The Dysmey Blog
The personal weblog of Andy West.

November 2008
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The Annoyed Librarian
Filed under: Work
Posted by: Andy @ 10:42 pm

The American Library Association has added a librarian blogger called the Annoyed Librarian. The blogger calls herself that because she tends to be fed up with bull that comes from patrons, her fellow librarians, and even from the ALA itself. The latter is ironic, as her blog has relocated on the Web site of the Library Journal, the organ of the ALA.

Care for some samples?

The Cult of Twopointopia

Library 2.0 is a fad based on Web 2.0, a marketing ploy of O’Reilly Media to get the public more interest in new Web services like blogs, wikis and social networks. Web 2.0 was never really meant for the programming gurus, who laugh away such attempts at marketing to them. Evidently the whackos pushing Library 2.0 are having similar success with librarians, who tend to share the following retort.

I am a librarian who knows how to use all this stuff, and I’ve been serving users for years. I’m the knowledgeable skeptic who isn’t awed because some librarian knows how to blog. Also, I’m skeptical, and whenever anyone starts jabbering about yet another movement with its own manifesto, I can’t help but criticize it. I don’t jump on bandwagons. I don’t follow fads. I’m not a convert or an ideologue.

AL American Libraries Column #5: On Getting No Respect

There is a movement among public library boards to reduce the role of library personal to that of customer-service representatives, which is a fancy title for retail clerks and telemarketers, on the grounds that the library is a service. The real reason is to stiff the staff of a good chunk of money, since retail clerks are poorly paid.

We can’t get away with that in Indiana, as new certification requirements demand an MLS for directors of libraries above a certain size, and a set number of education credits for all staff. Those credits are not cheap, and the staff will expect boards to cough up at least part of the cost. But that sort of evil is being done elsewhere, and the blogger rightly will not stand for it.

While it’s true that public librarians need to, in some sense, give the patrons what they want, and all public service librarians need some of the skills we might label customer service skills, I think modeling librarians after retail clerks and libraries after malls are huge mistakes, and will prove detrimental to the status of librarians. Retail clerks don’t get any respect, and if librarians model themselves after retail clerks, they’ll get even less respect than they do now. Any worker who, when abused, takes the Christian injunction too far and turns all four cheeks to the abusive patron will never get any respect. Bootlicking sycophants and servants get no respect and deserve none, and as long as this toadying image is promoted and tolerated among librarians then they don’t deserve any respect.

As a case in point, a past director of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library replaced reference librarians with clerks because as customer-service representatives the clerks were less expensive. This, and other factors, have led to rancor with the library staff, which finally tried to form a union. The library board eventually forced out the director. The staff was not sad to see her leave: She came into town and in two years demoralized a system worse than it already was, and took off.

Et tu, ACRL?

Academic libraries exist for students, faculty and staff to read and to do research. It is not there to curry to ignorant apelings, as the public libraries supposedly must. The blogger knows this, points to the difference between academic and public libraries, and asserts that the missions of the two are not the same. That said, she is angry at the emergence of gaming in academic libraries, and thinks extremely little of the ideas of marketing and information literacy in the academic libraries. I do not think she will get along well with the Dean of my library.

According to some of the public librarians, public libraries are there to give the public what it wants. But academic libraries are there to teach people, not pander to them. Is academia to become as puerile and idiotic as the rest of American culture? Do we academics have to amuse ourselves to death, too? As usual, I’m sure my pleas for sanity will fall on deaf ears, but please, pretty please, leave the gaming to the public libraries and the children. There has to be some place in librarianship for the intellectual and scholarly among us, for those librarians devoted to reading hard books, supporting research, and helping students learn how to be little scholars. If academic libraries are overwhelmed by the same pandering to childish interests that public libraries have been, there’ll be no bastions of intellectual life left in libraries. Is that really what we want?

She is right. Games like Bioshock become cheap (around $10-$20) after a few months; computers are no longer expensive; and a dial-up modem is enough for most games, which need Internet connections only for authentication and registration purposes. You do not need a library, even a public one, to play video games. But if there is a need for games in the libraries, confine them to the public libraries, and let the academic ones do what they are supposed to do.

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