Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Blaming the Messenger

[In case you haven't figured it out, there have been some problems with the blog url, RSS feed, and comments this week. LJ migrated to a different blogging platform, but it might take a while to iron out the kinks. When it's done, everything should work better than before, including the comments feature, since now people will be able to create more stable identities. If you experience some slowness with the comments section, don't be alarmed. Comments will get through eventually.

LJ has also moved offices, which means my new corner office is 17 stories lower than it used to be. At least I still have Chip.]

Now back to business.

I have determined that I must be a genius. I used to think it was because of my 154 IQ, but now I think it’s because I’m misunderstood. Since the beginning of time, no library blogger has been more misunderstood than the AL.

How am I misunderstood? For some reason, a lot of people think I don’t like libraries. Obviously these people don’t read very carefully, which is surprising for librarians. It’s probably the librarians who spend more time with Twitter than books.

I love libraries, and have been offering suggestions on how to save them for years. For this, I get attacked.

For example, consider a comment from this week:

For at least a couple of years now you have railed against public libraries. The public agrees with you. They have Amazon and Powell’s and Netflix and a host of other on-line retailers to supply them with the information that formerly only the public library and full-price stores could supply. What do they need libraries for? You were right. You win.

In what alternative universe do I win? (And if I do win something, please send it to me c/o LJ. I’m sure I have their new address around here somewhere.)

This commenter is blaming the messenger, pure and simple.

I have never railed against public libraries, not that the general public reads this blog anyway. What I have pointed out numerous times over the past few years is that public libraries need to persuade the public that they meet serious public needs that can’t be met some other way, and to stop feeding the public fluffy stories about hip librarians and Dance Dance Revolution.

If anything, I’ve been offering solid advice that libraries have been ignoring at their now very apparent peril. Everything I’ve warned about for years is coming true all over the country. If voters and politicians think public libraries are just glorified Blockbusters or a publicly funded option for Netflix, they will not vote to fund them in hard times.

No library was ever founded to be a public entertainment center. Librarians who forget that doom themselves to extinction. They need no help from me.

People can go on all they want about how poor people need DVDs as much as everyone else, but when it comes to it, communities are going to vote to save police or fire or garbage services before DVDs to the poor. How warped must someone’s values be not to realize this?

The poorest billion people in the world don’t have food, but Americans are supposed to care that some of their fellow citizens won’t have a new video to watch or game to play? If we really wanted to help the poor, we’d close most public services and send the money saved to Africa.

Only in the last few months has the ALA gotten serious with their propaganda, though they’re pitching the wrong message for the times. Until then, what did we hear from our august professional association? Or rather, what did the public hear?

Libraries defend porn for children! Libraries protect you from censorship of books that are easily available everywhere in the country! Libraries are cool and hip!

And what have we been hearing from various librarians and pseudo-librarians in the semi-public eye?

Librarians know a lot about Facebook! And Twitter! And videogames! And if they don’t, they’re bad librarians, because this is what libraries are about!

Etc., etc.

Since I’ve started writing this, I’ve been pointing out that none of the librarians supposedly so concerned with the future of libraries understand anything about persuading the public to value and support the library, and without the public support, there is no library. Some nitwit might know a lot about Twitter, but knowing a lot about Twitter isn’t going to convince a group of voters or a mayor or a governor that libraries are important.

When I’ve pointed out that if libraries are all about videogames and Facebook, the general public isn’t going to fund them, people attack me as some clueless reactionary.

Now I’m proved right, and for this I get blamed.

Nice.

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Comments

  1. Beta Fish says:

    Never heard of beta testing.

    No wonder libraries are getting funding cut.

    They and the librarians who work in them are next to useless in the technical world.

  2. thejon says:

    Dear Annoyed Librarian:

    I’ve recently finished ‘library school’ and also recently figured out you ARE a genius, and it’s okay to admit it and I’m not being sarcastic. I entered library school because I consider libraries to be a ‘final frontier’ of media and culture and now after three years of enthusiasm, dedication and sincere hard work learning about ‘library science’, you are correct – the ‘public entertainment’ ideal is weak, and not just due to possible lack of public support.

    Let’s face it – most librarians are conservative and play by the rules of their public and business communities so they can get their allowance. 85% of current librarians should retire because they simply aren’t going to get up tomorrow and be aggressive about strategically cleaning house and spending less, mostly because it just involves more work – and most librarians wouldn’t really appreciate that either.

    Libraries should and could be attractive places where patrons get their entertainment, and some (few) are. As long as librarians follow their status quo and lock themselves into consumerist models, they’ll slowly die and continue to be just a second rate smelly Netflix.

    All the media systems are broken and it is such a shame libraries cannot fill this void, because for so many the library is a place where one can go without literally paying to breathe – if one can stand the stink of dead librarians.

  3. Jon the Baptist says:

    Sorry thejon, most librarians are where they are because they could not get a job any where else.

    They are incompetent.

    They are old.

    They have no ambition.

    If they do have any talent, they will bore you to suicide ramming it home to you.

    Go out and create something that will replace libraries and you will be doing yourself and society a big favor.

  4. Bibliotecher says:

    So does this mean that I’m NOT hip because I don’t DDR?… bummer.

  5. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Hmmm … in our library it’s the over 45 crowd who put in the hours and most of the work. The under 45 have neither spouses nor children, but refuse to take on projects or work overtime. So tell me, thejon, why should older librarians retire or move on?

  6. Rabbi Jon says:

    If you are over 45 and putting in the most hours there is one word for you.

    Schmuck.

  7. rcn says:

    “People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don’t realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world.”
    — Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes)

    RCN in SF Bay Area

  8. thejon says:

    I wanted to clarify how age isn’t the factor/issue here – there are plenty of “librarians” under 45 who are semantic blockage – I met quite a few in library school. And libraries shouldn’t be considered a ‘last resort’ place to work for people who can’t find a job? What? Is it too much to ask to pay people decently for doing a decent amount of work? (insert expletive) I thought librarians were supposed to be (cough) smart….

  9. sdlibrarian says:

    You are so right again, AL, thank you.

    I especially appreciate your comment that libraries were never founded to be public entertainment centers. I work for one of these “libraries of the future” and that’s the only direction they (sadly) know.

  10. someguy says:

    sdlibrarian, where do you work? I want to see what a “library of the future” looks like.

  11. me too says:

    john the bullshitist: Have you actually seen what librarians make for the work they perform? Give me a frigging break! I’ve worked in 6 libraries over 4 states and everyone of them had people working thier asses off. I don’t know where you get your information, but laziness and lack of ambition have never been part of the status quo in any library I’ve had the pleasur of working.

    We deserve combat pay for working with a constant stream of mentally ill people who should be institutionalized and the fu**ers who think we are thier personal servants because they pay taxes.

  12. Phew! You still have Chip! Maybe they could blame Chip?

  13. librarianofthefuture? says:

    I work at one of these “libraries of the future” too…with state of the art architecture and imported shelving…sigh…and it’s now experiencing growing pains and severe budget cuts…I agree with the AL: we must re-prioritize.

    P.S. AL, I thought you were monitoring these…how did whiny foghorn “Jon the whoever” meddle his way through?

  14. Liblarva says:

    AL: I will gladly replace Chip the moment he gets out of line.

  15. Jon the Truther says:

    Yeah.

    We all need to blindly agree with everything the AL says.

    After all, who are we to argue with a genius.

    [AL: Ingenious counterargument! Very well done. ]

  16. Yander says:

    In this case the AL is correct. Kudos.

  17. Rachel Orozco says:

    In response to the following from thejon:

    thejon lacks experience and is not informed. I have worked twenty-seven years in libraries and have not lost my enthusiasm, my ability to be assertive and smart in regards to funding and promotion. I am certainly not lazy nor are the majority of my colleagues.

    thejon entered library school because: “I entered library school because I consider libraries to be a ‘final frontier’ of media and culture” Libraries aren’t about media and culture. They are about people. I hire staff who entered the field because they want to serve people and connect them with the information, entertainment, classes or any of a variety of other needs.

    thejon writes: Let’s face it – most librarians are conservative and play by the rules of their public and business communities so they can get their allowance. 85% of current librarians should retire because they simply aren’t going to get up tomorrow and be aggressive about strategically cleaning house and spending less, mostly because it just involves more work – and most librarians wouldn’t really appreciate that either.

    The above statement is not based in reality or experience. Public librarians have the cleanest houses in the public sector and have always spent less than other city departments. Aggressive is not always the most effective route. Being assertive and having the facts gets you a lot more in a politically and economically turbulent world. Librarians work hard, smart and lean.

    Rachel

    Rachel

  18. thejon says:

    In response to Rachel Rachel and librarianofthefuture?:

    Yes, I lack experience. I’m not informed and lazy. I did not consider the multitudes of excellent librarians out there, but then again my general comments were not meant for either of you or anyone who would have the gall to proclaim their ‘hard, smart and lean’ righteous moniker.

    I was simply trying to elaborate on AL’s post about how libraries are not public entertainment centers and additional factors working against this ideal. I admitted this to be a daft ideal, and admitted my ambitions to be wrong. If my statements are not based in reality or experience, it is because neither of these factors should be shaping the future of our libraries.

    You should be proud of your many years of people pleasing and not being lazy. Good for you. Sorry to bother or “whine my foghorn” but in my opinion librarians need to be more aggressive and less reliant on the safe consensus of their colleagues. You should feel proud about your assertive public service and not worry about attracting new patrons because the only patrons you’ll ever have are those with no other option.

    You’re right, you are the authority, and you are in control. If libraries are not about new media and new culture, I will surely go to connect with people there and check out what the librarians have decided to impart on me with their holy collection development abilities.

    Right. Blaming the messenger again. It’s okay – I also have a hard time realizing my expertise has no place with the public at large. You should also realize this.

    Entertainment (35%) is second only to education (41%) in terms of what patrons most used in their public libraries, so public libraries are somewhat (really) about media and culture and not about seeking out librarian wisdom. Too bad this is such a generational thing…

    (percentages from ALA’s “2010 State of America’s Libraries” report)

  19. Ariel Yang says:

    I think people are turned off by you because you think very highly of yourself. Tone down the self-love and get to the point. It’s hard finding your point in your article because you are not pithy. I say so because when you do get to the point it’s usually a good one. Don’t try so hard to turn people off – there’s nothing rebelious or bad ass about it.

  20. Mr. Kat says:

    jon, I’ve been there adn done that. And then I got a real job because I discovered the world of librarianism is far smlaler and far less funded than many like to say it is. And absolutley stagnant when it comes to the operational technology that is the catalogs.

    My best example is the catalog. Amazon is now the base ideal of what a GOOD book catalog looks like in the 21st centruy – and yet many catalogs still resemble the ancient 1960′s database digital printouts that have only kind of been replaced. Amazon has the traditioanl book information and then goes further; it has book previews, reader reviews, and allows the user to buy the book on demand if the so choose to do so.

    Librarians like to say that there is simply not enough room in the world to store all the data that would be needed to have a catalog with as much information as there in the Amazon catalog, and YET the Amazons of the world have done it – we now live in a Terabyte universe.

    Librarians also like to say that the word sof the general layperosn cannot be trusted, not ever, and thus the book reveiws are not worth a second look. But this field is abot serving the patrons – and the best way the patrons get what they need is by their own interaction!

    To change would require work, and funding and lots of people to focus on this project. Not going to happen. To plug into the Amazon engine [basically, approach Amazon and collaborate an interface that combines Amazon's pages with standard traditional item location information] would require working with and evil capitalistic monolith corporation [oooooh sooo scary!] and yet librarians see nothing wrong with sending away a huge chunk of change to the jounral publishers for e-access…that increases in cost at about 8% per year last I looked…

    But that’s just one thing…I’ve found a good job now, and I use the library like everybody else now too – it’s my personal public internet connection and nothing more!

  21. thejon says:

    Amen to your post, Mr. Kat. This is what I needed to hear. Thank you!