Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ain't we swell.....

Would you like to sell a lot of books? Well, here's a great strategy - write a book all about how wonderful librarians are, and how they are the last guardians of civilization, wisdom and intellectual freedom as we know it. According to the American Library Association, there are over 122,000 libraries in this country. So right away, you've sold 122,000 books to eager collection development librarians. And then, of course, there are Christmas and birthday gifts for the librarians in your life, as well as ardent bibliophiles.
But what to say in a book like that? Well, Marilyn Johnson found plenty to say in her new book This Book is Overdue: how librarians and cybrarians can save us all. She talks to librarian bloggers, who dish the real dirt on what it's like to work in a library (fortunately, I've never had to deal with patrons who deposit feces in the bookstacks). She looks at the repercussions of the Patriot Act, and the way librarians have tried to protect the privacy of their patrons while staying within the boundaries of the law. There are academic librarians whose new role is teaching students how to sift through a tidal wave of digital information, as well as assisting some students who have never used a computer before. Meet archivists who - literally - preserve and protect the intellectual history of mankind, as well as children's librarians who keep their tattoos covered during story hour.
Mostly, however, Johnson's book is a response to the oft-sounded death knell of librarians, the constant prediction that computers and ubiquitous digital information will eventually wipe libraries and librarians from the face of the Earth. Ever tried to do a Google search for information about vaccine safety? Or the name of an 18th-century Polish composer who is buried in Gdansk? Or a phone number for the VA office in Worcester, Mass.?
Yeah, I'm not worried.....

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