February 17, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, June 15, 2015 Issue

“Why are ‘gaming nights’ necessarily a better use of effort than, say, book groups, or for that matter knitting circles?”

Why gaming nights?

Reading Aaron Schmidt’s “Less Is Less” (The User Experience, LJ 5/1/15, p. 22), I was left wondering, what exactly are these “sacred cows” that we are all wasting so much time on? Why are “gaming nights” necessarily a better use of effort than, say, book groups, or for that matter knitting circles? And why bring up the straw man of books “chained to the shelves”? Then I got to the bottom of the page and saw that the author is not actually a working librarian but a “consultant” and a “Mover & Shaker.” Oh.

—Amy Brunvand, Assoc. Libn., Marriott Lib., Univ. of Utah, Salt Lake City

Sacred cows

Sacred cows are thinking that book groups are a better use of effort automatically without actually examining them (Aaron Schmidt, “Less Is Less,” The User Experience, LJ 5/1/15, p. 22). ­Sacred cows are also thinking that someone who is not actually a working librarian is something that matters instead of what the person is saying.

—Spencer Smith, Dir., Little Elm P.L., TX

Sacred selection

Perhaps 30 years ago there was staff time for each branch to indulge every librarian in the “sacred professional job” of selection, assuming that “every” librarian was good at it and enjoyed it (John Berry, “They Taught Us To Listen,” Blatant Berry, LJ 5/1/15, p. 10). Not so today, when libraries often struggle to keep enough staff in the building for a minimum level of safety, let alone customer service, let alone structural tasks. I entered the profession about the time Nora Rawlinson’s “Give ’Em What They Want!” (LJ 11/15/81, p. 2188–95) went viral, and while many of the changes have been exciting and valuable, many have not. Too many “change agents” out there busy streamlining, “leaning,” whatever, and too many frontline people performing very draining “customer service” tasks.

—Sarah Nagle, Selection Libn., Carver Cty. Lib., Chaska, MN

Low-income reality

While I laud the intent of this initiative, I see a flaw in rolling it out (Lisa Peet, “Obama Announces ConnectED Initiatives,” LJ 6/1/15, p. 16). How are low-income students who don’t own a computer or mobile device (because, well, their parents can’t afford it) going to get access to all of those free ­ebooks? I work with plenty of low-income families who love books, but they distrust technology, or they can’t afford it. These families own dumb phones, don’t have Wi-Fi or computers or tablets at home. And what about the homeless low-income students?…. While many school systems nationwide have put iPads in the hands of students, those iPads are school property and must be returned the last day of school. Depending on the state, then students have two to three months without access to these ebooks. How do the president and the Big Five [publishers] propose to address that problem? The spirit of the initiative is to be commended, but it would have been helpful if they were a little more grounded in what it really means to be low income.

—Nicole Miller, Dir., Gilbert P. L., MN

They use libraries

I graduated from the same library school Stephens works at now (San Jose State Univ.), back in the mid-Eighties, when we were also being warned the future would hold changes for librarians (Michael Stephens, “Room To Grow,” Office Hours, LJ 4/15/15, p. 44). They told us “end users” would need us to “interpret” complicated information systems and specialized search languages, because it would never be possible for someone to do their own searching. Well… “they” blew that one! I’ve worked at small community college libraries and seen those stacks of rarely touched books and bound serials and empty chairs. I’ve worried about administrators wanting to remove the physical collection completely and rely on “the Internet” at a time when we were all still figuring out what it was and what it could be. ­Stephens’s article reflects what I see now, as I’m trying to…update a neglected collection and help our students use article databases. They work alone or in groups, but they are working and using the campus library—and that is the main thing!

—Pat Dunn, Collections Libn., Red Rocks Community Coll. Lib., Lakewood, CO

To teach librarianship

Someone who withheld their name claimed that the LIS degree was too easy to obtain (“LIS was too easy,” Feedback, LJ 5/1/15, p. 11). This person claims there were several students in the same class whom he or she would not hire as a librarian and somehow all of them graduated with a 4.0. To get a 4.0 those students obviously put the time and work into it. Maybe the real problem is with this person. When I [was] in library school, one of the students proclaimed out loud that the classes were “just too easy.” The professor replied sarcastically, “Well maybe you are just too smart.” I thought that was a great reply…. These classes are not meant to be easy or difficult. They are given to teach you how to be a librarian…. Next time, think before you type.

—Stephen Koller, Goshen P.L. & Historical Soc., NY

This article was published in Library Journal's June 15, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.