Annoyed Librarian
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Terrifying Archives

If you followed the news last week you would have discovered that the British Library refused to accept an archive of the Taliban, despite some of its employees being on the advisory board that helped create it. It sounds like quite an archive, too. A group of international researchers spent years putting together a trove of documents related to the Afghan Taliban, including official newspapers from their time in power, poems, maps, radio broadcasts, and several volumes of laws and edicts -- digitising the estimated two-three million words and translating everything into English. Imagine how much people would be able to learn about the Taliban if that information was available to the public. Even if not, it “was hoped the project...would prove an unprecedented resource for academics and officials trying to understand the movement and the ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan.” If officials understood much about Afghanistan they might not have supported an invasion. Napoleon and ...
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No Librabots Here

When I first read the long critique of Amazon’s work culture in the New York Times, I didn’t think anything about libraries. The book connection seemed tenuous and everything else is irrelevant. Then I noticed a couple of different library-related publications writing about it. I didn’t read what they said because I don’t like to spoil my own point of view by learning what other people think, but they definitely had something to do with libraries, so I took another look at the article. If you’re the sort of person who wants to give up every last shred of human dignity in order to make sure your company makes a lot of money and people get their consumer goods 37 minutes faster than they otherwise would, then Amazon looks like a great place to work. Eighty hour work weeks, people crying at their desks, the ill or injured being left behind to die. Sounds lovely. “Purposeful Darwinism” is the label given by “a former top Amazon human resources executive.” You certainly couldn’t ...
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A Summer Roundup

Unfortunately the summer is winding down. No more long lazy days sitting on the beach reading utterly forgettable novels. More long days watching students get back to work. Back to committee meetings and the grind. Unless you’re a school librarian in Paterson, New Jersey, where they’re joining cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago in firing school librarians. They’ll make up for it by assigning teachers to work in the libraries, which I guess means they’ll do less teaching. Maybe they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. Not all librarians are impressed with the plan. “That’s just a farce…. The teachers aren’t going to do research with the kids, or promote literacy, or order new books when they are needed.” Somehow I don’t think the school administrators will see that as a problem. Fire librarians, save money! Teachers don’t buy books for the library? Save more money! This is really a win, win scenario for everyone except the students who won’t have access to libraries or books. ...
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Take That, Censorship

The Guardian, which can’t fact check well enough not to refer to the ALA as the Association of American Libraries, has an article asking “are Americans falling in love with censorship?” Following Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, which is the perfect rule for the clickbait era, we can confidently answer “no.” The U.K., on the other hand...but we’ll get to that. First of all, none of the questions from the Harris Poll on which the article is based are talking about censorship at all, despite the lurid URL. One is whether there are books that children shouldn’t be able to get from school libraries, which despite all the wild eyed, spittle flecked hoopla from the ALA has nothing to do with censorship. The books are widely available. No one is stopping them from being published. If you’re calling that censorship it’s just so you can feel like a bold moral crusader in a society that couldn’t care less about what you’re fighting against. Go ahead and feel good about yourself for ...
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Get Rid of the Internet Access

When looking at various letters the editor regarding libraries I ran across this one from the Washington Post asking “Do libraries still need to provide Internet access?” Keeping in mind that people who write letters to editors are generally cranks and busybodies, it still might be a question worth considering, if nothing else because providing Internet access has become the go to raison d’etre for public libraries. I can’t count how many articles I’ve read since the beginning of the great recession in which the main argument for funding public libraries is so that poor people will have access to the Internet so they can apply for jobs. From what we hear about that, public library computers are filled with a constant stream of poor people with librarians helping them fill out job applications. That neither public libraries nor librarians are needed for this particular role doesn’t make a difference. Then we hear from cranks and busybodies who actually use the public ...
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Letters to Editors

One might think that the Letter to the Editor genre would be dying. After all, unless they were by famous people writing for outlets like the New York Times or the Washington Post, nobody ever read letters to the editor anyway, probably not even the editor. Now that’s even more true. Letters to the editor are just ways for people without Facebook friends or Twitter followers to vent their spleen in public, with the added bonus that nobody has to ponder whether to unfriend or unfollow such people. Letters to editors about libraries are almost always positive. These days a common topic seems to be how important school librarians and libraries are. Most of those seem written after the librarians have been fired and the libraries closed, so that’s really support people could have used earlier, but it’s the sentiment that counts. And then there are the hostile ones, usually opposed to some improvement in libraries because improvements cost money and libraries are obsolete ...
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