I thought I was going to be betrayed by Nancy Pearl, archetypal librarian.
And the woman who delighted the world that shushing "action" figure should never betray us mere mortal librarians. (By the way, that figure seems to be available in both a regular and a "deluxe" version, and I think the latter is life-sized.) I read about her in the Yakima Herald Republic Online. Here's the beginning of the article:
"Nancy Pearl is tough on books. She guesses she finishes one for every 10 she starts.
'I really demand a lot,' the retired Seattle librarian says, 'sometimes, I think, too much. But I don't want to waste time on a bad book.'
She demands a lot? She doesn't want to waste time on a "bad" book? What in the heck could that possibly mean?
I was a little disoriented at first. Here's a librarian who dares to make a value judgment about a book? Isn't she supposed to put scare quotes around that judgment? You know, a "good" book or a "bad" book, or perhaps a "controversial" book or a so-called "inappropriate" book.
We all know that these days librarians are supposed to be information relativists, and we've long since given up the traditional role of librarians as cultural gatekeepers of any kind. Whatever is popular, we'll buy. Whatever people want, no matter how trashy or ridiculous, we try to put on the shelves. We're all things to all people. Nothing's good, nothing's bad. Everything is equal, because it's all "information." Jane Austen, porn magazines, snuff films, that children's scrotum book - it's all just constitutionally protected information that your library should buy for you. (Okay, so snuff films probably aren't constitutionally protected. You'll have to buy "virtual" snuff films and maybe call them video games.)
And if everything is equally good or bad, then it doesn't make sense to talk about good or bad anymore. There are no good books or bad books. There are just books.
And now Pearl comes along with this values talk. She starts talking about "good" books and "bad" books. I was thinking to myself, is this woman crazy? Won't they kick her out of the ALA for talking like this? She's almost on the verge of making sense, and that's anathema to the information relativists at the ALA. She's almost using the words good and bad as if they had any real meaning.
Fortunately for Pearl, she is safe from being dismissed from the ALA for making any sense. To ease your mind, read on:
'A bad book,' she explains, 'is any book you don't like. A good book is any book you like.'"
That gibberish was such a relief. Because since a good book is just a book you like, and a bad book is just one you don't, we're back in the domain of utter nonsense, the natural home of the ALA-indoctrinated librarian. We're back in the cozy, inane place where good and bad have absolutely no meaning whatsoever, where there can possibly be no standards of literary or moral judgment, especially about something as trivial as a mere book. Ah, what a relief.