Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

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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Libraries and Public Problems

Has there ever been a bigger example of library mission creep than the handful of libraries around the country that are now learning to administer Narcan? The latest example is in New Orleans, where librarians aren’t dashing out into the park to save overdose victims as in Philadelphia, but they’re getting ready to. It’s not so much trying to save people as some of the rationales for this being a library issue. For example, one librarian says that "as a community we all need to come together and work towards helping with this sort of thing.” Is there anything in a community that this couldn’t be said about? Should librarians be armed with rifles and shotguns so they can stop crime if they see it? There are probably plenty of robberies and assaults in New Orleans, and librarians should be there to help. Another librarian provides a related rationale: "Because we work with the public and this is a public health crisis.” That one opens up all sorts of possibilities. In ...
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Nonexistent Wars for the Library’s Future

If there was a contest for the most confused article about libraries the competition would be stiff, but this article might be a strong contender. According to the headline, it’s about a “culture war being fought over tomorrow’s libraries.” “Tomorrow’s libraries” are apparently limited to the Schwarzman Building in New York, the Seattle Public Library’s main building, and that new library in China that has pictures of books on the wall instead of actual books. The inclusion of the Chinese library is something of a puzzle since public libraries there have a shorter and different history than public libraries in the U.S. That, and almost no Americans will ever visit it. According to the article, “as public knowledge–as gained by accessing information in books–became an important yardstick for a democratic society, public libraries flourished in the 19th century.” Not so much in China. Supposedly, the Chinese library is an example of libraries “evolving with the digital ...
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