Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Views from the Right

Tired of websites offering me too many stories that would change my life for the better or restore my faith in humanity if only I’d click to see what they were, I decided to head over to places that never offer to change your life for the better.

First stop, the Weekly Standard, which foolishly offers an opinion about the “bookless library” I wrote about last week.

No, that sentence was wrong. It offered a foolish opinion.

The Weekly Standard criticizes the library, such as it is, but misses the point. The criticism is that polls show millennials don’t prefer ereaders and that a scientific study showed that people who read on paper are more likely to retain information than people who read the same information on a screen.

Or possibly. Here’s the relevant quote from an article in Scientific American:

such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done.

Hmm. Navigating screens instead of paper may inhibit reading comprehension. Then again, it may not.

Screens may also drain our mental resources slightly more than paper, or they may not.

The Weekly Standard seems awfully sure these ambiguous scientific results are both accurate and relevant. There’s some doubt they’re accurate at all, and they’re definitely not relevant.

We often find people writing about libraries who don’t know anything about libraries, but this is a subtle variation we don’t see a lot.

The library in question is exclusively devoted to STEM fields. The literature in those fields is dominated by journals, not books. The bulk of those journals have been available mostly online for the last 15 years.

There are definitely reasons to criticize that library. It seems to be a poorly funded library that’s trying to pitch its lack of resources as a virtue.

But given the disciplines involved, there wouldn’t be a lot of books anyway, so to complain that students reading the material that would only be available online at other libraries as well misses the point.

The other right-wing criticism of librarians this week might be a little more valid, even though it comes from a website that prominently links to an article about a supposed “war on bacon” by somebody named Ham. And yes, the war on bacon article is as stupid as it sounds, but if you want to indulge in some old fashioned Muslim bashing head to the comments section.

The criticism is of something the website calls “pension-spiking” but that the rest of us might just call pension-raising. There didn’t seem to be any links to the actual pension negotiation details, but there’s apparently one that deals with librarians.

Human Events claims that under the new deal “Librarians get extra payments if they routinely help library patrons find books and resources.” An editorial in the Sacramento Bee claims that “There also are premiums for librarians whose job includes telling patrons where to find resources.”

The editorial goes on to add, “We love librarians. But isn’t assisting patrons fundamental to what librarians do?”

The question makes a lot of sense. Of course not all librarians are involved with helping patrons find resources. That’s usually just the reference librarians.

So this pension policy seems designed to either encourage all librarians to be reference librarians, or at least to make sure that reference librarians end with higher pensions than catalogers or systems librarians. No doubt this clause was added because of the powerful connections of Big Reference.

I don’t want to spend the time to find or read the actual document, but I would like to have already read it to see if the librarian clause is real, because it seems pretty weird.

But maybe no weirder than firefighters getting higher pensions if they are “assigned to administrative work during normal hours of employment” or police officers to get higher pensions if they direct traffic.

If this really is going on, it’s a good time to be a reference librarian in the public sector in California, I guess.



  1. I was going to comment but I feel suddenly mentally drained and have forgotten what you wrote. Maybe if I printed it out … Nah.

  2. Frumious Bandersnatch says:

    Not reading at all, because it’s difficult for many people to manage the time, transportation and other factors involved in a physical trip to the library, probably inhibits comprehension more than reading on an eReader.

    …and I always suspected those folks in Reference were up to something.

  3. That Thing says:

    I think it was Plato who bemoaned the loss of comprehension when people started writing things down in the first place. No none would have to memorize anything any more! Books would make us all stupid!

  4. dan cawley says:

    did someone say bacon?

  5. Lincoln Lyceum says:

    I’m starting to think that most of the stuff people think they know about libraries and librarians is urban legend propagated by the popular media.

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