Libraries Will Survive is the most depressing video I have ever seen, and in so many ways.
In case you don’t want to torture yourself watching it, I’ve fallen on that grenade for you. In the “long version,” we see a busy librarian (or library worker of some sort) running around the library helping out various freaks as best she can, even though budget cuts have eliminated many of the computers and equipment she needs to do her job. The freaks, with their serious “information needs,” are unable to play great video games or watch Star Trek. It’s all very sad for them. The narrative portion segues into a montage of librarians “dancing” to the tune “I Will Survive,” while singing alternate lyrics about how libraries have missions to uphold and how pretty manga displays are.
And why is this depressing? Some people might be depressed by the consequences of slashed library budgets, but since everyone in the video seems cheerful enough over the fact, I won’t let budgets get me down.
No, it’s more depressing because of all the things it says about our so-called profession.
First, we’re not a profession to be taken seriously. This is the implication of every silly video librarians produce, and this one only reinforces it. I’m aware of no other profession – from lawyer to social worker – where so many members are so professionally frivolous in public.
This might be why we’re not a profession that fights for ourselves effectively. Budgets cut? Given an abacus instead of a computer? Printers don’t work properly? Working conditions bad? Can’t afford decent clothes or gym memberships? No problem! We’ll survive! Please tread on us!
The video also implies that only freaks use the library. Freaks who walk around in Snuggies. Freaks who desperately need their Star Trek fix. Freaks who renew 1995 video guides year after year. If this is who uses the library the most, that would explain why budgets are cut.
It also shows that we’re confused as a profession. There’s a line about libraries having a mission, but it’s not at all clear from the video what that mission is, unless it’s being a doormat to every crazy that walks in the door. That might indeed be a mission, but it’s not one that I want associated with the profession.
Oh, I know, all you bright-sided librarians out there are thinking, but where’s her sense of humor? This video is FUN!
I have a sense of humor, but nothing about this or any of the other librarian videos is funny in any intentional way. Whether they’re writing and performing bad, self-indulgent pop songs or dancing to Lady Gaga, the whole idea behind them is annoying. The librarians involved in all these videos probably think they’re throwing off the stereotype of the shushing librarian, but at best they just create another stereotype that’s no more flattering..
The inimitable Rebecca West once wrote: “ I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.” Whenever I see librarians being cheery rather than indignant under exploitative conditions I think of that quote. To me, anything expressing the sentiment this video seems to reminds me of the overeager compliance often found in victims of child abuse. I find that sad and depressing rather than funny.
Instead of videos showing how silly librarians can be, why not make some videos showing how truly helpful they can be? And I don’t mean helping people get a videogame or an episode of Star Trek, but helpful for more serious purposes. Don’t any normal people use libraries? Doesn’t anyone who’s not either crazy or poor ever use them? Why don’t we get that video?
Are librarians all so desperate for affection? So compliant about budget cuts and poor working conditions? Aren’t there librarians out there who stand up for themselves? Why aren’t they making videos?
I wish librarians would declare a moratorium on making any more cutesy videos of themselves, so that the public wouldn’t have the impression that all librarians are like this. And anyone who liked the video should keep one more thing in mind. That woman who sang, “I will survive, I will survive” – whatever happened to her?