Annoyed Librarian
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Reviewing the Apocalypses

The end of 2017 is nigh, which means it’s a good time to review the year to see if the terrible things people predicted actually came true. The two worst predictions I’ve seen this year are variations on the Robotpocalypse and, worst of all, the Trumpocalypse. The first was going to take all our librarian jobs and make them obsolete, and the second was going to turn the country into a barren wasteland where life wasn’t worth living, at least that’s the message you’d get if you run in librarian circles, which are the most categorized and organized circles it’s possible to run in. The Robotpocalypse wasn’t always presented as such. It comes in various guises. Librarians will be replaced by machines, and is already happening with some circulation staff. Self checkout machines would probably be popular everywhere if only libraries implemented them. But then where would the circulation staff work? Or librarians will become obsolete because the internet provides information ...
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Radical Students Want to Ban Books

I hope all of you who celebrated Christmas had a merry one, and that the rest of you had an enjoyable day off. College students are often  excitable, enthusiastic, engaged, idealistic, and hopelessly naive, which is what makes them so great and occasionally so annoying. People in or barely out of their teens, with relatively little education or experience of the world, believe that reading a few websites or books gives them the authority to teach everyone else how the world really works. It’s cute until it’s not. Take a look at this article about a new radical student group at GWU, the “Internationalist Students’ Front.” That name alone is soooo 1930s, and in the late 1930s would have probably attracted the sort of students who were anti-war right up until Hitler broke the Nazi-Soviet pact. The group, according to the article, “aims to oppose nationalism across the world and contest popular narratives about U.S. foreign policy.” Opposing nationalism across the world ...
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Complement, Not Compete

One of the latest sallies from the other AL is a listicle about how libraries are still better than the internet. It’s an interesting and sometimes questionable list that might better be called “how libraries are better than the internet if the internet was something other than a neutral platform for information sharing.” For example, “Libraries are safer spaces.” The idea is that they’re safer spaces to exchange ideas with strangers without the danger of them starting to call you a Nazi or a beta cuck. Libraries do restrict the number and geographical distribution of people you can learn from. However, the internet is a safe space if you just don’t interact with strangers at all, which you really shouldn’t be doing. “Libraries respect history,” we’re told, because they have more stable collections, no link rot, etc. This one seems a little disingenuous. Libraries are funded entities staffed by actual humans trained to build library collections in various formats. The ...
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Genealogists Attack the AL…Poorly

It's always fun when a post makes it out into the world, gets picked up by the obsessives of a subculture, and the comments and inbox start filling up with people who are ready to set me straight on whatever it was I didn't write. These people apparently patrol the internet looking for things to be angry about because they have nothing better to do with their lives. In my last post, I defended a library’s policy against irrational attacks by two genealogists. I say that because one genealogist commenter claimed “I am not clear as to the point of this article other than to lump all genealogists into a group and criticize them.” That’s the point. I thought it was pretty clear. Although I will today, I wasn't even talking about genealogy as such or genealogists as a group. Couldn't care less about them, but if they want an opinion, I'll manufacture one. Again from her: “The criticisms are harsh and seemingly based on one or two examples.” Indeed, the criticism was OF one or two ...
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Genealogists Attack the Library…Poorly

This article’s been sitting in my consideration pile a few weeks as I’ve wondered what to do with it. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum - a nonlending library it should be noted - has decided to stop lending material via ILL after a rare book went missing when the library that borrowed it lost it. That’s why we can’t have nice things. The archivists present this as a long needed correction to its policies and necessary to preservation, and I don’t see how any reasonable person could be upset about the policy change. However, genealogists aren’t always reasonable people. In fact, they’re sometimes quite obsessive. This blog post is a good example, in which a genealogist tries to answer the question of “why do genealogy?”: My usual response “Well, why not do genealogy?” gets a few laughs, but really doesn’t stress the importance of why I and millions of others are obsessed with tracing their ancestry and heritage. Do you ever get so wrapped up in the ...
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Libraries Without Librarians

When libraries turn up in the press the reports aren’t always confused. Sometimes they get libraries just right, like this opinion article about libraries being “for the homeless, the drifters and the snorers,” people like the author, who does his self-indulgent best to sing the praises of the public library. In this case it’s the British Library, so it’s not a typical public library, but it’s still public. It’s a place where anyone is comfortable to sleep and even snore, which means the British Library isn’t one that has tried to combat the homeless using it as a shelter by creating rules against both sleeping and snoring. It provides a good demonstration of male creepiness in libraries as well. For example, whether the author would wake up a snorer “all depends on how cute they are. That is, if he or she – OK, let’s not be silly here – she were cute, then I would gently wake her up and humorously suggest we go for a coffee to remedy the situation.” That’s the sort of ...
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