Thursday, May 06, 2010

Book Recommended

One of my faculty colleagues recently presented me with a personally-inscribed copy of a new book written by a friend of his, who happens to live in the same county where I live. The book (the publisher's blurb is linked to from the title of this post) is entitled This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, and the author is Marilyn Johnson, whose previous book explored the writing of obituaries. She is clearly a quirky and vibrant person whose interests are broad and deep. The book celebrates libraries and librarians, and Johnson's profiles of librarians who deviate profoundly from the stereotyped image of our profession make for entertaining reading. The book has been favorably reviewed in The New York Times and elsewhere. I have a couple of criticisms. The author's enthusiasm for her subject sometimes gets the better of her, and when it does, the book tends to lose its way and become rambling. In addition, it is definitely written with more of a public-library focus; there is not much here that relates specifically to academic librarianship. It is nonetheless engaging.

Some of the chapters I particularly enjoyed concerned the Connecticut librarians who stood up to the FBI and fought to keep library records private; members of Radical Reference, who, "armed with iPhones, provided online support to protesters at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul; librarians who participate in Second Life (I don't see the point of Second Life, but it makes for a good read); the upgrading of the Westchester Library System's online catalog, which revealed the differences between the librarians and the IT staff; the opening of the new Darien Public Library, which is known for the high quality of its patron services; and several profiles of librarians who work at the New York Public Library. The portrait of librarians that emerges is very positive--as a profession, we care deeply about making information available to all regardless of ability to pay; we value our patrons' privacy; freedom of speech is paramount--most librarians oppose censorship; we are dedicated to helping to tame information overload by working with people one on one or in groups to teach them how to manage information. This book is a quick, enjoyable read, and reminded me of why I chose to become a librarian.


Ms. OPL said...

I thought the book started out great, but it turned me off when it became a diatribe on women's equality and the poor image of librarianship.
But it's better than nothing......

Marie S. Newman said...

I agree that the first half of the book is probably stronger than the second half, but I think "diatribe" is a mischaracterization. Also, I think the book portays librarianship in a very positive light.