Annoyed Librarian
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Altruism or Self-Interest?

Oh, goodness, the President has released a proposed federal budget that “miscalculates the value of more than 120,000 libraries across America,” at least according to the ALA. It supposedly does that miscalculation by “eliminating the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to America’s libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).” It makes complete sense for the ALA to fight against cutting the IMLS. That’s the kind of political fight librarians should be in, and they usually win since the President doesn’t make the budget, Congress does. Supposedly, IMLS funding benefits “everyone in our communities, including: Veterans in California who receive assistance claiming well-earned benefits to further their education, get medical treatment, start a business and transition to civilian life. Students in Arkansas who prepare for today’s competitive job market by participating in coding ...
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Hoarders on a Grand Scale

I’ve written a number of times about book weeding, which always seems to draw complaints from patrons, whether it’s in an academic or a public library. Probably more so in academic libraries, because there’s no one more fetishistic about books than professors who have been using the library for decades. Well, almost no one. The latest story focuses on the library at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which is in Indiana, Pennsylvania, which is a real place and not just a vague region in the Midwest. They’re getting rid of 170,000 books or so that haven’t circulated for 20 years. 20 years doesn’t seem like such a long time, but when you need space for coffee shops and study areas something has to go. The response from some people is predictably hyperbolic. "Unbelievably wrongheaded" and a "knife through the heart," Charles Cashdollar, an emeritus history professor, wrote to the president and provost. "For humanists, throwing out these books is as devastating as locking ...
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The Homeless and the Future of Libraries

I’ve written many times about the mission creep of public librarians, whether they’re saving drug addicts from overdosing in public parks that aren’t in the library or becoming de facto social workers. At least some librarians seem to disagree that these are forms of mission creep. It’s impossible to tell from comments how many librarians think that they really should be administering Narcan or counseling the mentally ill. Maybe they all do, or maybe it’s a vocal minority that is energized enough to make it seem that way. Perhaps mission creep - and it’s definitely mission creep even if some librarians love the creep - is to be celebrated. For example, maybe we should celebrate that staff at the Sacramento Public Library are now being trained “to help them respond to customers who appear to be suffering from mental problems.” Given that the public library is the default toilet of the Sacramento homeless population, I guess that makes sense. The actual businesses, that ...
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The Luxury of School Librarians

A high school junior in Pittsburgh has won “the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association's ‘Me? A School Librarian” contest.’” That’s exciting for her, I’m sure. She’ll get to go to a state library association conference, which will probably be less exciting, where she will “be formally recognized at an awards breakfast and meet with [the association president] to discuss a possible future as a school librarian.” Perhaps during their meeting, they can discuss this story about laid off teachers elsewhere in the state. Recently, “the Scranton School Board approved a plan by administration to lay off 28 tenured teachers and 23 nontenured teachers.” Of the 51 teachers being fired, 12 are librarians. If 24% of the fired teachers being librarians seems like a large percentage, that’s because it is. They don’t make up 24% of the teacher jobs. It turns out that librarians were specially targeted. District administration originally planned to eliminate 89 positions, including ...
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Partial Librarians and Impartial Libraries

Last week a reader left the following a comment on my post Librarians and Journalists: Libraries have for a long time leaned to the left. Just take a look at ALA and its emphasis on librarians becoming “change agents” and “community facilitators.” Sounds an awful lot like “community organizer.” The days of librarians claiming to be impartial are over. In some ways it seems pretty obvious. Right-wing librarians are an anomaly, for some understandable reasons. If you want to exclude immigrants from public services, for example, you’re unlikely to go into a profession that ideally welcomes all users equally. We know they don’t really welcome all users equally, because nobody ever lives up to ideals, but the hope is there for a lot of librarians. What I noticed about the comment, though, is how three different things get conflated: librarians, libraries, and the ALA, and I think we can understand more about all three by separating them. Librarians tend to be pretty left-wing. A ...
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The Perfect and the Good, or at Least the Better

Kind Reader sent this article on racist librarians a couple of weeks ago. It covers the same topic an LJ article also covered this month. If you haven’t followed this topic that’s of little interest except to well meaning librarians who feel guilty about their existence, the gist is that some European social scientists decided to spend a lot of time trying to find out -  and this is not a joke - “whether racial discrimination exists in access to public services in the United States.” Whatever else this study shows, it shows that European social scientists can be  just as useless as American social scientists, and they spend time and money proving the bloody obvious. I mean, seriously, how ignorant about either the United States or human nature do you have to be to believe this is a question worth asking, much less wasting any resources trying to answer. The conclusion, and it’s a shocker, is that racial discrimination probably exists “in access to public services in the ...
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