Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Librarians, Amuse Us to Death!

All along I’ve noticed that a lot of librarians resent my criticism of the lowest-common-denominator, give-’em-what-they-want, bread-and-circuses approach to public librarianship that so many librarians seem to desire. Sometimes it seems that I’m the only librarian who believes public libraries should have some sort of purpose larger and more important that subsidizing the puerile entertainment desires of the mass of people who can’t afford Netfllx or videogames. Some naive people think that the masses should provide their own puerile entertainment and public institutions should contribute to the public good.

Before you start complaining, I’ll come out and admit I’m old fashioned and a bit idealistic. When I think of public libraries, I think of institutions that exist to serve the public good. I really want them to have a worthwhile purpose. If I were a librarian, I’d want to be inspired. I read this line from the Boston Public Library and actually am inspired: "The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty." For some strange reason, I think libraries could make a case for themselves by emphasizing their educational and political mission and persuading the public that libraries provide a worthwhile public service that no other institution provides. I now realize that making a compelling case for libraries is just too difficult for librarians, so to survive they need to be all things to all people and think like businesses and that sort of stuff. If that’s their purpose, I’m not sure why libraries should survive, but I’d probably think differently if my next paycheck was coming from the municipality (though the way budgets are these days, maybe university libraries should start pandering as well if they want to survive). The great thing about fulfilling the lowest and simplest desires of the masses is that it lowers their critical capacity even more, making it even less likely they’ll want anything other than to be entertained. Yay!

Thinking about this reminds me of Neil Postman. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman discusses two possible future dystopias – either 1984 or Brave New World – and argues that rather than the oppressive totalitarian future of 1984 we were instead moving toward the brave new world, where we never think or learn or question but only entertain ourselves endlessly. We amuse ourselves to death. We all behave like children, demanding instant gratification and constant stimulation. What could oppose this future? Well, if anyone cared to oppose it, public libraries could certainly be one bastion of civilization amidst the intellectual ruins of the brave new world. However, for that to happen, librarians would have to dread this future and believe that the public good requires institutions that oppose the culture of amusing ourselves to death. If the culture is one of degradation, anti-intellectualism, ignorance, and immaturity, then public libraries might be countercultural institutions that serve to counteract all this. That would require a principled stand, though.

I realize now that I’m just a silly dreamer who is completely out of touch with the vagaries of modern librarianship. Librarians don’t want to have a grand purpose or an important cultural mission. If they did, the cognitive dissonance involved in their daily work might be too much for them. Perhaps I’ll just give up, then. If you can’t beat them, join them. From now on, I’ll do my best to parrot the new party line.

We’ll all be happier after we come to believe that libraries have absolutely no purpose other than to provide entertainment for those who can’t otherwise afford it. Entertainment is important! If we’re not all entertained, we might start to think about important political and economic issues or question the world around us. Libraries must prevent this from happening if at all possible.

How do we prevent this? By providing top-notch entertainment! We need more trashy fiction, more DVDs, more videogames, more Internet porn viewing booths, more foot massages! We need more librarians whose concern for the common good ends where Youtube and Dance Dance Revolution begin! We need more librarians who never give a thought to anything other than what new fad or trend might be exploited to bring as many people through the door as possible. Some librarians don’t want to contribute to the public good. They just want to act like hucksters and sales people. Instead of criticizing them, I should celebrate them. They want to make people happy! They want to give the people what they want! Anything else would just be "elitist," as one of my critics called me last week. And we all know that it’s bad to be part of the elite. Elitism bad! Mediocrity good! What a brave new world that has such librarians in it!



  1. branmuffin says:

    All businesses, including libraries, would like to have a grander purpose. But the bills have to be paid so we must give our custormers what they want. That’s life. Stop whining and accept it.

  2. Dances With Books says:

    Hey, you need to check whatever spam filter you use here. I got some nonsense pop-up over spam and expletives (which by the way I usually avoid). Point is it just ate my actual comment. What gives?

  3. librarydude says:

    It must be a quality filter.

  4. soren faust says:

    Hey librarydude, are you the Aussie librarydude?

  5. Dances With Books says:

    Trying again to make the actual comment.

    I do find the Boston line inspiring as well, but yes, trying to live up to it would mean actually growing a spine and taking a stand for some principle other than ”

  6. Dances With Books says:

    Dang it, it ate half the comment again. What gives with this thing?

  7. librarydude says:


  8. Amen, AL. If chucking our ideals and Franklin’s original philosophy about the purpose of free libraries out the window is the only way for public libraries to survive, then maybe the public library needs to die. Maybe the death of the public library would serve a greater purpose as a wake-up call to our society as to just how far we’ve fallen in our standards. Brave new world, indeed.

  9. branmuffin: Government enterprises are supposed to provide for the common good precisely because it is unprofitable to do so. The bills should be irrelevant to the purpose of the library.

  10. hmmmmm, cranky library critic

    Boston Public Library hmmmm

    My gods.

    The AL is Don Saklad!

  11. penn girl says:

    Well there were a lot of ideals that dudes had 200 years ago that we no longer adhere to. It’s called adaptation.

  12. branmuffin says:

    “The bills should be irrelevant to the purpose of the library.”

    Time to wake up from that dream. Ask a library director if the bills pay a role in the day-to-day operation of the library. Just like any business, more cusotmers mean more revenue.

  13. Branmuffin: You’re talking about the day-to-day operation of the library, while I’m talking about its purpose. Obviously the bills do have to be paid, but that shouldn’t make it impossible for the library to have a higher purpose.

  14. As a public librarian myself I am reminded of the saying on horticulture… Or maybe it’s horse to water. The point is, since it is the choice of the public as to whether they want to be entertained or educated, at least make sure that both of the choices can be entertained.
    There will always be those who only want brain pablum, but for those who decide they would like something with a more meat, we should be making that available as well.
    I can’t force someone to pick up Voltaire instead of Zane, but I can have both of them on the shelves… (Except that the Zane books are probably all checked out or stolen already anyways.)

  15. branmuffin says:

    You can’t separate the day-to-day operation from the purpose. Each one relies on the other.

  16. YS Librarian says:

    For the love of God, don’t you dare start parroting the new party line. We need this discussion to go on and we need high profile advocates to counter the argument that we need to do ANYTHING to bring people into the library. Despite the prevailing wisdom, there are a great many people, including young people, who value the role libraries have played as a common good. We need to kind about the users we may be driving away when we offer bread and circuses in an attempt to bring in masses of users in order to pump up our statistics.

  17. If you want the highbrow stuff that nobody reads, there are plenty of venues to obtain it. Nobody is preventing you from enlightening yourself. Like any business, it’s a numbers game. Libraries need customers to survive.

  18. SnoopyLibrarian says:

    Librarys are about information. Fiction books provide information in an entertaining way. Good movies, especially those made from books, ie To Kill a Mockingbird are thought provoking, educational and entertaining. But, I’m sorry, Guitar Hero and Halo don’t do anything but bring warm bodies into the library and there are better places for video games and DDR to be played that the public library.

  19. soren faust says:

    The public owns its public library. This fact sheds much light on the question of public library management. It means that the [PL] must be fitted to public needs. It must suit its community…it must attract its public; it must please its public; all to the end that it may educate its public. And, he finishes this off with another “suggestion;” The library…is a center for public happiness first, of public education next. –John Cotton Dana

    I realize I’ve posted this before, but I think it speaks volumes. If the public “owns” the public library, then librarians can only do so much—in a sense we are servants of the public. Dana’s point is to offer recreational and practical literature in hopes that the public may develop an interest in educating itself. You can’t force education on anyone and librarians do not have that kind of authority. All a librarian can do is to have higher literature available along with programming that may encourage education.

    If you want to lay blame on anyone, it’s society in general. Since they are the owners of the public library and they want to read so-called trash, then so be it. Ideals are fine, but too often untenable. Compromise is probably the most practical solution.

  20. I'm Not Him Either says:

    We have specialty grocery stores which exist to improve you. They’re called “Whole Foods Market.” You can find high quality, nutritious food there, but a head of green leaf lettuce costs $2.20. Down the street we have a supermarket called Safeway. You can find high quality, nutritious food there (if you apply yourself), and a head of green leaf lettuce costs $1.49. You can also find lots of cereals that are mostly sugar with some starch to hold it together, beverages that are mainly toxic chemicals with food coloring added, and a junk food aisle that is to die for … um, I mean, that is very, very bad for you.

    Public libraries are Safeways. Public librarians spend a lot of time doing pull-out displays of broccoli and steel-cut oatmeal. But when the customers bring the pork rinds and Little Debbies to the checkout counter we bag ’em up with a smile.

    And if they take home some apples with their Twinkies we call that a good day.

  21. I'm Not Him Either says:

    We have specialty grocery stores which exist to improve you. They’re called “Whole Foods Market.” You can find high quality, nutritious food there, but a head of green leaf lettuce costs $2.20. Down the street we have a supermarket called Safeway. You can find high quality, nutritious food there (if you apply yourself), and a head of green leaf lettuce costs $1.49. You can also find lots of cereals that are mostly sugar with some starch to hold it together, beverages that are mainly toxic chemicals with food coloring added, and a junk food aisle that is to die for … um, I mean, that is very, very bad for you.

    Public libraries are Safeways. Public librarians spend a lot of time doing pull-out displays of broccoli and steel-cut oatmeal. But when the customers bring the pork rinds and Little Debbies to the checkout counter we bag ’em up with a smile.

    And if they take home some apples with their Twinkies we call that a good day.

  22. I'm Not Him Either says:

    Hey, this is the second (now third, I guess) time I’ve posted, and each time it’s duplicated my comment and posted it twice. Does that mean my comments are twice as good?

  23. I'm Not Him Either says:

    Hey, this is the second (now third, I guess) time I’ve posted, and each time it’s duplicated my comment and posted it twice. Does that mean my comments are twice as good?

  24. Forever Anon says:

    Librarians can dream all they want of mission statements, but they answer to city officials who don’t care about anything other than numbers. Which budget gets cut first in hard times? Certainly not the police or fire departments. Many librarians have to focus on bringing as many new people to the library as possible in hopes of increased statistics. The best librarians don’t lose sight of their lofty goals and work to achieve them while trying to keep the money to do so. It’s a tough balance to pull off.

  25. Public libraries are the castor oil of society. We know what is the best for you and you need them to keep regular.

  26. anonymousa says:

    Ask a library director if the bills pay a role in the day-to-day operation of the library. Just like any business, more customers mean more revenue. — branmuffin

    The government is NOT a business. Ronald Reagan was wrong. The public library is a branch of government. So it is not a business. The police department is not a business

  27. AL speaks as though it’s an either/or proposition. It’s not. We provide entertainment and we provide the serious purposes she espouses. The numbers from the entertainment products provide us with means to continue to provide the serious products.

    There is a place for recreational reading and viewing along with serious reading and viewing. If you worked in a public library instead of an Academic Library shielded from the outside world you might understand the concept.

  28. librarEwoman says:

    While I agree that the American public has a problem with not liking educational reading and educational movies as much as we should, I do not think public libraries can fix this problem on our own. As some previous commenters have already said

  29. librarEwoman says:

    For some reason, the majority of my comment was cut out. I think there may be a problem with Library Journal’s filtering software. It was a long comment, too, and I do not have time to rewrite the entire comment.

  30. branmuffin says:

    The library might not technically be a business, but it must operate with a business model in mind in order to survive. So it doesn’t really matter whether it fits the definition of a business or not.

  31. publibchik says:

    I think the filtering software has a built-in mechanism that detects a lame post and cuts if off before too much damage can be done.

  32. *penn girl commented:

    Well there were a lot of ideals that dudes had 200 years ago that we no longer adhere to. It’s called adaptation.

    Penngirl’s got a good point. We no longer adhere to or believe in things life, liberty or the pursuit of property like those silly wigged fools back in the day, so let’s just give up completely.

  33. soren faust says:

    To avoid losing your posts, you need to write your comment in an application first, then post it in the comments field when your done writing it. I’ve never lost a post no matter how lame it was.

  34. Ban My Book! says:

    Certainly explains why literary giants like Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton are more welcome in our libraries than first-timers who got a book published the hard way.

  35. Ban My Book! says:

    Certainly explains why literary giants like Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton are more welcome in our libraries than first-timers who got a book published the hard way.

  36. publibchik says:

    It could also be the case that the hard-working first-timers created a bad book that nobody wants to read.

  37. disenchanted says:

    “The government is NOT a business. Ronald Reagan was wrong. The public library is a branch of government. So it is not a business.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. What a lovely idea, but one that doesn’t actually play out in real life. Yes, the government may not be a business, but unless we can prove that people are using us, we’re not getting our government funding. So, we have to run ourselves as a business or face being shut down.

    There are our ideals, and then there’s reality, whether we like it or not.

  38. Barney Fife says:

    Most public libraries are a branch of government just like police departments are a branch and not a business.

    No wonder gated communities with rent-a-cops are so popular!

    Will the last one leaving the public library, please turn off the lights.

  39. I want pedicures in my PL. Can we get the kind with the fishies that eat dead skin? That would be cool. I can sip my fru-fru coffee, listen to the latest new CD, and get a pedi. Life would be grand!

  40. I want pedicures in my PL. Can we get the kind with the fishies that eat dead skin? That would be cool. I can sip my fru-fru coffee, listen to the latest new CD, and get a pedi. Life would be grand!

  41. another anonymous says:

    Forever Anon hit the nail on the head when he/she said: “Librarians can dream all they want of mission statements, but they answer to city officials who don’t care about anything other than numbers. Which budget gets cut first in hard times?”
    I would go further to say that not only do librarians answer to public officials, in fact it is the officials who are making many of the decisions which librarians have to follow. Who makes up the majority of the Boards which govern libraries? AL has some valid points, but she seems to put all of the responsibility on the shoulders of the librarians. I learned very quickly that ideals go out the window and that it’s all about the almighty statistic. Why don’t we weed old CD’s and obsolete VHS to make room for new books? Because they’re the items which have the highest circulation stats, and that’s all the Board cares about. And while I think it’s the librarians’ job to advocate for reform to the Board, there’s also a very real sense of self-preservation. You don’t rock the boat you’re sitting in. AL may have been half-joking or trying to be funny when she said she gives up – but it’s too close to the truth to be amusing. Public librarians start out with their ideals intact, but it doesn’t take long for reality to beat them down.

  42. whimpering librarian says:

    Here we go again, libraries and librarians are nothing and are treated the same. We just have to sit there and get abused by the big mean administration and not be able to defend ourselves or our operation.

    Police and fire don’t have that problem because they run by men.
    Too bad we didn’t get Hilary Clinton in there to break some glass balls for us.

  43. penn girl says:

    Hillary? The one who stood by her man when he lied and cheated on her, because she wanted to preserve her public image for future politcal gains? Yes, she’s a great role model for women.

  44. Look at former librarian Laura Bush if you want to see how a real lady is supposed to act.

  45. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    It is the job of director, with the aid of the library’s professional staff, to convince the city the importance of the ideological mission of the library. It also the directors job to develop a well informed board that understands the mission is deeper then circulation. It is the director, who speaks to the public showing the value of the library, as a public good. This is the main/only job of the director. While I do not always agree with my director he does his job well. In this time of budget cuts, all our part times got 20 more hours. We have more volunteers. We have expanded our adult programing and reader advisory and the Friends’ are bringing in more cash. He has shown the public, the city, and the board the value of the library beyond circulation numbers. In his 20 years of service he has won both state and presidential awards for this effort.

  46. Real lady?
    Sure, if you like getting walked all over.

  47. But what would I expect from a bunch of mealy mouthed, liberal democrat, social engineering whiners.?

  48. Post Postmodern’s comment is the sort of thing I might advocate, if indeed I were to advocate anything, which it’s not clear that I am.

  49. Your comment system is terrible BTW.

    The Boston Public Library mission is a noble one, and one that I think libraries should be aspiring to. The fact is though, that libraries need patrons to continue to justify their existence. It might be well and good if a library only had the most enlightening works by the great authors and the most current studies on globalism, politics, and history, but if no one came and used them the place would be boarded up.

    Libraries need to be able to put posteriors in the seats. If we can trick patrons into coming into the library to play DDR or use the “pron viewing booths,” then perhaps they will accidentally pick up a copy of Hamlet (that they heard someone reference in one of their boorish reality shows).

    I do wish that there was not an adversity towards elites and experts and people who actually make arguments based on reason instead of ad hominem attacks and showy rhetorical tricks, but there is. What can we as librarians do to change this course that we as a society are on?

  50. Comments on the comment system are noted. I have registered a complaint. A new comment system is due, ahem, next year, which I’ve been told will improve things. On the other hand, I haven’t had any trouble leaving comments, so I can’t identify what might be causing the problem. I”m just typing them straight into the box.

  51. Thanks AL! I think “pron” was one word that was stopping me. C’mon, you get to say it. :) I also wanted to used a different synonym for posteriors. I suppose this is a good family blog.

  52. Not afraid to tell anyone what our mission should be. It is to provide materials and databases for education AND recreation. PL does both and I won’t apologize for it. Escapism is helpful for relaxation and coping with a sucky life. And patrons, I’m sure would agree.

    [I know it’s been said, But I have to put it out there one more time!]

    2) Libraries cannot be compared to Supermarkets. Supermarkets are businesses while libraries are Public Utilities. LEARN THE DIFFERENCE!! If you wish to complete the analogy, Safeway is to Barnes and Noble and Blockbuster as your Wholesome Foods Store is to University Bookstores or Local Movie rental places that have all those old classics that Blockbuster doesn’t stock, and on VHS too..

    3) I am appalled at the number of librarians who want to jump on the technology bandwagon and demand the immediate deletion of all materials in legacy formats. Legacy formats contain information that is not necessarily moved over to modern formats, even though the information is just as valid now as it ever was. Even if the information is no longer valid, it is extremely valuable as a measurement of earlier society! And yet Librarians are on the forefront to throw stuff away??? It’s No WONDER the City won’t take our requests for expansion seriously!!! In other words it’s time your area developed a specific library within the system for legacy formats and moved it all to that one place!

    4) You can listen to Johnny Cotton All you wish, but he is nothing more then another voice throughout the history of our country, and thus nothing more. His thesis is his conclusion alone and that does not mean it is correct. Regardless of his words, you CANNOT ignore the public library’s role in a Republic as set by the founding fathers; If you ever have doubts, review their documents; the public library is NOT just a place for the public to do with it as the public so wishes! It is there to do very well as the Boston Public’s Motto Reads: to Educate the Public about the Government so this country can INDEED remain For, by, and OF the People, and not For, By and OF the Government! The Public library is simply an extension of Public Education, and nothing more. But within that scope there doesn’t need to be anything more!! Just as the public cannot tell the police to ignore rules on their whims, the library cannot ignore education just because the public doesn’t like it! We have a REPUBLIC – IF WE CAN KEEP IT!

    5) I have read NOWHERE in the Constitution, the BoR, or the Declaration of independence that these documents are METAPHORS for Adaptation and Translation. They are LITERAL Documents that very CLEARLY spell out the Written Law of the United States of America. This makes it our Tanach; this leaves the States to formulate the Rules that would be analogous to the Talmud, if you are up on your Jewish analogies. If you think these documents are just metaphors or to be taken with a grain of salt like your precious Holy Bible, I ask that you step back and STOP BRUSHING YOUR FEET ON MY COUNTRY!!!

    6) The Laura Bush Example? What is that, the “Sit Down, Shut up, and Look Pretty” role model??? So very librarianesc!!!

    7) AL, I like your mention of both “1984” and “Brave New World.” I add for your consideration “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. [Thanks again to my fellow librarian who found the reference for this piece!] I feel it might be even better in our current storyline then “Brave New World.” This short story illuminates a world where everyone has been reduced to the lowest common denominator by the use of Handicaps; so if you were very pretty, you would have to wear an ugly mask; if you were tall, you would have to wear weights that would lower your stature. If you smell nice, you have to wear dung. When you apply this to the library world, you see a very scary but quite accurate reflection in mediocrity: Since the public is ignorant and dislikes education, the public library must also be ignorant and dislike education. And since the public wants to be dumbed down to the level of runescape/wow/wii/ddr/halo games, public librarians must dumb down their own resources to be capable to meet the public’s reference needs, which are now “How do I get the flaming Sword,” “Why can’t I level up,” and “HE SHOT ME IT’S TOTALLY UNFAIR – HE CHEATED – ppsst, what’s the cheat code??”

    8) I naturally disagree that the public library should be allowed to fuel the escalating frenzy of activity in this country that clearly reflects our public’s unwillingness and unreadiness to act their age, GROW UP, and become the mature Responsible adults our forefathers demanded of their citizenry. Those calling for Public Libraries to abandon the hard line of our forefathers and grasp the new age line inspired by the combination of MBA and NBA dogma need to realize that they are asking the public of this nation to give up our root values for short term gains. In the long-term, embracing these qualities will do nothing more than erode any sovereignty this country has. If we abandon the qualities that make our country specifically what it is, a place where all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of property, we lose our credibility. Thus if we run our country down into the ground it will only be a short time before somebody else will take it over and make us their servants. This is the history of the world, and it can and WILL happen here if we allow it to. As Franklin said, “[We got you] a Republic – IF you can KEEP IT!”

    9) It is clear that the schools have failed in getting our public to embrace and desire life long learning. We have truly lost discipline in the last couple of decades in a style that cannot be overlooked. When we examine eight grade exams from the 1800s, we find material our college seniors aren’t even capable of completing. How I wish there was a cure for ignorance, but it seems the only ones that work are famines, depressions, invasions, and world wars. Le sigh?

    10) My comment was not lost by the LJ comment interface because I cut and pasted it before posting. I hit Submit, scrolled to the bottom, and saw my comment was not posted, and everything after the first “” or open HTML bracket was cut off. But there is no problem! I simply pasted the content from my Clipboard, and I magically retrieved my post. If I can be taught, so can anybody else!!!

    11) How’s my spelling? I know some of you await the errors with baited keyboards. Not bad, eh?

  54. I forgot something, but it needs to be added to (7). Ther eis one more handicap taht should be mentioned: Those people who are smart are not allowed to get smarter – they must pick up the boobtube and the thumbbox and join in because otherwise they will be loner, and lonerism is not allowed. It only leads to excentric elitism or reclusive weird people who ironically make great librarians.

    In school, these smart kids are not allowed to simply go ahead and learn a the pace and discipline that makes them so academically proficient. No, they must wallow along with all the rest of the kids, including the really dumb kids who actually do far better when they are taught with more care and attention. No wonder they become bored, discouraged, and drop into mediocre routines. Blanket Policies are Not the Answer!!

  55. Can we get that character limit reduced? Some people have the mistaken impression that we want to spend time reading their ramblings. Thankfully the Creator gave me the ability to skim.

  56. To be fair, Frogger, you don’t have to read it. I didn’t.

  57. I only read the first couple of sentences but that’s 30 seconds of my life that I’ll never get back.

  58. Point taken.

  59. You’re on this blog. That’s a life experience you won’t get back.


    I look forward to a future AL entry discussing how the loss of discipline has contributed to the dumbing down of the American readership.

  60. . . . cognitive dissonance . . .

  61. soren faust says:

    Kat, on point 4 you’re wrong. Institutions are nothing more than reflections of the humans they represent. If by chance there is a change in both needs and wants on a mass scale, then the institution will naturally follow. You treat Libraries as if they were sent by God to humans and are thus immutable.

  62. CharlesManson says:

    How did you make it to point 4?

  63. anonymous2 says:

    re: Post Postmodern’s comment is the sort of thing I might advocate, if indeed I were to advocate anything, which it’s not clear that I am.< <

    So what is the point of the blog post? Let local libraries (including their boards and political wonks who think they should be on the board) decide what the purpose of the local library should be. Libraries are local. What makes you think you know better than local communities and local libraries what the community wants and is willing to fund? That is the crux of the argument. You seem more than willing to arbitrate, make fun of, castigate, and otherwise impugn what local communities have decided they need for their communities. It’s good for headlines, but in the end, of little local community relevance. And that’s what matters.

    Can you say elitist? I knew you could. Whoever said that was right on the money.

  64. It was me. I said it.

  65. “Can you say elitist? I knew you could. Whoever said that was right on the money.” Elitist. Ooooh, scary! You consider that a criticism. Elites consider it a description.

  66. pragmatist says:

    Hence the problem.

  67. Kat – I don’t think weeding VHS or no longer ordering cassette format is “jumping on the technology bandwagon.” It’s just common sense.
    Libraries, especially branches, have limited physical space. You want to preserve this stuff? That’s the role of an archive. Libraries are meant to get information into people’s hands. You can’t make room for new stuff without selectively removing some of the old stuff. (Hello, Collection Development 101?).

  68. You are removing old stuff on basis of the container without first considering the contents nor the can openers used by your patrons. You further do not consider these patrons using older technology as equals; you want them to throw out their stuff so they all convert to the DVDs that notoriously scratch. Have you ever tried to watch a sctratched DVD/ In the old days of Scratched VHS, we might have only lost a few seconds. One bad scratch and you might as well throw the DVD away! So much for your Superior technology!! You may call weeding “obsolete” containers and books with bland covers to be good colelction development; I on the otherhand see a person who has forgotten the story about judging a book by its cover. Even if Librarians are the last to live by ideals, you’d think we’d be the last to lose them!!

    Archives are meant for documents and other unpublished works, including maps, blueprints, diaries and other historical contributions. I suppose you will next say “then the museum, put it in the museum.” Museums are notorious for putting the materials so far behind walls and glass that NOBODY ever sees the items again. So much for serving the informaiton needs of the patrons!!

    Soren, I have been on both sides of this debate, and I still am still not yet certain if either side is worthy of supporting. Yes, I do indeed believe the libraries were bestowed upon us but not by God but rather by those who sought to educate us to better, not belittle, our existance. Entertainment is enjoyable, but a lifetime of simply pursuing just entertainment is a belittlement. There is more to the human experience.

    So I cannot conciously supprt the Libragamer.

    On the otherhand, I do indeed recognize the arguement that a Local library is subject to the local demands of the populaiton it serves, and thus it is set to meet those needs first and foremost.

    So I cannot support the elitist Librarians.

    However, I do recognize that there are certian pillars in the foundation of the library that extend up out of the basement that is Education in this country.

    Therefore I cannot embrace the local Fanatical Librarians who insist on their narrow single community viewpoint in the general public library.

    But what do I know? I’m just an old young fart trying to tell a world of adults acting like kids that they need to grow up lest they end up 60, unemployed and without a pension. Because at the rate it’s going, this will be more true then not.

    P.S. Soren got to number four because he has discipline [which is simply the will to do things contrary to human impulse] and is generally interested in philosophical discussions. Agree or not, He is one of few for which I have respect. I could care less if he has the same for me, for some things are not necessarily two way streets.

  69. MLIS Student says:

    Why do I need a master’s degree to work at a government funded Barnes and Noble? I can’t believe I took out loans to go to school for this. I’m an idiot.

  70. Kat claims to have the MLS, but it’s not clear what courses were taken or with what level of achievement. I continue to believe the school would happily accept the return of the degree in Kat’s case. But Kat professes total happiness in another profession, so who can really say?

  71. The Original Anonymous Librarian says:

    In a number of places, maybe most, you’re going to have the Bread & Circuses approach, like it or not. There’s that little thing called a LIBRARY BOARD, and if Mrs. Frumpington’s friend Sarah can’t get her potboiler, yo’ likely to be ‘en big trouble. I’ve heard about one head librarian who was
    fired because he wouldn’t let a friend of a highly placed board member make off with a box of Christmas cookies he was given, taken from his office while he was out. You won’t read about that one in the competing library rag, either. It’s all smiley face. Sort of like THE LIBRARY DIARIES, out of Michigan, where the author, a librarian, was canned for writing a fictional book based on her experiences at work. Banned Librarian’s Week anyone? Look it up on Google FWIW.
    Incidentally, a local university put in its own version of STARBUCKS at the front of the library, adjacent to and ahead of the checkout area.

  72. anonymous is still clueless about the current state of MLS programs. I only ask anonymous to continue the interview of MLIS Student who has seemingly discovered similar information just as I did last year. anonymous is also unaware that there are no refunds in life, so why give something up even if it is worthless? I had best use what I have gained, and thus I am: I’m keeping the fire hot by discussing library philosophy in a seemingly meaningless blog on the big old meaningless Interant. It’s quite nice. And so is that intentional spelling of the Internet.

    It only takes 12 classes to go through MLS school. There are few if any exams. For the most part there are lots of essays, which was not frightening to me one bit. These essays are restricted to two and four pages, max, whereas I can easily construct 10 page papers with ease. I guess the professors aren’t getting paid enough to review anything longer. But then journal literature within the field is not that much more impressive, especially when you consider how poor research and incredulous reports are so easily published; yes, I realize the field is young, but that is no reason to accept or pass on erroneous work that should get no further then local peer review. Le sigh. I will continue speaking on these issue until the academic ivory tower that is Library Science is shattered when it is shown for what it is: an ALIS program that belongs in a Community college next to programs for Plumbers, Electricians, and Auto Mechanics!!

    I should update you on that other profession. That other profession you speak of is in a volatile state right now due to the recent economic turmoil, meaning employment is unknown across the boards. This goes for Local librarisn as well, as there are hiring freezes in effect for both the university and regional agencies; the state is quickly following suit as they too have a severe budget deficit. I could very well see many librarians experiencing reduced hours right now, because there simply isn’t any money in the treasury.

    The good news is I am now on track to finding a better job within this alternative field thanks to my year of experience I have thus far gained thanks to another disgruntled MLS graduate in one of my classes. Even if the next job paid 1/4th less then the last job, I would still be making more then the average starting Public librarian in my city. What a Shaft!!!

  73. Chik Phil A says:

    This blog has been hijacked by a windbag.

  74. You’re right that a library is a business. You’re an idiot if you think VHS tapes are a legacy format. And not weeding to make your library seem overfull does not work as a way to convince people you need a new library. It just frustrates your patrons and make you look like the ineffective leader that you are.

  75. MAC Donald says:

    “This blog has been hijacked by a windbag.”

    People are so stupid anymore, anything over one or two lines long and they lose interest and focus.

    oooooo looky a butterfly!!!!

  76. “have read NOWHERE in the Constitution, the BoR, or the Declaration of independence that these documents are METAPHORS for Adaptation and Translation.”

    Nor does it mention libraries.

    I live by the all things in moderation. I cannot support a rabid gamer environment nor a rabid education only environment. Libraries belong in the middle ground providing a good dose of recreation and education.

  77. I believe in moderation in EVERYthing. Regarding potential windbaggery, I find MACdonald’s comment relevant. Some comments are long. Some of the posts are long. No one has to read either one of them, but disagreements and conversations around a topic can’t always take the form of a one-sentence comment.

  78. Contrarian the Librarian says:

    “I believe in moderation in EVERYthing. Regarding potential windbaggery, I find MACdonald’s comment relevant. Some comments are long. Some of the posts are long. No one has to read either one of them, but disagreements and conversations around a topic can’t always take the form of a one-sentence comment.

    Yes it can.

  79. Grandblvd03 says:

    I think most public libraries are doing their best to balance the library mission with the public desire for entertainment. As many others have said, they’re paying for it. I also think that a lot of the entertainment has educational value and benefit that can’t be measured in the same way that reading books is measured. But, I think gaming companies ought to design more games that are also highly educational, I think there’s a market for it — it doesn’t all have to be war/battle games.

  80. soren faust says:

    I think we should get Mark C. Rosenzweig (hands down the most verbose and opaque writer within the field of librarianship) and Contrarian the Librarian (hands down the winner of the text message award) to have a debate on the future of public libraries.

  81. Contrarian, unfortunately I have no idea what you’re talking about because your pronoun “it” has an unclear antecedent. Perhaps you should elaborate.

  82. English Major says:

    It’s pretty clear that “it” stands for “blog comments”. Come on people, keep it concise and relevant and your comment will have more impact. Save the excess verbiage for your Comp 101 papers.

  83. Happily Anonymous says:

    I think there is rather too much in the way of griping about other peoples comments. I think it would be much more interesting and productive to discuss the issues at hand. A little less sniping about ‘comment filters’ and overly long comments and all of that would be much more interesting to read and more professional. I think that refocussing our efforts back to our original ideals is an admirable goal which we all need reminding of now and again. All reading is educational so as long as public libraries are promoting reading they are pursuing their educational goals. It is important to evaluate any program based on the goals of the library and in relation to its place within all other library programs. Let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  84. Happily Anonymous says:

    and frankly i’d rather read Mr Kat’s on topic long response than one that is merely random sniping about other people’s comments. (I know, i’m commenting about comments too, but hopefully in a vaguely constructive way rather than just saying ‘you suck’)

  85. But is all reading really educational? Is reading nothing but trash any better for either the person or the public good than reading nothing at all?

    Oh, and since “it” is singular, “it” can’t possibly refer to the plural “comments.” We’ve reached a pretty pass indeed when singular pronouns can refer to plural nouns. Anarchy is just around the corner.

  86. We often look for black-and-white answers, and we believe things are either right-or-wrong. The world is gray. The public believes libraries should be all things for everybody, all the time. The best I can hope for is that when somebody comes into my library they find at least one thing they’re looking for and that they enjoy.

    As for the comments about librarians not wanting a grand purpose and cultural mission – for me, you’re right. This is a job. I work hard at it. And I like to think I occassionally get it right. But I don’t want to and I can’t save the world. And I’m OK with that. What aren’t you?

  87. Contrarian the Librarian says:

    : )

  88. I mean, Why aren’t you?

  89. Contrarian the Librarian says:

    “I mean, Why aren’t you?”

    : (

  90. MLIS Student says:

    I’m sitting in one of my “classes” right now. I spent the last hour reading about baseball, and I guarantee I will get an A+ on this exam next week. I want my tuition back.

  91. Contrarian, stop that! Stop it right this instant!

    Why aren’t I content that you don’t want to have a mission? Or that no one does? I’m not sure. I suppose I’m just a lost and lonely librarian looking longingly at the vast universe and saying, “are you there, God? It’s me, the AL.” I just want to believe in something noble and good. Is that so wrong?

  92. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    Well at least you are reading the blog in class. You might learn a little bit about librarianship. As far as the length of the blogs and comments go well I despise the tread to business writing style. It ruined the English language and is still more pandering to the laziness of American readers.

  93. Contrarian the Librarian says:

    “Why aren’t I content that you don’t want to have a mission? Or that no one does? I’m not sure. I suppose I’m just a lost and lonely librarian looking longingly at the vast universe and saying, “are you there, God? It’s me, the AL.” I just want to believe in something noble and good. Is that so wrong?”


  94. Contrarian the Librarian says:

    “Well at least you are reading the blog in class. You might learn a little bit about librarianship. As far as the length of the blogs and comments go well I despise the tread to business writing style. It ruined the English language and is still more pandering to the laziness of American readers.”


  95. AL, don’t sink to their level.

    This discussion is proving the point I made through Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” These people have sunk to a level of mediocrity, and now the demand the same level of mediocrity from the rest of the world. Its even more telling when even “English Major” has fallen to this level of excellence.

    I learned and believe in a different philosophy: “Use it or LOSE IT!”

  96. I should have clarified my comment by saying “this disuccion about comment length.” But I didn’t.

    I do take solace in the gray representation of the library, and indeed it might be the real solution.

    I think the hard part to accept is when it seems the very library mission becomes affixiated on serving the gaming/entertainment subset as if that is the only way to get people into the library. Sometimes people need motivation and inspiration to go to the library and read – and that is why we have librarians!

    I wasn’t advocating that every library holds a complete VHS collection; rather, one library within the system becomes the designated VHS Collection place. My community has a very robust county library system where the materials are easily checked out from any branch and may be returned to any library within the branch once finished. If one library served as the central VHS collection, and small subsets of VHS/CD/TAPE/DVD rotated throughout the branch libraries, both groups would be satisfied; the branch libraries would all have more shelf space, and the VHS would still be available to the large number of people who still use them. Even if you don’t agree with VHS, if they account for the majorty of circulation statistics, perhaps it’s important to recognize that some groups really do not wish to upgrade to the next great technology.

    But the floppy disks can most certainly go – it’s easy to convert the data to CDs, and up to three in ten floppies were unusable before they came out of the box new!!

  97. Contrarian the Librarian says:

    This is getting a bit annoying, actually. -AL

    %-0 zzzzzzzzzz

  98. Forever Anon says:

    Kat says: “My community has a very robust county library system”. That’s all well and good to have that and follow your thinking about VHS tapes and whatnot. But what about libraries that are singular, not a part of systems? There is no back-up “storage branch” there. Only ILL and hopes that someone else has whatever the patron is requesting and in the format the patron is requesting. Oh, and why are you saying CDs are the way to go when you clearly stated in a previous comment that “One bad scratch and you might as well throw the DVD away! So much for your Superior technology!!” Same thing goes for CDs. One scratch and that information is inaccessible. Sounds like you are a bit behind the times here, even by library patron standards.

  99. A soldier doesn’t have to die to be a GOOD soldier. I work at a small library, our circulations are on pace for a record breaking year, people say they are happy, we have programming that people seem to enjoy, and by all accounts the library is a key cog in the community. We have enough funding. We created an endowment. We have volunteers. We have donations. We’re paying our bills and we earn a living. What else is there? What am I missing? I’m a husband and a father first, a son second, and somewhere back there in the rear view mirror I’m a librarian. I work hard. I pay attention. I do my best. But I’m not going to lose sleep about what else my library could be doing. I’m not. But I appreciate that others are. That’s great. I don’t want you to be like me, why do you want me to be like you? I think we have a good library.

  100. 1) If this is a singular library, and they see the majority of their circulation statistics in the VHS collection, then this library is in a prime position to procure more VHS tapes from those libraries in the better off regions who are aggressively updateing everything “out of date.”

    2)The ILL situation is interesting. We all feel that if we delete our objects, we can still always get it “somewhere else” through ILL. But what if your library IS “Somewhere else?” As we delete more and mroe materials in our libraries, we run the risk of losing entire subsets of human experience simply in the name of progress. It’s sort of like how we have lost 80% of all early films shot on Nitrate Film. That work is now gone, never to be seen again. Can we really be so ignorant about our posterity to simply abandon it because it is simply not us, just as we observe over and over again that history repeats itself – even though not in the exact same way?

    3) I am reminded of an example presented in my Preservation Class. One particular Librarians took to collecting First Edition Copies of the collection of Shakespeare Plays. people were aghast at this profound waste of resources, as he was not just buying one or two, but something between 15 and 30. And then in analyzing these editions, all of the same book, supposedly, there were discoveries made: not every copy was allike. Indeed, entire plays were missing in some copies, while other copies had other difference altogether. But this discovery would not have been made if one library somewhere had stood up and said, “We will Collect X.” This does not mean they stopped collecting everythign else as well; it simply means they committed to developing a specail collection within their subset of world literature – as it should be!

    4)When you compare a CD to a Floppy Disk, the integrity of the format or none thereof becomes apparent. I view DVDs quite differently then CDs becasue Vidoes and such related to entertainment is for some reason treated more differnet then computer software – at least, that is my experience. Floppy disks may lose their integrity simply sitting on a shelf, or coming in contact with dust, or coming in range of a magnetic device. What I am saying is that within subcategories of information storage devices, some are so unstable it is truely better to move the data to something more stable in an effort to simply preserve the data. Otherwise, I completely agree about the disadvantages of CDs.

    Another one I have seen is a CD that was only partially written becaude other areas of the CD had a bit of crud; as a result, spots of data were missing, rendering the entire CD useless.

    So long as libraries are allowed to do it, the only best solution I see for this newer technology is to copy the Disk and make the copy the circulating copy; when it is too scratched, throw it out and make a new copy from the original “Master.” Naturally, of course, this is a bit contrary to the current copyright laws, which indeed hedge the abilities of libraries to efficiently use their budgets to serve their patrons.

    We have become a bit off topic – shall we return to our regularly scheduled program, the discussion on How Gamers Are Overthrowing Library?

  101. Are we libraries? Or museums?

  102. Geez…I hate this blog. Why LJ? Why?
    The whole industry is worried about job security and career-relevance and these fools are debating ideals. Just throw some POTUS election crap in here and you get this terrible sludge of shrill comments.

  103. Contrarian the Librarian says:

    I thought that was the whole point, that we are librarians and we are annoyed and annoying. Did I miss a meeting or something?

  104. Hey mister kat, write a letter to your local newspaper, call one of those 1-900 lines, do something other than bore us with your prattle. Thanks for your consideration.

  105. “Geez…I hate this blog. Why LJ? Why? The whole industry is worried about job security and career-relevance and these fools are debating ideals.”

    If you hate the blog, why do you read? Is it required for your job or something? And what’s the problem with debating ideals? Do you not have any? Are you incapable of debating them? Perhaps you’re just being ironic, because it’s not clear why any professional who can’t understand and debate the underlying ideals of a profession should have any job security or career relevance.

  106. Why does McDonald’s keep serving hamburgers – I don’t like hamburgers.

  107. I used to work at McDonald’s in Omaha. It was down near South High School. Odd, it was a drive through only. No place to sit. And we were always busy. Perhaps libraries should have drive throughs.

  108. And serve hamburgers. Patrons could get a burger and a book – see!!! – That’s pretty cute. A burger and a book!!!!

  109. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    well…I am not thrilled with the providing of video gaming in the library, teen fun hour, wacked-out cheap ugly furniture….not much of this has anything to do with the purpose of books, reading, or literacy…

    but apparently it keeps the teens coming into the library, and that is the new focus! teens, teens, teens, the future tax payers and library supports of the future!

  110. I used to have a friend in high school named Jerry McDonald.

  111. Jerry McDonald says:


  112. With job security and professionalism at risk – Why LJ? Why?? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!!!

  113. Because we all know that our job security and “career relevance” depend upon us all saying shiny happy things about librarianship. Library good! Librarians happy! Yay!

  114. Dude! How’s it going? Are you still dating that cheerleader with the hairy armpits?

  115. CharlesManson says:

    I think his question was directed to LJ, not AL.

  116. Jerry McDonald says:

    Dating? I married her!!!!

  117. Actually, it was sarcasm. I love the AL. And even have a tattoo saying so.

  118. Y’all are so mean! No one understands me. LJ, take me away.

  119. I agree – take Daria away!!!! All in favor….

  120. Aye!

  121. I haven’t been in a public library in several years. I’m thinking of going one of these months. What time of the day is the most quiet and lowest chance of bumping into someone that smells?

  122. English Major says:

    Unless they’ve had some type of operation to remove their olfactory gland, everyone smells.

  123. Good grief. I’m glad I’m not married to Mr. Kat or I’d never get a word in edgewise. Windbag my behind! The guy runneth over at the mouth (keyboard).

    Now about my pedi…and my hamburger…

  124. On a serious note – I haven’t been in a PL in years. Last time I went it was like a day care center and it made me realize that a PL was not where I wanted to work (not fond of children who make enough noise to make the library into a bus station). Everyone complains and gripes about how bad PL life is from the salary, to the funding, to the Guitar Hero. Funny thing is, when I was a child, I was taught that a library was a place of respect – almost like a chapel. You were quiet, reverent, and didn’t run or make a fuss. You respected the librarian and the books on the shelves. Trouble is, parents don’t teach their children that any more. We “dumbed down” the libraries to the level of bus stations. A lack of good parenting is the problem – not city budgets.

  125. soren faust says:

    Speaking of smells, we’ve had a guy coming in lately who chooses a nice spot in a dark stack to u-rinate on the floor and then place one or two reference books on the ur-ine. See, people don’t even ask the reference librarian where the bathrooms are anymore.

  126. CharlesManson says:

    Why would anyone ever want to work in a public library?

  127. Because they like books! Same reason they go to library school.

  128. soren faust says:

    It provides a myriad of opportunities to see and interact with every last exalted, debauched, amazing, sickening, inspiring, and degraded aspect of humanity. And, I get four weeks paid vacation and other great benefits.

  129. webbygrl, everybody has an equal opportunity to get a word in with me; my GF gets the greatest opportunity. I listen to all, and I provide all with my opinion in respects to their opinion. Afterall, without a premise, I have nothing to discuss! Why be here? The Annoyed Librarian is one of the richest discussion material zones on the internet! I was tempted to do a statistical character count comparing this blog to other blogs, natrually subtracting out my posts only to be fair to other bloggers at LJ. I think it would be an interesting research project – aha, I have the rest of the night!!!

    Your serious statement, however, leaves me with nothing to discuss – because it is RIGHT ON!!!!! I was almost in public education – and I fully second your sentiments!

    P.S. If Daria1 is Daria2, I am at further loss of words. First this person attacks this blog, and then acts indignent and calls the people in it mean. HA!

  130. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Any consistency is the hobgoblin of the AL or her readers.

  131. soren faust says:

    Any consistency is the hobgoblin of the AL or her readers.

    And consistency is the hobgloblin of an otherworldly place that does not exist in the library world, or any world for that matter.

  132. Having worked in public libraries for the first 2 years after completing my MLIS, I can safely say that I never want to go back. I found the constant drive to get patrons through the door – and the constant drive to stop calling them patrons and to start calling them customers – to be very unpleasant.

    Now in academia I face the problem of expensive academic journals that no one reads that are required for accreditation which contain articles that are written by professors who are just trying to get tenure. It’s a different but somehow similar problem.

    I do dislike the rhetoric concerning the library degree being worthless or overvalued at least; I especially loath the comments by “penn girl.” I found Library School to be fairly interesting, if not particularly challenging. Maybe though I’m jusr uncomfortable with deriding the degree because I depend on it.

  133. The Originanal Anonymous Librarian> says:

    Soren Faust said;”… we’ve had a guy coming in lately who chooses a nice spot in a dark stack to u-rinate on the floor and then place one or two reference books on the ur-ine. See, people don’t even ask the reference librarian where the bathrooms are anymore.”.

    It’s probably a Library Science grad who realized what a hypocritical sham the field is, and what a joke a certain organization on East Huron has become, and decided to make his [her?- sometimes it’s hard to tell with some of the people in the business] disgust known in the basest manner possible, hoping perhaps that someone might be so outraged that they’d comment on this blog. Hey, remember ALA is about LIBRARIES and NOT Librarians. :-/

  134. soren faust says:

    If we go on the assumption that the field is a sham, then I have to wonder what is it that caused it to be such? Was the idea of the public library a sham to begin with? If not, when did it become one?

    Personally, I’m not sure how to answer these questions, because based on my experience, the significant proportion of patrons (not customers) use the library in appropriate ways. The u-rinator guy is an unusual case (at least the extreme nature of his behavior).

    If in fact the public library is no longer a relevant institution (and, I’m not saying it is or isn’t) then I find that sad. My thinking on the matter is that public library is a passive institution and always has been. It is at the mercy of the public and if the public library fails it’s because the public, in a sense, has failed. If DDR is what the public library has become then it’s because the public has demanded it. So, I say don’t blame the librarians, blame the diminished public sensibility.

  135. Wow, I feel sorry for all you disillusioned, jaded people. I’ve worked in PL for 20 years and it’s never been better! Great staff that are positive and get along well, circulation up 80% in the last 5 years, a good budget, and we will begin a project soon to double the size of our library. And my salary is pretty decent. (And so far no one has urinated in our library, except in the designated areas i.e. bathrooms.)

    You guys are just in the wrong libraries. Probably in huge cities on the coast. Fly over middle America has been good to me.

    Oh, and we’ve had 2 clerks go on to library school and have 3 others considering. Hope they don’t get jaded.

  136. soren faust says:

    Matt, I’m personally not at that jaded point. I hope I never get there. But, I’m not afraid to consider the dark side, because for all the great things the public library offers, there are also some very negative things, such as sometimes sick and dangerous people using it as a home away from home, i.e. the streets.

    It seems to me that a lot of the jaded librarians who decry the public library are those who work in academic libraries and haven’t set foot in a public library in years. In fact, as much as been admmitted to on this blog. I support the public library with all its frailities and strengths. You could say it is an institution that most accurately represents all the manifestations of humanity. And for me, that’s what it’s all about.


  137. Believe me, I don’t ignore the dark side either. Didn’t mean to sound pollyanna but I had to react to such a depressing anti-productive posts.

    And our library doesn’t go in much for gaming, except the odd program here or there, or with 2.0 blog and such (we do have downloadable audio) and yet our circ. is through the roof and teens frequent our library. Of course we do have the dreaded DVDs, including TV programs. I even check them out myself.

  138. The Original Anonymous Librarian says:

    It helps to have a well funded library, decent salary, and decent working conditions. However, such is NOT the case everywhere. Look at the threads AL did about jobs that suck. All too often those are the jobs that are available. It can get to be a real crap shoot, too. You don’t find out how bad it is until after you’ve sunk a lot of $$ into finding a job and relocating. What do you do if you are promised a salary of X
    and then relocate and are given a lesser amount [This happened to me once], complain? What if you are told you are being hired to do a job that from the description sounds great, but when you get there is almost totally different. Some library systems are ethical sewers.
    I’ve seen enough back-stabbing politics to last several careers. Then there’s the matter of funding your job. I imagine a number of librarians will find out about this soon enough.

  139. There’s something we sometimes forget when we look at these jobs that suck: some of these communities really cannot afford to offer up much more in terms of salaries or benefits. In some cases, and I would hardly consider this to be the norm, there are communities in this country that resemble the low end of the totem pole. Communities where by diction of the great dollar the community members themselves still use the VHS and only dream about DVDs or even Personal Computers. We covered this in Library School: the Digital Divide. These people are those who simply cannot upgrade – even if they want to.

    So this job becomes a true struggle between personal values and wolrd ethics. We want to help out the world, but if by doing so we become as destitute as the community we serve, are we really doing the world a service??

  140. I am an experienced “old timer” still working in the profession, and still loving it. I got my MLS in 1977, way before PCs and the Internet. Over the years I have been a student worker (in the gov’t docs section), a school librarian, done volunteer work at my public and church libraries, was self employed as a academic library researcher, and then worked at an academic library. Today I am a Special Librarian who works all day on my computer, doing “virtual” research initiated by e-mails and phone calls. I also deal with a lot of engineers. These engineers frequently need information from the pioneering years of their specialty. For instance, one engineer had a recent article on a particular test and measurement specification. The test method given in the article looked to him as if it was not quite right, so he looked up a number of other articles and they all agreed with each other. Finally he looked up the original pioneering article from Bell Labs written in 1914, and we got a copy through ILL. He was right–apparently someone had made a typo and that typo was perpetuated over and over again. How many engineers would have the experience and knowledge to find the error, and then to verify it from the original research literature? And how many academic libraries would have kept the 1914 journals in these days of justification by usage stats and shelf space and the assumption that all information can be found on the Internet?

  141. Original Anonymous Librarian says:

    Mr Kat; Some still don’t even have computers. My objection is to the use of dishonesty and deception by alleged “professionals”. I never went to library school to be financially wealthy, but neither did I go to be financially ruined. Beyond a point, when one has to be a masochist to feel “rewarded”, it’s time to leave.
    I know of at least one case of a librarian who took a job on one side of the “Digital Divide” who found themself typecast in the role. This person was frustrated to the point of leaving the field altogether. This was the first job and it was like proverbial Hollywood typecasting when they sought work elsewhere.

  142. I don’t work in a public library, but I am, and have always been, a frequent user of public libraries. As a mother, I know that a trip to a free library is one of the best activities to do with your child, especially if you only stay for 15-30 min. As a child, I was encouraged by a Dallas public librarian to read all of the Newbery Medal award winning books written at that time—from 1923-1966. Most of these books, old as they are, are still treasures that shine. We need to “not throw out the child with the bath water”. We need to really know our patrons and our community and keep many of our “classics”. It is human nature to want to “go home again”, and for many of us, revisiting old favorite books is the best way to do this. Seeing our favorite treasures thrown out gives the impression that it, and the people who value it, are old, unwanted, and useless. Talk about loosing the interest and support of the community! Books that have made a difference, to the point that they have now become part of the English language, should be kept as part of the collection. Classics like the Horatio Alger books, Pollyanna, Alice in Wonderland, early genre writers such as Alice Mary Norton (Andre Norton), Walter Farley, Georgette Heyer, Marguerite Henry, Earl Stanley Gardner, Zane Grey, early Robert Heinlein, etc. should be kept.

  143. Soren, the problem with the PL is that we as a society have allowed substandard grades in school to be the norm. There. I said it. Educators want everyone to pass. Schools receive additional funding by the state if the passing average is high enough. So “educators” allow kids who only speak 50% English to pass, allow illiteracy so students can pass, and no longer push the children to read and write at any more than a 6th grade level. Some states mandate what can and must be taught (teach the test) when that leaves the children at a disadvantage. Those students who excel are placed in advanced classes the school has effectively weeded out the library-going from the non-library going by junior high.

    A classroom trip to my elementary school library was a treat each week and I pouted at only being allowed to check out 3 – 5 books at a time. We had Library Hour. That’s where I learned to love the library but schools just don’t do that anymore. Why? Because of failing illerate students who could care less about books. Which then perpetuated into lowering the minimum grades to pass in many of our school districts. Most of those students who will go on to use the libraries do not live in the inner cities. So if PLs are not used in the cities and the collection has to include video games to bring patrons in, then of course it will be the first to go when the budget comes up for renewal. Soon, the 40+-somethings who run our cities now will retire and there will be an entire generation of people who were not exposed to the library in elementary school and PLs may find themselves extinct.

    I find it ironic that librarians and educators tend to vote the same in elections. They seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. One wants to pass students at any cost, and the other wants the student to be immersed in education. Odd.

  144. I wrote that last sentence incorrectly. “One wants to pass students at any cost, and the other wants the student to be immersed in education. Odd.”

    It should have read, “One wants to pass students at any cost – books be damned, and the other wants the students to be immersed in books.” Yes, that’s much better.

  145. Ed G: This is PRECISELY why I personally think libraries EXIST!!! I used to do this work, and it was a whole lot of FUN! Someday I may get back into it, but first I have to find a day job!

    Org. Anon. Lib.: We’re ringing the same Bell! And I hear you about the libraries still without computers. I volunteer in one – but it’s a very new library, so this to be expected. Someday – computers! [A Future Wells Fargo Advertisement??]

    Webbygrl: It’s all so true it Hurts. HURTS. I was in teacher ed; I have already seen it. But your words about the advanced classes are a bit behind; those classes have slipped standards now too. Or worse, they put the advanced students in with the rest and weight them down.

    I think educators and librarains used to be on the same end – but then the state broke us up; first, they told the librarians to go home, and then they told the teachers to pass the kids – by all means possible.

    Hopefully the idiots will slip to the point they can’t even read or fill out the the voter registration form. That will solve the problem for sure!!! People have been advocating some sort of test to pre-screen voters – and it looks like the reading comprehension and writing test may be it!!!

  146. soren faust says:

    Webbygrl, sadly what you said is true. It is truly amazing that in one of the wealthiest and most advanced countries in the world our public education system is more or less ruined. My girlfriend’s mother has been a teacher all her life and she’s resigned at both the quality of teacher and the diminished student. The greatest aspiration of some students is just to have the teach please “throw some D’s on it.” Sad state of affairs.

  147. librarEwoman says:

    Wrong. We have the greated education system in the world. Don’t get caught up in the media hype.

  148. soren faust says:

    “…the ‘greated’ education system”?


  149. yes, there are library jobs that suck. I’ve been in a couple. One started badly, got better, and then steadily worse. I should have left at 5 years but I stayed for 11 (for various reasons such as being stubborn, and not wanting to uproot my kids). My wife was unhappy so I moved and found this job and it is very satisfying. My marriage promptly disintegrated but I love my job. Lesson learned: If you are desperately unhappy don’t be stubborn and stay in an unsatisfying job (or relationship). Take a chance and move on. I should have left my job (and other things) much long ago.

  150. AMEN, Webbygrl. Do you know, I actually studied to be a school librarian, but was so disgusted after my two internships – one in a high school, one in a middle school – that I became a corporate librarian instead? If PL’s are bad, schools are worse. The state of our educational system is deplorable and I just could not, in good conscious, be a part of it.

  151. The rah rah for the American School system reminds me of the same rah rah people have for their alma mater sports teams. We HAD the greatest educational system in the world – but we forgot our responsibility somewhere in the early fifties, forgot how to pass that responsibility on, and now we lack that responsibility across the boards. Take a look at the 2002 UNICEF study, the 2002 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

    Yes, we were the best, once, but this did not preclude the rest of the world from improving beyond us, or that we would remain number one forever, or that we would not become complacent on our position.

  152. Our educational system is fantastic. The problem is with the parents. Like the old saying “Garbage in, garbage out.”

  153. Pointing fingers, and unwilling to admit the simple fact: all parties have fault in this debacle. Garbage in, Garbage out.

    If you want to see Number One [2004], look towards Finland.

  154. Charles Manson says:

    No way! Norway is way better than Finland.

  155. Just to add my 2 cents, what is annoying me to no end today as a public librarian is the dislike for librarians I have found among so many public library staffmembers I have worked with, from circ staff to library directors.

    If ya don’t like librarians, get a job at Sears. Go work somewhere with professionals you respect. Your hateful attitudes are not needed in the library world.

    Had to say that. Thank you.

  156. @peeved:
    I’ve had similar experiences. The library assistants look at the librarians as elitists that don’t know how to do anything practical or don’t know how the library really works.
    Unfortunately, too often they are correct. I know that I had to become disillusioned before I could make any headway in the public library. Once I got over what I had learned about the way things should be, I was better able to deal with the way things actually were.

  157. Ed G;I left public library work years ago. Don’t get me started, but suffice to say politics meant more than professionalism. I ended up doing historical research on a free lance basis [I was turned down repeatedly for work in state & local history libraries/archives]. Had more than a few similar experiences to yours with the engineering research. I feel I managed to do more outside the field than inside. I’ve become notorious in some circles for finding material that others overlook. I have to shake my head when I read thse blog threads.

    Back in 1990 there was a “White House Conference” on libraries, meant to be a follow-up on the “A Nation at Risk” findings in education. The only thing that got any ink was a joke that Pres. Bush #41 told. One of the library honchos for this was a political [vs. professional] librarian I knew [but have little respect for], so it was no surprise.

  158. This is the best AL post I ever read so far. It does seems that public libraries are just helping to raise an uneducated generation of video gamers…

  159. Don’t believe everything you read.

  160. anonymous says:

    Mr. Kat – I don’t really understand you. In this thread you seem to advocate for collecting the materials which the public wants and needs, regardless of format. Specifically, if the community still largely uses VCR’s then the library should collect VHS movies. That is basically what you’re arguing here, isn’t it?
    Yet, in the “Salaries and Surveys” thread you wrote “It appalls me to see libraries descending to the levels of Arcades, General Video Collections, and Cafes. This avenues behoove of what is the Library’s true mission: to preserve the intellect of the Republic – which is We The People! This sidetracks fruther shrink the overall shelf space available for further information proliferation and pas information posterity.” Spelling and sentence structure aside, that seems kind of contradictory to me. Having general video collections is debasing the educational function of libraries, and yet you think that we should not be weeding our VHS collections to make room on shelves for newer items?
    Do you just argue for arguments’ sake, or do you really think through your opinions?

  161. library school student says:

    Oh no, here comes a 7,000-word response.

  162. anonymous says:

    yeah … sorry ’bout that …
    Just can’t stand the hypocrissy, y’know?

  163. Anonymous, I am happy to have an attentive reader. You will be happy to know the response will not be 7000 words much less characters.

    You have precisely identified what appears to be a kink in my adocating policy. I hope to show you this is not a kink once all information is taken into account. Yes, I like seeing libraries with collections of information containers – not JUST books – in their collections. VHS, CD, DVD, cassette tapes, 8mm film, slides, microfilm, microfische – these may all contain meaningful information – information not duplicated in any other format.

    You should look carefully at the distinction I made about the TYPE of media collection; I stated “General” video collections. General collecions in my mind are those that near perfectly duplicate the holdings of the local Blockbuster.

    The strength of the library, however, is that since the items are there due to informational interest first and perhaps traffic circulation interest second, this place can house and maintain specialized collections. Specialized collections might include instructional aides, older films, and particularly those things that are not available either abroad or within the community in any other format. These items do not entertain audiences near as much as blockbuster’s collection might, and some subsets of the collection might be used just once or twice annually, but that traffic has a more important purpose then strict entertainment alone.

    So if you are in a community where the old clunky VHS collection still accounts for the highest level of circulation statistics in the library, it’s perhaps time to review WHAT the patrons are watching in that collection – and purchase more of those materials on the cheap from other libaries who are happily throwing these materials away.

  164. Running Librarian says:

    The majority of Americans seem to have the attention span of a nit – well, not really. Maybe I’m giving them too much credit. After spending countless wasted hours watching television reality shows and otherwise engaged in other brainless activities, most people cannot and do not want to read anything that requires more intelligence than what is required of an eighth grade reading level (Reader’s Digest comes to mind here). For a culture used to looking for the easy way out, you can hardly expect someone to actually have to think about what they’re reading or watching. They need to be spoonfed everything. Public libraries have evolved from intellectual institutions to Blockbusters. Unfortunately, if libraries don’t go with the flow, they’re out of business. But if you think your opinion is not well looked upon, think about the opinion I put out there – I don’t think it takes a Master’s Degree to do library work – at least not public library. We’re an entertainment industry, not an intellectual one (the two are not synonymous these days, if they ever were). Guess what kinds of reactions I get from that statement!!!???

  165. How does one force intellectual growth on a community?
    I wonder.

  166. Very very easy, SUP. Take away their money and make it hard to get food. Those who refuse to learn how to cope with life die and those who do decide to relearn everything they thought they knew about life get smarter and learn new ways to support themselves and eat.

    Famines, Droughts, Invasions, Depressions and Revolutions have been the behind most of the general historical forced-intelligence growth initiatives.

    RL…Amen…I sympathize.

  167. How bout you volunteer to go first. Really. That’s a great rat cage experiment. Completely lacking in any rationale or historical significance.

    So, I’ll ask again How does one force the intellectual growth of a community?

  168. Who is this one you keep asking about?

  169. Jim Swarth says:

    We’re already in Brave New World. We’re moving toward the 1984 model quiet quickly. Watch out for the boot that’s coming toward your face.

  170. LJ has so many flashing ads it looks like a gaming site.

  171. Oh no, I have already gone first. I was born in the sort of scenario where education is the one free available opportunity in life and that was the only option to me for a better life.

    The rise and fall of humanity is well seen through “The Good Earth” – in that image you see how the poor become rich and how the rich become poor. The simple matter is that the rich do not want to heed the warnings by those who are not as well off. In their position they have both power and comfort, yeilding them nothing more then complacency and arrogance. The poor thin man, however, lacks either the arrogance or complacency that comes so well when you can simply buy your way out of every problem that comes your way.

    You may cry about my Solution merely being the result of a Rat Cage Experiment with neither rational nor historical significance. And yet it is upon the events of human history that I made my claim.

    The second world war, for instance, transformed the Youth of the Jewish Population; no longer were they to sit around and wait for some magical messiah to come forth and rebuild Jerusalem and reinstall the nation of Israel, as the synagogues preached. After the war, they went where they could and became educated in all matters of survival, including politics and National defense. They formed their own Federation, raised the funds to create the state of Israel, and put in place an army that has withstood up to five opposing armies simultaneously and only in six days.

    Great events have the impact of naturally removing those who are either unable or unwilling to confront change by changing themselves, and do nothing more then stand in the way of those who are actively seeking real solutions to real problems. Eleven libraries in Boston are slated to close; state budgets are projecting historically record setting deficits. Yes indeed, it would appear that the next famine-bearing drought might be striking Librarians quite soon as more and more libraries either cease to be or cease to be as often. But how can libraries protest these closures?

  172. penn girl says:

    Maybe these closures are a good thing.

  173. “Well there were a lot of ideals that dudes had 200 years ago that we no longer adhere to. It’s called adaptation.”

    It’s called stupidity.

  174. I wouldn’t call their ideas stupid, just products of their time.

  175. Those old guys from 230 odd years ago were born in the belly of the lion, and they had to claw every inch of their way out. They wrote what they thought would be the perfect world, but their plan had one fatal flaw: it relied on the public conscience as sentinal over great wisdom.

    Today’s stupidity is merely a product of an era were everything can be taken for granted, so it seems.

  176. Get yer own damn library and leave me, and all the rest of us public librarians, alone. We ANSWER to our public. Doubt y’all ever have or even know how.

  177. Wow. You are officially my new best friend.

    First read “Librarianship: the Best Career.”

    Now this.

    Wow. Hello new best friend.


  178. Hiya from UK

    We are going through the exact same situations as you are – the conflict of getting people in and also providing “improving” literature. We have standards set which are generally around number of visitors and number of issues – not how many lives we enrich! BUT, I like to think that if I get someone in through the door on their terms then they might just discover something that they werent expecting. For instance, we run Teen Zones with PS2s, DJ workshops etc – we have had a number of kids come into these (because libraries are not cool to come into when you are 14)and who have then moved on – they become comfortable coming through the doors and sometimes come in at other times, read books etc…I would prefer to catch a couple of these kids whilst offering non-core activities than miss out on the chance of getting these kids at all!

  179. There’s a certain level of arrogance (rightly or wrongly) involved with the notion of “improving” our patrons with “important” or “intellectually stimulating” materials. The same goes for the notion of librarians as the gatekeepers of knowlege of the stewards of culture. We’re putting ourselves on a pedistal and saying we know what is best for our patrons and what will ultimately be important for them, and for postarity. That, even though a patron WANTS a thing, we know what the patron NEEDS.

    Lemme tell you what I need, after a day of trying to figure out what patrons want/need, what archivists 100 years from now will applaud me for keeping, and how to use limited resources to do the most good. I need cat macros with animals talking in horribly misspelt and grammatically challenged ways. I need that Shortpacked comic where Batman says “I’m Batman” like 13 times in 6 panels. I need that Wii game where you race the cows. In short–I need entertainment. Just as badly as someone with less education than me needs it–dealing with customers all day is the same, whether you’re doing it in a library environment, or retail, or a car shop. Having your brain turned to total mush by school or work or homemaking is having your brain turned to total mush. And if I can help relieve some of that burden by assisting a patron in killing 42 zombies in 30 seconds via The Umbrella Chronicals, I’ll be more than happy to assist. And maybe, while they’re checking that out, they’ll see other useful things the library has, and I’ll have to work that much less to advocate the usefulness of our “enrichement” materials to someone who would have thought that the library wasn’t for them, except a friend told them that we rent videos/games.

    There’s also a level of presumption that there is no value in “entertainment.” I believe that entertainment is valuable for entertainment’s sake–especially if other people’s work days are as brain-melting as mine, sometimes. But there’s larger cultural value in entertainment. If we look at it from a purely pop culture sense, entertainment is a reflection of where we are now as a society and how we wish society really was. That’s a pretty powerful lens through which to view, say, The Cosby Show or, say, The Sarah Connor Chronicals, or Batman or anything else that appears, on the surface, to be a waste of time. Pop culture is still part of our culture.

  180. TLG,
    Yes, indeed there is value in entertainment. But when all a library tried to do is entertain at the expense of all other missions, just in order to bring the door count up, there is a problem. This is exactly what I have seen in libraries. In one major system I worked in, YS programming was reduced to seeing who could book the gaudiest clowns and flashiest computer gaming. Meanwhile, YS librarians were chastised for spending “too much time” developing storytime themes and YA programs like open-mic nights. Recent DVD releases were vastly increased and money was taken away from the book budget. They used the same logic you espoused, that people coming in for DVD’s would see the rest of the collection and become avid users. But that’s not what I saw over a 5 year span. What I saw first-hand was that people rushed in every three days to get their 10 DVD’s allowed per card, then rushed out. They filed endless complaints because we didn’t have enough new DVD releases, and the Admin complied, ordering less and less educational DVD/titles and books. I had no room for a storytime shelf because nearly all of our workroom was taken up by racks of DVDS waiting to be shelved or repaired. The library cannot compete with Blockbuster, or Disneyland. And if we try, we doom ourselves to failure because those services can be provided elsewhere much better. We need to market services that libraries can provide better. To me, helping a child with educational needs or an adult looking for job-seeking resources is more important than catering to Joe DVD. Joe DVD has Blockbuster and Netflix to help satisfy his massive movie fix. And no matter how many DVD’s we stock, Joe DVD will still complain. Sure, let’s stock DVD’s, but not at the expense of everything else. We need to do what libraries do best. The old adage that when you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one is true. I’ve seen it on a daily basis over the past 25 years in Libraries.

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