Monday, January 07, 2008

While the Cat Was Away

Happy new year to you all. My vacation was so peaceful and relaxing that to be honest I almost didn't start writing again. There are those people who go into withdrawal symptoms whenever they're away from their blogs or an Internet connection for a few days or even hours. I'm not one of those people. But what would life be like without the AL, I asked myself? Occasionally one must sacrifice oneself for the greater good.

Three weeks have passed without any AL commentary on the happenings in the library world. I have a lot of catching up to do, and plan to do some of it in this post. While this cat was away, all sorts of librarians came out to play.

Since it's the new year, it's time to make new year's resolutions. Some people resolve to get to their target weight or quit smoking or stop beating their children, etc. I made those resolutions first thing, and since my weight's just fine, I don't smoke, and I don't have children, they are easy ones for me to keep. I've also made a resolution to be a much nicer person this year and not so cranky all the time. So here goes.

To start off the survey of the past three weeks, I should say that if David Lee King didn't exist, the Annoyed Librarian would have to invent him, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. He's so enthusiastic about libraries; sometimes I wish I could be that enthusiastic about anything without my meds. Let's consider his response to a question about what might draw people to physical library buildings in the future. He quotes from some other source:

“Imagine a future when you go to the library with a 5 minute video you’ve just made about last night’s Presidential debates and that librarian says to you:

‘You should upload it to YouTube and tag it with these four tags - two broad and two more specific to existing communities of interest on YouTube and the topic of your video. Then you should embed that video in a blog post along with some text introducing it and linking to some of your favorite posts by other people who have also written today about the Presidential debates. Make sure to send trackbacks to those posts!’

‘Now, I think this is a particularly good video on the topic, so if you’re interested I will vote for it on StumbleUpon (as a sexy librarian I have a very powerful account there) and give it a good summary explanation. Any of those are steps you can take that will make your work all the easier for people to discover.’ “"

Then he asks what we think. My thought is, yuck! Helping upload the video if asked isn't so bad, but all the nonsense about telling people to upload it and saying how great it is and how we'll help people discover that alleged greatness by promoting it in some way is ridiculous. I consider it service enough if a librarian helps upload the video without gagging at the content. I didn't click through to the other source, but it has a nice twopointopian ring to it. Notice the librarian is telling patrons to upload yet another boring video to Youtube. The librarian doesn't even wait to see why you're in the library before trying to force a twopointopian agenda on you. Typical.

Moving on to another perennial favorite, the Webtamer, who, as we all know, loves posting pictures of himself online. Finally, he's posted a photo even I can like, entitled Martini, Lychee and Stephens, Michael. Of course a real martini never has any fruit in it, but it still looks nice in the picture.

Now let's take a look at a couple of librarians from New York. You've probably all seen the story of the librarian who won the 29-hour couch potato contest. The article says he's a research librarian in Manhattan. It doesn't name his employer, but I'd bet it's the senior research librarian at Conde Nast, who has the same name. If it's the same person, he looks like an ordinary enough guy. I think we should all thank him for reveling in a stereotype of the librarian instead of trying to fight the stereotypes like those hipster librarians from last summer.

We've also got this guy, the "librarian to the stars," a librarian at the NYPL celebrated by all sorts of authors for helping them with crucial research for their books. Congratulations to the librarian of the stars for getting some great publicity for excellent library work. He's not a hipster, though he might be a couch potato. For both off these, it's refreshing not to hear how some silly group of librarians supposedly break out of some stereotype.

Via the Ubiquitous Librarian, I discovered that library school students can be as pretentious as they are ill prepared for library work. He points to a promotional page for a Library Student Journal "emerging leaders" special issue which says: “Library Student Journal believes that in many ways the average LIS student today understands the average user better than does the average LIS professional.” Ahh, the arrogance of youth. That's certainly a bold claim, though they fail to back it up with any evidence. People believe all sorts of silly things, so this is hardly surprising. They go on: "We have new and exciting ideas. We see information needs in new places (and new worlds)." Do they really have new and exciting ideas? Somehow I doubt that, but if on the off chance they do those ideas will be beaten out of them by some actual library work. I'm curious about the "new worlds" where they see information needs. Sounds like a Trekkie has been writing their promo.

One of the new and exciting ideas the new librarians always want to promote is turning libraries into video arcades, their guiding philosophy being that libraries should be all things to all people and that any sort of overriding educational mission for the library is just elitist. Those videogaming librarians should take a look at this essay in the Wall Street Journal on Teenage Zombies, subtitled "Video Games Have Sucked the Life out of My Kids." If the tales in this story are indicative of the relationship between teenage boys and their videogames, then the gaming librarians are definitely doing their part to turn boys into zombies. Turning teenagers into zombies is a terrible thing, and must be stopped in our lifetime, but obviously some librarians haven't heeded that important public service message.

One boy was so absorbed by his video game that he wouldn't take a bathroom break, choosing instead to just wet himself right there in the gaming seat. Remember that the next time you sit down at a library computer station. I can't comment on the accuracy of this anecdotal evidence, since I haven't spent much time around teenage boys since I was a teenager myself, and I didn't like most of them then. The urination story does seem relevant to a lot of teenage boys, though, since I recall a large percentage of them having an arm's length relationship with good hygiene or basic grooming skills.

I'm sure lots of other exciting things happened in the greater libraryland area while I was away, but that's about all I can stand for now. Besides, if I covered everything, I wouldn't have anything to blog about later in the week, since I haven't heard about any good nonsense in the works for the ALA Midwinter Meeting in the City of Brotherly Love.

Welcome back, everyone. I'm looking forward to a third year of being annoyed together.


Dances With Books said...

Yay! You are back. Happy New Year to you as well. While I am not one of those who goes through withdrawal when away from the internet, I was starting to have a slight case of AL withdrawal.

As for the LIS students, I think we will be laughing when they are still in the unemployed line, or better yet, crashing and burning against the walls of institutional resistance. Nothing better to break an arrogant spirit than coming across and unmoveable object.

As for the zombies, just keep the shotgun and plenty of shells handy. That story goes along nicely with the King post. All for making the library a place that does anything but actually serve as a library.

Max said...

Regarding zombies, I purchased two cricket bats over holiday break to protect myself against zombie attacks. Points if you can exercise your information guru skills and tell us why I chose a cricket bat.

AL said...

I think Shaun of the Dead used a cricket bat.

Anonymous said...

Oh, go ahead and laugh about zombies.

Just wait until the next elections and we will see hoards of zombies going to the polls and being elected to high office.

Fore warned is fore armed.qy

contrarian said...

You're back and I'm smiling.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, AL. While you are getting caught up, check out Farkas' latest blog post about a dream denied. I am not asking you to snark; it would be more constructive to use her posting as springboard to give some general concrete advice about moving up in the library food-chain. I suspect you know a bit about how that stuff works and could impart some wisdom for these ambitious NextGens.

AL said...

Funny you should mention that post, since I'm considering discussing that along with a couple of related posts on Wednesday. I doubt I'll do anything constructive with them, but I might try to have some fun.

Anonymous said...

I have a few things to say about work-life balance, but will save them for your Wed. post.

Brent said...

One way to fight juvenile crime rates and illegal drug use is to make them zombies. ...the lazy kind that won't eat human flesh.

kudzuhomecomingqueen said...

Can't wait until Wednesday. I saw that Farkas post, and I about threw out my chocolate I was so annoyed. Oh wait. That's your job.
Sorry. Welcome back.

Anonymous said...

David King's solution for the Academy Library Budapest is to compare apples with oranges, and I commented on his post about that. It's not a "public library"; it's a specialized one with a restricted clientele (not that this is a negative thing). Why would they be YouTubing to get people in the doors? And I'm speaking as a public librarian whose library's circulation went up over 20% last year, AND as someone who is showing her younger (!) brother what you can find on YouTube (opera, anyone?). Geez. Read the question first, then answer it.

Anonymous said...

Lookout, more hip Librarians with iPods!!!! said...


Three things of possible interest for you for consideration, in no particular order:

1) Regarding the ALA Midwinter, I have challenged the ALA to show consistency in its First Amendment advocacy by supporting the Boy Scouts of America who, right in Philadelphia, are being forced out for adhering to their First Amendment rights.
I am suggesting the ALA ought to make a statement regarding the Boy Scouts, and silence will make a statement as well. See comment, including mine to ALA Midwinter Preview 2008: Programs and Play in the Library Journal.

2) A few weeks ago the complaint in Adamson v. Minneapolis Public Library was finally made public. Read it. It's shocking. What do you think? It contains outrageous statements like, "More cruelly, the reality of children being sexually victimized by adults became a depressing and recurrent image of every day life."

3) In 12/28/07's Wall Street Journal is an article entitled, "Safety School: Bucking Privacy Concerns, Cornell Acts as Watchdog --- Staff Trained to Spot Students in Distress; Campus Suicides Drop," by Elizabeth Bernstein, Page A1. In the article is the following: "People across campus, from librarians to handymen, are trained to recognize potentially dangerous behavior." That'll make more sense when read in context. Basically, Cornell University is having its employees identify students in potential trouble and reporting them to the parents despite the national trend to treat students like independent adults. Librarians are being trained to assist in that effort, and I assume they are assisting. What do you think of that? How long will it take for the ALA's so-called "Office for Intellectual Freedom" to ride to the rescue and set those librarians straight?

Anyway, there are three issues of some significance for you to consider and possibly comment on.

Thanks, and welcome back from vacation.

PS. On a lighter note, look at this "comedic look at libraries" that I found at the She Said/He Said: Kankakee Public Library Blog.

And for a real hoot, especially those who do not like me, my web site was awarded the "Daily Sucker" award for being so ugly!

Brian said...

wow, only 13 comments-- you've lost your sex appeal

AL said...

The masses are so fickle. Besides, now it's 15.

Anonymous said...

Hey...I've been a librarian for 5 years now and just learned about your site...I think you are going to help me get through 2008 and I just want to thank you...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the articles about the NYPL and the Conde Nast librarians. These two men exemplify why I wanted to become a librarian. They give me hope that somewhere in the world librarians can do more than monitor playstations.

Anonymous said...

Thank God you're back, my Google Reader acct. hasn't been the same! Rave on...

Stan Friedman said...

I think we should all thank him for reveling in a stereotype of the librarian instead of trying to fight the stereotypes

You're very welcome, it was the least I could do.

Kristen said...

Re the kids playing video games at the library, this recent quote from a parent who thinks it's great is.... thought-provoking.

Ivan Divino Sr., of Dubuque, brought his five children to the library for the action. He embraced the atmosphere enthusiastically.

"It's great to see this happening in the community," Divino said.

He disagrees with critics who say young people spend too much time playing video games.

"They're as good as sports are for kids," he said. "It's just as competitive and skill-required. Practice does make perfect. The evidence is the professional video game players. It's not a waste of time, like some people think."

(And welcome back.)

Minks said...

Cricket Bats n' Zombies eh? Shaun of the dead maybe?

Bunny Watson said...

Kristen, when I first saw your link after reading the quote I thought it said "the onion." Lord, how I wish it had been an article from The Onion.

j- said...

* Stan Friedman said...
I think we should all thank him for reveling in a stereotype of the librarian instead of trying to fight the stereotypes

You're very welcome, it was the least I could do.

You had to sit in a chair for 29 hours without falling asleep...and you could order unlimited food and drinks [presumably substances that included caffeine]...and you had to do this while parked in front of massive HD displays? Wow, tough gig, how'd you ever manage?

The hard part would have been filling out the entry form or listening to your local sports radio guy every morning to call in and win an entry spot, I'd imagine.

Anywho, welcome back AL

j- said...

*2) A few weeks ago the complaint in Adamson v. Minneapolis Public Library was finally made public. Read it. It's shocking. What do you think? *

I think I'm glad I no longer work at a public library.

Anonymous said...

When I saw the name of the link, I *had* to read the "Teenage Zombies" article you referenced. I was appalled - not with the kids, but with the author's victim-oriented mindset. AL, I know this article seemed an easy prop to support your opinion, but its premise is untenable.

The WSJ editor describes a minimalist/absentee parenting situation in which he offered no effective guidance or restrictions until boiling over when his kids didn't naturally do what he wants. He earns no sympathy from me for responding with ham-fisted controls, righteous indignation, and a refusal to understand that his kids will lack enthusiasm for either.

His response to his kids' leisure scheduling is a trifecta of disaster. Rules show up out of nowhere. He invokes religious imagery to rationalize his dislike into a righteous contest of morality. Not stopping there, he abuses his position as an editor of one of the world's largest papers to publicly shame his kids.

So, if public shaming is the game - shame on him for his lackadaisical parenting. Shame on him for publicly saddling the blame on his kids (though he does this slyly - his kids are, after all, "possessed" so long as they refuse to do what he wants, but could be "normal" if they yield to his will). And, shame on WSJ for allowing its column-space to be so obviously used as a lever in a domestic dispute, especially one involving minor children.

Standard operating procedure for parents in the digital age who want to raise children with balanced priorities and a healthy amount of phsical activity is not rocket science. Limit screen time, situate PCs in shared living-spaces to increase accountability, and work with kids to discuss issues around time-planning while building a balanced schedule of opportunities. The attractions of digital media are not new. Video-games, his particular nemesis, have seen widespread household adoption since the early-80s.

Parents who awaken to a need for adjustment in their kids' video-gaming (or any digital or sedentary activity) priorities are to be commended for seeing the light. But, they will now need to procede from a humility that acknowledges their own culpability, avoids righteous displays of power, and seeks to understand and work with, rather than demonize, their children's reactions.

Anonymous said...

Of course that parent is happy. He can dump his 5 kids at the library for a free lunch and free child care. I doubt he stays to watch them game.

Anonymous said...

@ Good information on your site. Clean up your HTML, the pictures cover up the words.

Kevin Musgrove said...

But isn't it the rĂ´le of the public library to act as a free, unsupervised creche for the irresponsible middle classes so that they can sue us when Timmy bumps his head throwing himself off a kinderbox?

Oh. Must just be our mission statement then.

Anonymous said...

BTW, the Director and Assoc. Director of Minneapolis Public Library when "that issue" occurred - they are now both consultants. Which just strengthens my opinions of consultants.

Anonymous said...

More comments on this long post:

1) Peter Principle - I hadn't thought of that before but that is a big problem in our profession. No comment re my particular organization.

2) I seem to be in between the I-put-my-dues-in-for-20-years-now-you-must-promote-me crowd (hired in 60s-70s) and the I-am-young-and-tech-savvy-I-am-going-places-management-in-two-years-or-else-no-matter-what-I-don't-know. Geez. Someone has to do the work around here.

LOVE the links to mgmt change vs. line staff change - yeah, seeing that here too. That is another big problem with the profession - those "in charge" have NO idea how much things have changed really, what with the Internet and the behavioral/porn issues, yet think flavor of the month solutions will do it. I have heard one too many so-called "leaders" diss their staff IN PUBLIC about this. The Mpls thing was above all about RESPECT, and the lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

BTW, went to Mr. Bell's "Keeping Up" page (which is also posted on the ACRL page) - lots of dead links. Also says "Page started January 2001". THAT'S a reason to keep up, huh?

miguel stefanos said...

tamer of webs, your eyes austere
my heart will ebb, if ever they lied
oh, woe, distant and knowing seer
i'm so sorry your dog died

Anonymous said...

I don't believe in the Peter Principle. I am probably the most incompetent librarian you will find but I have never advanced.

By all rights I should be Librarian of Congress by now.