February 17, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, November 1, 2015 Issue

“Everyone who thinks they know what libraries should be doing and how to do it weighs in and fool librarians jump to accommodate each and every one of them”

Modicum of technology

Once again, one reads with incredulity an article by some nonlibrarian telling librarians how and when they should do things (John Palfrey, “The Human Network,” LJ 9/15/15, p. 22–25). Palfrey, a lawyer and now head of an elite private school in Massachusetts, presumes to tell an entire profession how it should function based on his techie book and his experience renovating the Harvard Law Library (one has to ask what function the Harvard Law librarians served in that ­process….).

Well, I am a published novelist and have published hundreds of book reviews, essays, and articles, so now you can listen to what I have to say. This profession has to stop adopting every idea and function that comes down the road [suggested] by people like this guy. Do librarians tell lawyers how to plead cases? Do librarians tell surgeons how to perform a procedure? Do librarians tell architects how to design structures? Of course not, but everyone who thinks they know what libraries should be doing and how to do it weighs in and fool librarians jump to accommodate each and every one of them.

I guess we are not “visionary, digital-era professionals” if we don’t do what this guy says we should do? Like libraries today don’t have technology available to users? My past experience as an administrator of a county library and two public libraries tells me that while people want a modicum of technology…they want print materials more than a “Maker space” or a $50,000 3-D copier in their libraries. Read this guy…and then move on!

—Harold N. Boyer, Springfield, PA

Kudos: Susan Wilson!

I work for the Gib Lewis Unit prison library in Woodville, TX. Before coming here I worked for our community’s public library for three years.

Through the fiction and nonfiction literature we provide at almost every Texas prison library, our prison library system allows offenders to feel the liberty they once possessed. I read LJ and see all of the honored or recognized individuals who are contributing to our field…. The list lacks one person, our director, Susan Wilson. She oversees all 87 branches of Windham Prison Libraries. Windham is the school district in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Prison System that allows offenders to go to college, obtain their GED [general equivalency diploma], learn a usable trade, attend classes to help them think differently, and, yes, go to the library!

In the prison world we don’t have all of the fancy technology that comes with running an efficient library. I began working here in 2013 and was blessed enough to know that my library had just been converted to a computerized system. Before I came, they were still using paper and pencil to check out books to more than 1,000 offenders. Susan Wilson made that happen…. She is passionate about our libraries. With a group of others she has come up with monthly activities to involve offenders who don’t normally utilize the library. She holds annual meetings with each region to update, encourage, review policies and procedures, and so much more…. It takes very hard work and dedication to make sure that each branch is practicing the core values that are our basic foundation. This letter would be entirely too long if I listed all the other…things she has done.

Susan Wilson will be retiring early next year, and for some who have worked with her for many years, as I have, it will be traumatizing. For me to just think about it does something to my heart. Her shoes will be really hard to fill…. I don’t just speak for myself but for Windham libraries as a whole.

—Crystal Stewart, Lib. Clerk II, Gib Lewis Unit, Wyndham Prison Libs., Woodville, TX

We’d rather be right

I was a bit surprised about your friends’ discomfort with being asked to keep their phones zipped during a birthday dinner party (Cheryl LaGuardia, “The Nomophobes Prevail,” Not Dead Yet). That’s not something I’ve experienced with my friends (mostly mid-40s), but what did resonate strongly with me was the difference of opinion that just had to be resolved right then and there.

I ruefully admit to being guilty of this myself and am struggling to think of a time in recent memory when my friends and I wouldn’t have done the exact same thing. I feel like the main consequence of this access to instant answers/proof is a lessening of my own skill at agreeing to disagree. Before technology enabled us to get instant answers, we had to work at being skillful persuaders, to be diplomatic, and even to let things lie for a little while for the sake of the friendship. Now we can shut all that down in a second with a couple taps and a triumphant, “Nope, you’re wrong!” I wonder if we aren’t becoming more interested in being right than being happy?

—Name withheld

Altmetrics explained

Most useful article to know about latest developments in altmetrics [in the last] five years (Matt Enis, “Altmetrics Ambassadors,” LJ 10/1/15, p. 30–32). [Much] appreciated.

—S.L. Sangam, Prof. & Chair, Dept. of Lib. & Information Science, Karnatak Univ., India

This article was published in Library Journal's November 1, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.