Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Librarians Not Required

According to the BBC, American libraries are seeking a “21st century model,” and if BBC News reports it, it must be true. The 21st century model of an American library seems to be one that does everything except be a library, although most of them still do that, for now at least. The article mentions all sorts of initiatives. Children can video conference with their imprisoned parents from the library, and a library runs literacy classes in prisons, and in another library “high school students are taking courses in digital media.” OCLC is trying to connect librarians and Wikipedia editors, because it’s “ time librarians went beyond their ‘four walls.” By that statement, you’d think that librarians haven’t discovered the Internet yet. Only it turns out that librarians have discovered the Internet. The problem is that the “general public has latched on to a very backward facing perception of the library as a building full of dusty books.” We know that’s true, because every ...
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Bringing Back the Books

My favorite library story this week is this one by a library director bringing printed books back to a high school library that had gotten rid of them all in favor of Kindle books seven years ago. In 2009, the head of school at Cushing Academy announced that the school’s library would remove all its printed materials and become an all-digital library ‘for the 21st century.’ In 2014, I was hired (under new leadership) and asked to rebalance the library’s offerings and restore print resources. I’m not going to comment on the article so much as on the bizarre mindset behind the original decision. From the article, it seems that the original decision to get rid of all the printed books made a lot of people unhappy and uncomfortable. Who would expect otherwise? But it’s just one example of a frequent occurrence in organizations: pushing change most people don’t want using terrible rationales to do it. The idea to build a library “for the 21st century” is a great example of that. ...
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No Conspiracies Necessary

By now you may have read about the librarian in Kansas City who was arrested for interfering with the arrest of someone who was asking a question at a lecture in the public library last May. There are some regular news stories out there, but you can get the gist from these two opinion articles. The bare facts are that someone known to the off duty police acting as security guards to be a potential protester asked a question of the speaker, and before he could ask a second question the guards grabbed him, which he then resisted, so they arrested him. When a librarian tried to intervene, a guard grabbed his arm, decided the arm was “tense” and thus he was resisting being grabbed. Soon after a guard kicked him in the leg, knocking him down, and arrested both the librarian and the person asking the question. If they don’t enter a plea deal admitting they’re guilt, they’ll both be prosecuted. I realize I’ve slightly editorialized the bare facts with “known to be a potential ...
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Evaluating the Offending Cutouts

Libraries are supposed to places where ideas clash, or maybe they’re where personalities clash. In Longview, TX, it’s where high school librarians get suspended for putting up cardboard cutouts of Clinton and Trump. The life-size cutouts, which were posted at the entrance to the school library..., included speech bubbles that played on things the presidential candidates have said on the campaign trail. Trump's read: "Sign in or you will be deported." Clinton's said: "This is the only door to use. Only deplorables use the other door." It seems that some people were offended by the cutouts and complained until the librarian wasn’t just reprimanded, but suspended, although how anyone could be offended by political jokes during this temperate election season, I’ll never know. The three important questions here are: are the cutouts that bad? Should the cutouts be protected speech? And should the librarian be punished for putting them up? The Trump sign seemed the most ...
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The Library Crime Wave in Austin

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and that seems to include crime in public libraries. A man assaulted an 8-year-old girl in an Austin, TX restroom stall and “told officers if it would've been more than five minutes he would've raped her.” Fortunately, he didn’t have that much time thanks to library staff and patrons. 2,646 violations across the system this year, and that’s after the increase in security when crime spiked 31% a few years ago. “Despite advances in security,” the article ominously proclaims, “crime still occurs.” Seems like you put yourself in harm’s way in Austin libraries. Why isn’t everyone shooting up the place when crimes happen? Isn’t that what they do in Texas? Presumably while the saloon-style doors required for every public location in Texas are still aswinging? About half of those violations are theft, disturbing others, and harassment. “Disturbing others” is kind of vague, but theft and harassment are pretty bad. “Crimes sexual in nature are ...
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Some Real Book Banning

If you want a depressing reminder that some prisons do their best to make sure prison life is miserable all the time, check out this story about the books banned in Texas prisons. The opening sort of says it all: "Adolf Hitler’s 'Mein Kampf' is allowed, but an illustrated history of World War II isn’t. A 700-page defense of racial segregation is fine, but not Langston Hughes’s poetry." It’s the kind of description that makes one ask, oh, Texas, will you never change? Fortunately, though, the system by which books are approved or banned is pretty sophisticated. A “mailroom officer checks the book against a ‘master list’ of publications that are permitted. If  the book is on the list, the prisoner can have it. If not, the mailroom officer reviews it for ‘objectionable’ content.” Okay, I was kidding. Presumably one doesn’t need much education or any understanding of books or literature to become a mailroom officer, which is probably part of the problem, especially when they have ...
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