Annoyed Librarian
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Don’t Steal from the Library

If you want a nice uplifting story about libraries, check out this one about a 48-year-old man who finally graduated from high school thanks to the public library. Lifelong learning, that’s at least part of what it’s about. And then there’s one that pitched as uplifting, and it did have a happy ending, but I’m wary of thinking of it as too happy. The headline: “Thieves unwittingly do Richmond library a favor.” That’s Richmond, Maine, population 3,411. The librarian let in a couple of young men who were standing in the cold. She thought they might be waiting for a ride, so she invited them in through the normally locked door so they could wait in the warm library. They repaid her generosity by stealing a donation canister from the circulation desk and running away. The canister could have had more than $100 in it. So far, so bad. Then someone created a GoFundMe campaign to replace the stolen money, and within two days $885 had been donated. So far, so good. My only issue ...
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Porn in Wisconsin

Some people just don’t get that there’s a difference between what you do in the privacy of your own home and what you do in public are held to different standards. If I want to spend my day sitting around naked watching Netflix at home, it’s nobody’s business. If I do the same thing at Starbucks, it’s pretty much everybody’s business. But at least one person in Wisconsin didn’t learn that important message until now, when he found he “didn't have a constitutional right to view pornography on a university library computer,” according to a state appeals court. Maybe he hasn’t learned the lesson, but he should. A little over a year ago he was in the library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire watching porn on one of the computers. It doesn’t say for sure, but based on the story clues he probably wasn’t even a student. He just came in for the porn, which is the kind of thing most people realize is creepy. Some students complained, the police were called, and the man ...
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Privacy in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has been an exciting place for politics the last few years if you’ve followed the exploits of Scott Walker any. Now there’s a little library action to liven things up on that front. The state Senate's Elections and Local Government unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would create exceptions to privacy laws protecting library users' identities so libraries could report delinquent borrowers to collection agencies and police. Now if the Senate votes for it, it’s law. That should make some librarians in Wisconsin pretty angry, at least the ones that go along with the ALA’s views on privacy. A lobbyist for the Wisconsin Library Association seems okay with it, since he “said the bill would help establish uniform procedures for recovering overdue materials.” According to the ALA, personal information about individuals’ library use should be kept confidential unless requested by a court order. That also seems to be current Wisconsin law, according to the article, but ...
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Unenforceable Fees

If you want some librarian inspiration, albeit in the midst of tragedy, you could do worse than this encomium to his brother, a librarian murdered in the attack on Bacha Khan University in Pakistan: “He said that his brother has sacrificed his life to tell the terrorists that no one can stop our children from taking education.” Let’s hope the rest of us never have to make that sacrifice. If you want to be less inspired by what libraries are doing for the community, you might take a look at Park Ridge, IL, where the library is going to start charging fees for some people to sit at its tables. “For-profit tutors and groups of two or more people conducting business at the Park Ridge Public Library will need to open their wallets beginning in March.” We’ve encountered Park Ridge before, with its rude and condescending library board member, and others whining about the mere existence of tutors in the library. I guess the whiners have won. Or at least they’ve won on paper, ...
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Slavery is a Tricky Subject

The book brouhaha for the week seems to be about Scholastic stopping distribution of a picture book called A Cake for George Washington. It’s about Washington’s slave cook cheerfully making a perfect birthday cake for his master. How could anyone possibly criticize that? However, some people have complained that the book shows the enslaved cook and his enslaved daughter to be happy and smiling, which slaves should never be seen as. The other AL mentioned that the book had been pulled by Scholastic, but where is the condemnation from the Office of Intellectual Freedom? I haven’t seen that statement. Why aren’t they decrying this “censorship”!? The racially diverse creative team involved defended the book, including one of the editors, “Andrea Davis Pinkney, who is black and a winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.” The author, “who is of Iranian-Trinidadian descent, wrote her own defense in a post for the Children's Book Council.” Basically, the defense is that some ...
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The Age of Wikipedia

Last week I criticized another gloom and doom article. The premise of the article was that librarians were doomed because reference librarians weren’t being asked questions anymore and couldn’t figure out what to do with themselves. Or something like that. Last week also saw the 15th anniversary of Wikipedia. There might be some connection between those two things. Fifteen years of Wikipedia and a bit over seventeen years of Google. When it comes to finding and accessing basic information about the world, things are much rosier than they were at the turn of the century, unless you’re a librarian who built a career on answering ready reference questions or a member of the public who thinks libraries exist only to answer such questions. Hence the gloom and doom. Displaced librarians lovingly fondling the last print edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the 15th edition from 2010, and wishing someone would ask them to look up a fact. Tech journalists who haven’t set foot in a ...
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