Annoyed Librarian
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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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Librarians are Doomed Again

The Internet loves articles about how libraries are doomed now that the Internet is around. We’re now well into the second decade of such articles, and I’m surprised there are any libraries left to be doomed. Usually those articles come from people who know absolutely nothing about libraries and haven’t set foot in a public library decades. Every once in awhile, though, a librarian will chime in. The latest is from the Wall Street Journal, which for some reason doesn’t surprise me. Even if you ignore the stupid headline about librarians being “shelved,” which is clearly the work of a bored editor rather than the author, there are still some problems. The first problem is the rosy version of the past that is somehow taken for truth. For example, the belief that in the past, “Those of us who attended library schools underwent rigorous preparation.” Rigorous preparation? I guess he went to a different library school than me and every other librarian I’ve ever talked to. The ...
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Debating the ESSA

Greetings from lovely Boston, the birthplace of democracy. Or was that Philadelphia? Or maybe Athens? Anyway, it’s where ALA Midwinter is, and once again we all get cheap hotel rates because the ALA is always off season. I can’t wait for Orlando in late June, because I love to wilt in the oppressive heat. One of my predictions for libraries in 2016 is that many more school librarians would be fired. It’s becoming something of a national disgrace that the kid who probably need libraries the most get them the least. That’s what they get for being poor in America, though, I guess. Donald Trump would say they should have chosen better parents and not be such losers. An erstwhile reader disagreed with my claim that school librarians are going the way of the dodo. She replied referencing a School Library Journal article: President Obama has signed S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, the latest rewrite of the long-standing Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA). It’s ...
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Editorial Shenanigans at the Other AL

It’s not often a magazine as bland and insubstantial as American Libraries causes a stink, but it sure did this week. It published an article about digital humanities, and the authors aren’t at all pleased about it because the editors of the other AL decided to spice up their report with some quotes from a vendor. Ooops. According to the offended authors, “The edits in question were not harmless. They were quotes added to the body of the article from a representative from Gale/Cengage about steps they are taking to develop commercial products which they believe will be useful for digital humanists.” They say “edits” plural, and the quotes are from someone from Gale/Cengage. Since there are only two quotes from such a person, I assume they were both added by the editors, but anyone in the know can correct me in the comments. Looking at the quotes in context will tell you something about the quality of the editing. Number 1: This uncertainty is illustrated by the responses to a ...
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Predictions for 2016

Happy New Year, everyone. It’s nice to be back in action after my holiday doing whatever it is I do on holidays. Last year, I made a few predictions about 2015. How did I fare? Prediction #1: The vast majority of public libraries won’t close, which is the opposite of what people have been predicting since 2008. Nailed that one, but it was a pretty easy one. Prediction #2: There will be a lot less hype about libraries from librarians than in past years. I think I got this one, too. In fact, some of the more excitable librarians of a decade ago are definitely realizing they were a bit too enthusiastic. I won’t mention them by name just to be nice. And the newer librarians these days are too busy struggling to find jobs to fill the world with hype. Prediction #3: Libraries will do just fine in 2015. I should have said “public libraries,” although we know that because of Public Library Privilege just saying “libraries” means the same thing. Regardless, public school ...
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2015 in Review

It’s that time of year when every publication outlet is required by law to look at the big stories that supposedly defined the year, so I’m going to remark on the biggest stories of the year right here on the AL, or at least the ones that annoyed me the most. In January, there was the library in Massachusetts that had $14,000 worth of videogames stolen from it. That one still boggles my mind when I think about it. Libraries could possibly hand out free videogames and still not spend that much per year on them. My highlight from February was the weird article claiming that homeless people were necessary for the survival of public libraries, when everybody knows that homeless people aren’t necessary for the survival of anything. That’s why if we can manage to give them all homes, we’re not going to suffer some drastic social catastrophe, except the catastrophe of suddenly becoming a society that cares about the homeless. March brought the second story of the year about young ...
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