kids come into the library and direct the video for them, with the librarians merely acting as the executive producers.” Again, not a library.

  24. Hunkey Dorey Nebraskan says:

    “Foley probably spent more money on writing the report than the librarians spent on gaming.” Amen.

  25. Hunkey Dorey Nebraskan says:

    “guvmint employees wasting the taxpayer’s dime. I want to see their job descriptions explicitly stating that they can play games and post to Youtube.” Other duties as required. Where does it say they can’t?

  26. BTY says:

    Most state agencies require that you vet your releases via a press secretary or the like. Libraries are getting too free and loose with the rules and should do things correctly. Kinda like cataloging, but after seeing a lot of new records done by newly trained catalogers, I think that they look at rules merely as guidelines.

  27. anonymous public librarian says:

    I think this little brouhaha reminds those of us who are public librarians that we are government employees, whose salaries are paid by taxpayers. They deserve to have us work, and don’t want to see us playing games on their dime. I don’t object to public libraries having gaming programs; but why, oh why, would you film yourselves playing and post it on the interwebs? It certainly isn’t going to bring kids in. I know this wasn’t a public library and the employees weren’t librarians, but it is a state government entity, and my question is why the State Library Commission needs Guitar Hero anyway?

    And libraries trying to use Second Life is ridiculous. I did an extensive research paper on this for library school, and it’s stupid (of course I was very unpopular for not going along with the program – I was in a certain well-known two-pointopian’s class).

    P.S. I grew up in Nebraska and lots of people there do say “hunky-dory.”