What is it like to be a librarian in a world of too much information? Constant change, exploding technology, shrinking budgets, growing numbers of the baffled...could there be a better spot than behind the librarians' desk to watch the digital age unfold?
Marilyn Johnson dared to write book about the library and the keepers of knowledge. I say dared because I bet that if you asked the average person where librarian work rated in the importance of the world, most would respond with "huh?" Within the chapters, Johnson brings life to the 'unusual' librarian and lets readers know that if they paid a bit of attention, they could see how normal and commonplace these 'unusual' librarians are. The librarian stereotype is one who wears a long skirt and a blouse with black rimmed glasses and values quiet above all. Like a microcosm of the patrons they serve, they have tattoos, died hair, are expert gamers, history buffs, have avatars, are renegades and rebels, have families, wear stilettos to work, write blogs on virtually every topic, are funny and irreverent..and yes, sometimes they even swear.
The first half of the book gives a rich identity to those seemingly quiet library workers and reveals the passions, creativity and politics within.
Unfortunately, the second half of the book slows down and, unless you are a great fan of the New York Public library, becomes congested with all the research that happens there. I enjoyed the stories of various writers who conducted research there and the help they received from the staff, but it was bogged down by the salute (even if deserving) to the NY Public Library.
As a library worker, I found the anecdotes and humour refreshing and those parts were a joy to read.
Quotes from the book:
“In tight economic times, with libraries sliding farther and farther down the list of priorities, we risk the loss of their ideals, intelligence, and knowledge, not to mention their commitment to access for all—librarians consider free access to information the foundation of democracy, and they’re right. Librarians are essential players in the information revolution because they level that field. They enable those without money or education to read and learn the same things as the billionaire and the Ph.D…In tough times, a librarian is a terrible thing to waste.”
“Yes, librarians use punctuation marks to make little emoticons, smiley and frowny faces in their correspondence, but if there were one for an ironic wink, or a sarcastic lip curl, they'd wear it out.”
“Bibliomancy: "Divination by jolly well Looking It Up.”
“Good librarians are natural intelligence operatives. They possess all of the skills and characteristics required for that work: curiosity, wide-ranging knowledge, good memories, organization and analytical aptitude, and discretion.”
“We'll always need printed books that don't mutate the way digital books do; we'll always need places to display books, auditoriums for book talks, circles for story time; we'll always need brick-and-mortar libraries.”