Annoyed Librarian
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The Political Powerlessness of Libraries

A Canadian librarian published an essay a couple of weeks ago about the “surprising political power of libraries.” Not sure I’m convinced. The opening anecdote is a pretty good example of something, but perhaps not the political power of libraries. A practicum student noticed something funny. “Did you know that our Health display is all diet books? All of them!” I’ve been working here for two months, but I didn’t know that. That leads to the conclusion that, “Without intending to, simply by grabbing the most accessible books in the relevant sections, we have created the impression that health is synonymous with fad diets.” That seems like a sensible conclusion, but what should one take away from that? Perhaps many things. First, for a lot of people, health is about fad diets. There’s no secret to good, or at least decent, health. Eat, drink, and exercise moderately, and don’t smoke. That’s pretty much it. You’ll probably be okay until you die anyway because everybody dies in ...
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Fire Librarians for Recommending Books, says State Senator

It’s a bit disconcerting to watch people react negatively to YA literature who seem to know nothing about teenagers. The Virginia state senator in this article seems to be one of those people. Earlier there was some brouhaha about summer reading lists for middle and high school students in Chesterfield County, VA. Some parents complained that “some books on the lists ‘pornographic’ and filled with ‘vile, vile, nasty language.’” The first charge is likely nonsense. While “pornography” etymologically means writing about sexual intercourse, not all writing about sex is porn. Since sex is a part of life, and literature is about life, some literature writes about sex. One has to be rather benighted to not understand the difference between literature and porn or to believe that teenagers know nothing about sex. As to the second complaint, that seems likely. On the other hand, anyone who thinks teenagers don’t hear that kind of language all the time in school and life has never been ...
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More Trouble in the Sunflower State

I think I’ve figured out what’s going on in Kansas, and why the journalists at the Kansas City Star got so excited about Spacemakers taking over the school libraries. They’re in denial. Or at least they are if they’re like the journalists at the Wichita Eagle who published this story about Wichita school librarians. The headline, at least at the time I’m writing this, says, “School librarians: It’s about more than just books.” That seems to have been a replacement headline. The first clue is the pronoun number disagreement. We have the plural “librarians,” but the singular “it’s.” A grammatically proper headline would have been, “School librarians: they’re about more than just books.” Another indication is that the headline is different from the page title, visible by viewing the page source or possibly in the tab at the top of your browser: “<title>More Wichita schools replacing librarians with noncertified staff.” The reason I speculate that the journalists are ...
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The Uncontroversial Librarian of Congress Controversy

The Washington Post seems to be in a tizzy about the Librarian of Congress vote, or lack thereof, dedicating both an article and an editorial to the matter on the same day a couple of days ago. I'm sure it was that editorial that got the Senate to vote yesterday on Hayden's appointment. Unsurprisingly, the editorial board wanted the Senate to hold a vote so that “Senators could debate in a substantive way” about her qualifications. When I read the phrase “Senators could debate in a substantive way” I almost spit my tea from laughing so hard. I know Washingtonians have a reputation of living in a different world than the rest of the country, but surely that world should know something about Washington politics. Except apparently not. It really is touching that some journalists and editors seem to believe that it’s possible for Senators to debate anything in a substantive way. They probably don’t really believe that, because how naive can you be, but just being willing to ...
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Spacemakers Invade Kansas Schools

As if Kansas didn’t have enough problems with its public school system - from barely being able to pass a budget to keep schools open to slipping in national rankings on math and reading to having hordes of anti-government nuts trying to their public schools - there’s now a new danger: the Spacemakers have arrived and they’re trying to get rid of school libraries by turning them into “makerspaces.” Instead of librarians, or even people remotely interested in reading and literacy, some schools are hiring “innovation specialists.” When that “innovation” turns out to be a wrong turn in a few years, those with the title “innovation specialist” will probably feel a little sheepish. They should feel embarrassed anyway with a goofy title like that. An “assistant superintendent of leadership and learning” loves the idea, because since the students all have computers they don’t need libraries. Because apparently leadership and learning don’t require books and literacy, plus everything’s ...
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Libraries Reinvent Themselves in Very Different Ways

There were recent profiles of public libraries in New York City and San Francisco that provide an interesting contrast. Depending on which source you believe, San Francisco is either the 1st, 1st, or 7th most expensive city in the United States and New York is the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Regardless, they’re both pretty expensive places to live by American standards. So what do we see in their libraries? The profile of NYC libraries would allow one to play library journalism bingo with a high chance of winning. Libraries are reinventing themselves. They’re not just repositories of old books, regardless of the many millions of books the libraries must collectively own. They’re becoming “one-stop community centers” for everyone. They’re all about technology, except when they’re about story times. There’s something for everyone supposedly, except maybe for the people signed up for the coding classes, which have “waiting lists in the thousands.” But the people who can’t get into the ...
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