Annoyed Librarian
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A Little Library Farce in the Golden State

I missed this one until a Kind Reader sent it in. I knew a few months ago that the governor of California had nominated an unqualified person to be the state librarian of California. Now it’s looking like the guy will be approved. A panel of five state senators has voted unanimously to send the nomination to the full senate. The story would make a potentially good movie, or at least a movie of the week. Supposedly the law requires the state librarian to be a “technically trained librarian,” which makes some sense. Being in charge of the state library might also require some experience in managing large organizations. So who better to be the state librarian than a reporter and blogger with no training as a librarian but great political connections? It would be bad enough just if the nomination was made. Handing out political largess to friends is how politics is always done. There’s nothing respectable about it, but there’s also nothing surprising. Rewarding yourself and ...
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Views from the Right

Tired of websites offering me too many stories that would change my life for the better or restore my faith in humanity if only I’d click to see what they were, I decided to head over to places that never offer to change your life for the better. First stop, the Weekly Standard, which foolishly offers an opinion about the “bookless library” I wrote about last week. No, that sentence was wrong. It offered a foolish opinion. The Weekly Standard criticizes the library, such as it is, but misses the point. The criticism is that polls show millennials don’t prefer ereaders and that a scientific study showed that people who read on paper are more likely to retain information than people who read the same information on a screen. Or possibly. Here’s the relevant quote from an article in Scientific American: such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading ...
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Bold Librarians Making Hard Choices

There sure are a lot of busybodies in the world, and some of them just aren’t content to let libraries be libraries. The thing the busybodies really can’t stand is seeing books thrown away at libraries, because every book is a precious item as long as you don’t have to keep it in your own home. I’ve written about the weeding busybodies. They pass a dumpster full of old library books and their first thought isn’t to mind their own business or assume there’s a good reason for a library to be throwing away books. No, it’s to believe that the barbarians have stormed the gates and civilization is nearing the end. However, it turns out that even if the books aren’t old library books, busybodies will complain. In Hawaii, a viewer “called to tell KHON2 hundreds of donated books are tossed out weekly at Kaimuki public library and asked us to find out why.” Because it would have been entirely too much trouble to just walk into the library and ask someone. Being the good ...
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Yet Another Bookless Library

Every few months it seems someone gets excited about a “bookless” library, usually the people who work in them. Me, I don’t see what the big deal is. The latest story about one comes from the esteemed Library Journal, where we find out that the brand new Florida Polytechnic University has a library with no physical books. Their professors also don't have tenure, but that's becoming so common it's hardly worth noting anymore. Go ahead, take a look at the photo of that library interior. The library has all the charm of a display office set up at Ikea. In fact, it was that picture that made me realize why I’d never want to work in a bookless library. It’s not that I’m especially wedded to the idea of reading books made of paper. To claim that those are the only “real” books is a form of superstition. Codex, computer, tablet, phone, I don’t really care about the mode of delivery as long as the content's good. And it’s not just that I think ebooks are questionable ...
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Who’s Saving Whom?

On an unrelated note, at least to the subject of this post, if you want to see what a real “book ban” looked like, check out this short historical news article from the New York Times: 1939: Fascist Italy Issues Book Ban. “Booksellers and librarians received the list, which included books that have been seized and destroyed and others of which the sale has been forbidden.” Now that’s a book ban! If the U.S. had a fascist government banning books I’d be a lot more impressed by the bold librarians fighting for banned books. But on to the main topic, how libraries are going to be saved yet again. The headline of the article lets us know who’s going to be the cavalry this time: Can 3D Printers Save Libraries? I was tempted to invoke Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, and answer “no.” Then I thought to myself, wait a minute, do libraries even need to be saved? The only types of libraries that seem to be in any systematic trouble are school libraries, and they don’t ...
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A Weekly Roundup

This has been a busy week, and there are a lot of things I wanted to write about, so this is a bit of a blogging roundup. First, I was contacted by someone who’s been working against the idea that seed libraries are forms of agroterrorism. He saw last week’s post and wanted people to know that they could help fight the PA department of agriculture among others. Here’s a bit from the email: We're glad you wrote about the crackdown on the Simpson Seed Library.  We thought regulators over-reached, so Shareable teamed up with the lawyers at the Sustainable Economies Law Center Center to find out: http://www.shareable.net/blog/setting-the-record-straight-on-the-legality-of-seed-libraries Turns out, they likely did over-reach and there's also an easy work around that this and other Pennsylvania seed libraries can use to operate within the law as a peer to peer seed exchanges. Normally I don’t participate in advocacy like this, but it seemed relevant to the post, and I ...
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