Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

National Library Week Yet Again

National Library Week is here yet again. That’s the week librarians come together to celebrate the fact that we don’t have a true national library like other civilized countries. Or something like that.

Still, I tried to get excited about it. That was helped by this lovely brochure that you can print out and distribute to all and sundry. So what can you do at a library?

Visit your library for computer resources for teens and adults, help with your job search, access to subscription databases, library-recommended websites and homework help. You also can obtain information about how to become a U.S. citizen, bilingual resources and neutral financial information to help you make important decisions.

That sounded pretty nifty. I visited a friend of mine, a lawyer, and she took me to their firm’s law library. I asked for some computer resources for teens and adults. She referred me to Westlaw. Something’s not right here. I can’t imagine many adults or teens wanting to spend a lot of time with Westlaw.

Then while I was at a hospital visiting a sick friend, I dropped by the library there.

“Can you give me some information about how to become a U.S. citizen?” I asked the librarian.

“Aren’t you already one?”

“But what if I weren’t.”

“I don’t know. There’s probably a website about that somewhere. The government, maybe.”

Still frustrated, I cleverly evaded the security at a school near where I live. The librarian seemed friendly at first. I had to go and ruin it by asking a question.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Can you provide me with neutral financial information to help me make important decisions?”

Much less friendly now.

“I think security has an answer for that. Let me give them a call.”

Fortunately I evaded them again and escaped the building without losing my dignity. But I was no closer to my goal.

On the way home I visited a museum, which also had a library. That librarian was friendly, and didn’t try to kick me out at all. He seemed very welcoming and answered a lot of questions about the library and how it served the museum.

“Can you give me access to subscription databases?” I finally asked.

“No, we don’t have any of those. You’re welcome to search our online catalog, though. Maybe there’s a book you’d be interested in.”

Books, indeed. I want financial databases and neutral subscription information.

I wasn’t giving up that easily, though. A university was nearby, so I visited the library there. The reference librarian was rather indifferent, but it was late in the afternoon by now, so I let it slide.

“Can you provide me with some homework help?”

She just stared at me.

“You have homework?”

I guess that’s what passes for a reference interview these days.

“I don’t have homework, but I know somebody who does.”

“Is that somebody a student here?”  Still staring.

“I doubt it. He’s 9.”

“I don’t think I can help him.” Still staring.

This was getting unnerving, so I left and headed to the last place I thought I could get some help, the local public library. The reference librarian here was at least friendlier than her academic counterpart.

“Excuse me, can you provide me with some bilingual resources?”

“Certainly. We have a large Spanish-language collection right over here,” she said, leading the way.

I looked through a few of the books.

“But these are all in Spanish,” I said.


“I mean, they are in all Spanish.”


“Spanish is just one language.”

She backed away ever so slightly.


“I want something bilingual, with two languages. Do you have any foreign language books with facing English translations, for example?”

“Do they make books like that?”

“They certainly do.”

“I don’t think we have any.”

“What about foreign language dictionaries? They’re bilingual. I’d like to translate some Amharic into English.”

“I don’t think we have one for Amharic. Have you tried Google Translate?”

“It doesn’t translate Amharic.”

“Oh. I don’t think we can help you then.”

“What about Oromo?”

“What about it?”

“Any Oromo-English dictionaries?”

“I can check, but I don’t think so.”

“No Amharic? No Oromo? If I were Ethiopian, I’d be out of luck here.”

“But you aren’t Ethiopian, are you?”

“Maybe I know some Ethiopians who need dictionaries.”

“Do you know any?”

Alas, foiled again. In fact, I don’t know any Ethiopians who need dictionaries.

However, I can’t help but conclude that this National Library Week isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.



  1. So, I guess, based on these experiences, you’re in favor of the Ryan budget plan to defund libraries and museums?

  2. I am unclear as to the point of the article. This reminds me of those type of sixth grade students who has irrelevant questions, knowing that they are irrelevent, to either fluster the teacher or entertain their peers. How about we use this time to celebrate all that is positive about librarianship. For one, I am thankful to have a job; and to be able to enjoy what I do!

    • I think the point is that “National Library Week” seems more like “National Public Library Week,” and that other types of libraries seem to get snubbed. The quoted description doesn’t really apply to law, museum, university, or school libraries, and only partially applies to most public libraries.

    • Well since the public library is the only library that everyone in the nation can use it kind of makes sense.

  3. Working in a corporate library, we sure can’t use that brochure. On the other hand, we DO have bilingual dictionaries!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thank you. As much as I hate pigeonholing librarians, one-size-fits-all does not apply to libraries.

  5. Have those who read this article forgotten what satire is? Really people, this was meant to be amusing and point out how ridiculous and generic that brochure is.
    Personally, I find this to be amusing. It’s true, no library is equipped to provide all of those services. So why advertise that they are?

  6. I absolutely love the annoyed librarian! I understand where she’s going with this. What I took away from the article is that if we’re ready to celebrate library week, ready to celebrate the industry, then we were ready for those difficult questions from difficult patrons, even though we’re all over-worked and in need of a break. And we should be aware that we might be the only game in town for a variety of needs. I would have directed the patron to Transparent Languages, a subscription database we receive, that has over 80 languages to learn at home using your library card.

  7. Ha! This is great. You’re completely right; the buzz around National Library Week is so broad and doesn’t reflect the different types of libraries that your community may have.

  8. Psst, AL. Looks like my libarry can get you a copy of Colloquial Amharic on the cheap…

  9. Yes. National Library Week has always been about the Public Library that does try to be everything to everyone which is next to impossible. As a corporate, academic, and hospital librarian during my career, I have wished that all types of libraries would work together more so that we could support each other with each of our strengths. I was just thinking while reading this post that she was lucky to find a librarian in a hospital! Most hospitals no longer employ librarians in favor of online resource subscriptions. Clinicians are on their own with regard to finding that ‘Evidence-Based Knowledge’ to answer their clinical questions and support their clinical decisions. In my experience, most clinicians will choose to use Google and ask a Colleague over using authoritative online resources without a librarian’s assistance. Yes, the teaching hospital I supported for nine years felt they no longer needed library staff last year. ANyway, Happy National Library Week to all libraries and a Big Thank You to my local Cypress Public Library in California for all its service to my family and me!

  10. I needed a good loud laugh. It probably shouldn’t be at the reference desk in the middle of the afternoon. At least the students are entertained. :)

  11. What public library did you go to that didn’t have bilingual materials or languages other than Spanish? Sounds fishy. Though Boston PL did cut down from forty-nine languages to fifteen, reasons unknown (or known, but idiotic), so…

    I’m viewing NLW this year as a chance to have a little geeky fun with libraries. There’s never a bad time for that, but it’s nice to have a set-aside week for it.

  12. I work at a law library. Not an academic law library, a private firm one. I’m “celebrating” National Library Week because my predecessor did something for it, so I had to do something for it. It wildly does not apply to my type of library so I’m left scratching my head about what I’m doing it for.

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