Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Statistics and Obsolescence

I always enjoy it when I find silly writing about libraries from other countries because it shows that Americans aren’t as uniquely ridiculous as they sometimes seem to be. For example, this British librarian, or former librarian, writes in the Telegraph that libraries are obsolete so we shouldn’t mourn their closure, which is apparently a much more common event in Britain than in America. Why are they obsolete? Oh, the usual suspects, mostly the Internet and cheap books. You can always tell how insular, or in today’s politicized lingo “privileged,” people are by the kinds of arguments they make about libraries. We can, and should, still love books, but we should not be sentimental about libraries, because they are a means to an end. Access to information is now widely available via smartphones: three quarters of us have one, it was one in five in 2010. I’m not sure where the statistics come from. According to Pew, not quite two thirds of Americans owned smartphones in 2015. ...
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Ministers and Administers

Idealists are sweet, especially when they are idealistic about libraries. Whenever I see someone talk about libraries as “clinics of the soul,” I just want to pinch their little cheeks with joy. Pakistan and America might be a world away on a lot of topics, but both have libraries that inspire people to argue that they should be a lot better than they are now. They should be reinvented. It seems a lot of people want to reinvent the library. The only problem with this is that all the possible reinventions contradict each other. Librarians talk about maker spaces, and library patrons talk about books. Here’s an example from Pakistan, where a student has been studying at the major public libraries in Lahore. Despite being packed with people studying for exams, he feels that “given the role of a public library in any society with respect to a common citizen, the above mentioned libraries are not being utilised to an optimum level.” The best part is the description of what ...
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Books for People Who Don’t Read

It seems unlikely that the level of fiction available in English could get any lower, but darn it James Patterson is going to try. And since that guy is a really successful producer of fiction for the masses, he’ll probably succeed. To date, he has published 156 books that have sold more than 325 million copies worldwide. But Mr. Patterson is after an even bigger audience. He wants to sell books to people who have abandoned reading for television, video games, movies and social media. That seems like an impossible goal, though, for a lot of reasons. Reading, even reading the fluffiest of fluff, requires a mental engagement that’s different than passively watching a movie or the immersive experience of contemporary video games. Lots of people don’t like it. That’s why they barely read novels after they finish school. The idea is to write short novels with fast plots that can be read in a single sitting. That’s not saying a lot since people seem to be able to sit for hours watching ...
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Chasing Pirates

The latest excitement in the scholarly publishing industry is the rise in prominence of Sci-Hub, a website that makes “some 47 million research articles” available for free to anyone who can manage to track down the current Internet address. It seems like a site that’s been around for a while, but few people had heard about it until it was sued. Streisand effect and all that. A professor writing at Times Higher Education suggests that “the scholarly publishing community has been hit by its own version of Napster.” What is decidedly not Napster about this case is that the circulation of research is at issue, and not the music of Metallica. Alexandra Elbakyan, the researcher from Kazakhstan who started Sci-Hub, makes this very point about Napster and the need for change. Musicians receive royalties for music sold; researchers need access to each others’ work, for which they largely do not receive royalties. There might be some other differences, but we’ll get to that. The New ...
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Insert Cute Punny Title about Sewing and Charity

I don’t normally do human interest stories about libraries. They’re rarely annoying and usually pretty boring. But when I saw this one about a sewing circle at a Washington state public library, I thought about that article a few weeks ago criticizing public libraries for allowing knitters to use their meeting rooms to knit. At the time I suggested that libraries don’t have to be either/or, but can easily be both/and, and this is a sterling example of that. What started life as a community sewing circle has become a charitable effort. People gather every month in a library meeting room with their sewing machine and a lot of donated cloth and they sew things. Okay, that is boring, but they don’t sew just anything. They sew items that will specifically be needed by area people. For example, they sew “pouchlike bags that can be closed with drawstrings. Medical Teams International, a nonprofit based in Tigard, Ore., uses them in its global healthcare work. After treating people ...
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The CIA Librarian Nonstory

Stories like this one appeared in a few places last week. “The CIA is hiring… a $100,000 librarian,” reads the headline, because apparently Fox News has become a job posting center for library jobs. The opening sentence is even more pointless: “The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is hiring more than just spies.” Has some reporter been living under a rock for the last 70 years? When I first started seeing it, I thought, what a pointless story, and then moved on, but it kept nagging at me. Why consider this news at all? That the CIA hires more than spies must seem obvious to any dullard who has ever worked in or heard anything about a large organization. At a minimum CIA headquarters would need custodians, cafeteria workers, secretaries, and all the other jobs necessary for an organization to function. Does the reporter think CIA agents empty their own garbage? Also, as we know from the documentary The Hunt for Red October, the CIA hires PhDs. Maybe they’re technically ...
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