Buried in info? Cross-eyed over technology? From the bottom of a pile of paper and discs, books, e-books, and scattered thumb drives comes a cry of hope: Make way for the librarians! They want to help. They're not selling a thing. And librarians know best how to beat a path through the googolplex sources of information available to us, writes Marilyn Johnson, whose previous book, The Dead Beat, breathed merry life into the obituary-writing profession.
This Book Is Overdue! is a romp through the ranks of information professionals and a revelation for readers burned out on the clichés and stereotyping of librarians. Blunt and obscenely funny bloggers spill their stories in these pages, as do a tattooed, hard-partying children's librarian; a fresh-scrubbed Catholic couple who teach missionaries to use computers; a blue-haired radical who uses her smartphone to help guide street protestors; a plethora of voluptuous avatars and cybrarians; the quiet, law-abiding librarians gagged by the FBI; and a boxing archivist. These are just a few of the visionaries Johnson captures here, pragmatic idealists who fuse the tools of the digital age with their love for the written word and the enduring values of free speech, open access, and scout-badge-quality assistance to anyone in need.
I found this book through Kim, who’d reviewed Marilyn Johnson’s newest book recently. (It’s about archaeologists and looks REALLY GOOD.) MJ’s two older books were on Scribd, so I went for it. Specifically, I went for the one about librarians.
I love books about books, even though sometimes it makes me feel a little bit like I’m one of those snakes eating its own tail. Kind of circular, I suppose.
Okay, so reading this book is what made me think more seriously about applying to library school. It’s all about amazing libraries and librarians and people who love books and reading and FREEDOM. It’s very exciting to read, especially if you’re working in a library already. It’s inspiring! And probably a little bit dangerous, if you’re easily swayed like I am.
What I liked best about This Book is Overdue was how it talked about the role of libraries in our society without being overly nostalgic for stuff like card catalogs or going the route of “oh, literature is dying we are doomed.” It DOES talk about how libraries are changing, though, and some of those changes are pretty heartbreaking. (Oh, the lovely NYPL reading rooms! Gone!)
So it’s an up-and-down sort of situation, reading this book.
There’s also a lot of time spent talking about weird stuff like Second Life, which I honestly didn’t even realize was such a big thing. Is it still a big thing? Are people still devoting hours upon hours of their time volunteering at virtual libraries? I mean, This Book is Overdue was published in 2010, so it’s been a while, but I remember 2010 and I DON’T remember hearing anything about Second Life.
Anyway, the author basically spent a few years stalking librarians across various spaces IRL and virtual and she goes into detail about the different things librarians do. They build communities, basically! And then try to lure those communities into checking out books.
I particularly loved the chapters about library blogs and zines, and the one focused on the international school was wonderful. Kind of strange that she didn’t go to an ALA conference,1 but on the whole I thought did a pretty good job of finding librarians in different kinds of libraries and situations.
If you’re a fan of libraries, or if you’re thinking of becoming a librarian, I definitely think you’d enjoy This Book is Overdue!
Read: November 25-27, 2014
- or if she did she didn’t write about it enough to make me remember it. ↩