Category Archives: advocacy

The Uncertain Future of the Horseless Carriage

With the news about Amazon lending Kindle Books to libraries still reverberating across the library and publishing blogospheres (see Jason Griffey, Bobbi Newman, Sarah Houghton-Jan, and the Overdrive blog, in addition to the Amazon Press Release, for starters), Fast Company, among others, asks if it means the end of local libraries, as if we’re all buggy whip wholesalers at the turn of the 20th century, wandering clueless by the Horseless Carriage dealership.

Libraries have been dealing with online databases, ebooks, and other downloadable media for years, and yet, every time a story like this comes along, the media acts like librarians are whistling past the graveyard, completely unaware that our professional deaths are imminent.  We all know this isn’t true but why is the message not penetrating back into the mainstream culture?  Part of the problem, of course, it that “The Death of Libraries” makes for a catchy headline and tasty, tasty link bait.  But is it also a reflection of the Echo Chamber that librarians tend to live in, where we’re not getting our voices heard outside our own colleagues’ ears?

It’s especially important in this day and age, with library budgets being cut to the bone, for civilians to understand what we do and why we do it.  Ned PotterBobbi Newman (her again??) and Patrick Sweeney have written on the topic of escaping the echo chamber and offered their own solutions and challenges.

I have my own addition to the cause which I hope to unveil soon, once I’ve gotten my ducks in a row.  I hope you’ll join me in generating your own solutions to make the cause of libraries known far and wide.


Too Good

I was helping a patron work through an honest-to-goodness reference question the other day, and after we found the info she wanted, she said, “You’re too good to me!” (punctuated with a high five).  Modesty aside, that phrase has stuck with me and been churning around inside my head.

As librarians, we have a responsibility to be “too good” to our patrons and to provide them with the highest quality service without providing value judgments.  Before and during library school, we all have that dreamy vision of how librarians are going to change the world, but when we get out into the work force (or have trouble getting in), so many of us let the everyday tasks and problem situations wear us down and make us bitter and jaded.

You don’t think being “too good” is part of your job description as a librarian?  Too bad.

We’ve all heard the stereotype of librarians sitting around reading all day, that we’re all introverted, timid nerds, and while obviously true in some cases, it’s worth our time to proactively prove the stereotype wrong (and if you are an introverted, timid nerd, work to overcome it). Don’t rest on your laurels, don’t just wait for the economy to get better to try new things, don’t let bad times transmogrify your optimism into pessimism, and for God’s sake, don’t prove the stereotypes right.  Stand up for yourself and for your organization and for the profession.  Be proud of who you are and what you do.  Be proud to be a librarian.

Don’t let “too good” be “good enough”.

Giving Back

I became a librarian for all kinds of reasons, some of which I detailed here, but the reason I continue to revel in being a public librarian is that I enjoy giving back to my community.  I feel like I’m helping people who genuinely need help, providing answers to people whose lives may be changed by what I tell them.  I feel like I’m fulfilling that vague sense of purpose that I think all librarians have burning in their hearts when they’re imagining what the profession is like.

So, needless to say, it drives me bonkers to see librarians who don’t enjoy their jobs, who constantly complain and whine about their patrons and their work.  There are plenty of fresh, young library school graduates looking for work who would love to have their jobs.

The worst part, of course, is that they’re doing harm to the profession in a time when we need all hands on deck to support and promote libraries.  We need people who are enthusiastic about being librarians, who love the work, to help us rise up, not dreary folks who post on their tweets and blogs (almost always anonymously) to drag us down.

If you’re not willing to invest yourself in your community, if you’re not willing to celebrate all that’s good about our profession and share that love with your patrons, please quit and make room for those of us who do want that.


Andy Woodworth has posted The Almighty Antithesis to Narcissism wiki, as a sane alternative to the madness that is Charlie Sheen, and Bobbi Newman has written about the same issue here. Please visit both of their sites and consider giving to counteract the negativity.