Monday, March 10, 2008

Subliterate Rube Criticizes the Library

There was some chatter in various library venues last week about a guest column in a Florida paper called Pull the Plug on the Library. The Library Journal and a couple of blog places were critical of the column. I missed these, but fortunately a kind reader sent it on to me. I'm always grateful for the kindness of strangers. The Floridian respondents were mostly critical, and the only intelligent response showing any support for the Library Plugpuller was a letter to the editor a few days later pointing out some problems with library financing, which very well might be the case.

If I hadn't done some research and was pretty sure that the Plugpuller runs a company that paves stuff rather than being an undercover librarian himself , I would swear that he was a plant by the ALA. I still think he might be. This is definitely the sort of critic that the ALA and libraries in general should love. Some of the respondents did a good job of trying to defend the public libraries down there in Florida in serious terms, but they hardly need defense from this guy. Consider some of his attacks on the library.

"With the advent of the Internet and Google, virtually no serious research is carried on in the library stacks."

One commenter on the original article noted that public libraries were never places for serious research. That's no doubt true down in Florida, but I do know of a few public libraries more than capable of supporting serious research. The real question is, does the Plugpuller think any serious research is done on Google? I like Google as much as the next librarian, but I've yet to do any "serious research" there. I'd be willing to wager (and I only bet on sure things) that the Plugpuller doesn't know really know what serious research entails.

He doesn't know much about books, either. "Books to take home? They are almost free at Hospice, Goodwill, Pet Rescue and other charitable outlets. At garage sales on any Saturday, $5 will buy anybody a year's worth of recreational, if not educational, reading."

Apparently the Plugpuller is one of those types who think the main purpose of books is to furnish a room, and, if the books at Goodwill and garage sales are anything like I imagine, a room in a house trailer at that, which, according to this "serious research" I did on "the Internet and Google" represent a pretty high proportion of the housing down there in Florida. I can understand a guy not wanting to pay for the public library because he's cheap, but it's hard to take an opinion on books seriously from someone who obviously doesn't read them. Subliterate rubes have their place in a free country--apparently, paving roads and such--but we certainly should be skeptical of their political opinions.

He has some other equally strange notions, like just providing free laptops for those on the other end of the digital divide and letting them go to Starbucks to connect to the Internet. I suppose he would advocate the taxpayers picking up the T-mobile bill as well.

His knowledge of academic libraries is possibly less than of public libraries. Consider, for example, this quote. "Of course, I am not talking about the libraries in the schools or university. They would still be available, and, as you know, the massive university libraries are available to any Florida resident." This is another sign that we are dealing with someone with absolutely no knowledge of books, education, or research, for the simple truth is that there are no massive university libraries in Florida.

Obviously the Plugpuller is one of the subliterate citizens the public library was originally designed to help by allowing them the opportunity to educate themselves at public expense. Unfortunately, he hasn't availed himself of either the educational or recreational offerings of his public library, and in his case it seems clear that he hasn't used the Internet and Google for educational purposes, either. If the commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty, then I certainly wouldn't want to live in Gainesville, Florida. Actually, I wouldn't want to live there under any circumstances, but that's just me.

I know, I know, the public library's not just about education anymore and promoting the educational mission is so boring and they have to reach out to everyone and make themselves all things to all people. It appears those Florida librarians need to do a better job of reaching out to the subliterate rube demographic, which I assume is pretty big down there. Perhaps the subliterate rubes like to play Guitar Hero.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm having a flashback of a commercial in the 90s or early 00s of old people dressed as superheros playing a video game about a superhero...

If granny falls down playing DDR in the library, I would think you could shut the library down afterwards - at least, the lawsuit will force the closure.

Kat!

Anonymous said...

AL - Thanks for encouraging some (serious?) research about Florida libraries. Looking at the 2002-03 fiscal year numbers, (Florida isn't apparently too concerned about providing up-to-date statistics for its libraries) it appears that Alachua is notably better than the average Florida library. They reported per capita circulation of 11.4 versus a state average of a paltry 5.4. They have more visits and more terminals per capita, too.

And, unless they doubled their expenses in the last few years, the ("subliterate Rube") critic has overstated their expenses. His uses $19million, but in '03 they reported spending $9million. The Alachua Library District apparently spent $39.73 per capita, while statewide it was only $23.46, suggesting that Florida isn't one of most loving states of libraries.

The followup letters to the Gaineville newspaper mostly, appropriately, took Rube to task, and should be seen as beneficial to the library. Rube writers probably helped me in getting voters to say yes 14 different times to funding requests. Let the rubes write. They bring out positve reactions from sometimes too passive patrons.

The Crook Librarian

Anonymous said...

"I'm always grateful for the kindness of strangers". Hee hee, good one!
"Almost free at Goodwill!" Prooves that these people like to live in the past, or read only what is regurgitated, for Goodwill is a GREAT source for 1960's books on Astronomy ("one day, man will land on the moon"), or anything that is Reader's Digest Condensed". Yep, lot's of great learnin' for ya!

Dances With Books said...

>>>If the commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty, >>>

Well, clearly order and liberty are nowhere near safe in Florida if the Plugpuller exemplifies its citizenry. As for him liking Guitar Hero, highly doubt it. He would probably advocate that you can get a perfectly good game of Pong at your Goodwill too. Makes me think again of the Bugs Bunny cartoon where he takes a saw and cuts Florida off the US. Can't we do that?

Anonymous said...

Can't lose Florida.

Too important politically.

I mean, without Florida, we would not have had the glorious Bush II regime, or his successor's.

And the best way to keep Florida in line is to make sure that the citizenry are old and doddering or un-educated.

Any educated person who has moved to Florida within the last five years better be there just because they are retiring because of their health. If you went there to work. . . ***shaking head slowly****

Zippy said...

Isn't Florida where they pulled the plug on Terry Schiavo?

Anonymous said...

This article offended me as a librarian, however, I thought it was terribly crass of Elmore to mention the suffering of Terry Schiavo.

Anonymous said...

I would do a bit more research on Google before claiming to have found the correct George Elmore. The man who runs the paving company is on many boards in Palm Beach County, including educational, social and the historical society boards so I think it unlikely it is the same guy. The article is about the Alachua County PL (where Gainesville is located) and anyone who volunteers his time to the above referenced types of boards is unlikely to hold such a position on public libraries.

I'm not from Florida nor do I know much about its counties (and would never live there), but I can do a 2-minute Google search, read and INTERPRET what I find.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Anon 12:44.
My vote's for the Elmore who's a computer consultant--hm! (and possibly into any, all, or none of the above: diving, ham radio, opposing Jan 29th state tax referendum, and donating small sums to various Republican campaigns)

soren faust said...
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Anonymous said...

Am I mistaken or did Mr. Elmore suggest the Friends booksale as an alternative source for $.10 books? No doubt the organization would continue just to supply him with recreational reading. I also enjoyed his reference to the "minority" that the library serves. Who would that be? The poor or the literate?

j- said...

*Can't lose Florida.

Too important politically.

I mean, without Florida, we would not have had the glorious Bush II regime, or his successor's.*

Ahh, been a while since we've a gratuitous swipe at the President.

*And the best way to keep Florida in line is to make sure that the citizenry are old and doddering or un-educated. *

All those old, doddering people came from up north, you know. As for the "un-educated" (sic) part of your equation, I guess they don't teach people how to read a ballot in New York. Maybe Florida should have a literacy test upon arrival.

As mentioned about five quintillion times since 2000, you can thank Al Gore for not being able to carry his own state. Had he done so, Florida would've been irrelevant.

There's no need for further bickering though, because there'll be no room for books on the flying saucer Obama will summon for us all to ride off into the comet's tail, besplendent in our purple pajamas and matching Nikes.

Before that happens, I advocate giving Florida back to Spain. Or trading it to Cuba for several left-handed pitchers, a gross of cigars and all the DeSotos they can muster.

Minks said...

I have been surprised how many people feel like this rube feels about libraries. They feel that since they do not use the library, no one should. It is simple logic. However, they are unable to grasp that the library does not have to be for everybody. It is there if you need it, but you do not have to use it. Kinda like a fire department... kinda.

The fact is most people do not use a library. That however does not mean we do not need libraries. I found it funny how he focused on price per door count. I hope he does not calculate price per fire or price per arrest... he is in for a real shocker.

Anonymous said...

Rube with the ideas and approaches the letter writer have usually don't use the term "stacks" to describe where a library keeps books. Did anyone else notice that? The letter-writer does seem like a plant in that sense, and I think AL might be on to something there.

Knowing what "stacks" are isn't subliterate. Something isn't right about the letter.

Susan said...

Thanks for a great laugh, AL!

I think anon 2:42's got it! He goes by "Jimmy Doane" for his "Libertarian Podcasting Talk Show." Listen here:
http://www.jimmydoane.com/index.html

He's the great-grandson of Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland (I believe he's "George Sutherland Elmore," but I don't have time to verify that one)."Engineer Eric" is his son.

You can also visit him on MySpace:
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=150542641

Or poke him on Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/people/George_Elmore/727491458

or Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-images/view-large-image.html?imageId=2387541

If they aren't one and the same, he's plagiarizing Mr. Doane from here:
http://jimmydoane.com/documents/Get_rid_of_the_public_library.doc

Given his libertarian outlook, I doubt knowing more about public libraries would make any different to his opinion.

Anonymous said...

http://www.slate.com/id/2184927/slideshow/2184934/fs/0//entry/2184936/

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice this is a perfect microcosm of what's wrong with the library world? Guy writes a letter to the editor saying shut down the libraries because you can get books everywhere. Some patrons reply saying it's still useful. Librarians are content to let the patrons speak up while they argue about politics.


We're doomed.........

Anonymous said...

Here you go:

http://www.rossdawsonblog.com/weblog/archives/2007/10/extinction_time.html

2019. Now you have something else to fight about.

Vampire Librarian said...

I like theAlachua County Library District Director's response.

http://www.gainesvillesun.com/article/20080305/OPINION03/803050305/-1/opinion

Vampire Librarian said...

Real link to Director's Letter

Anonymous said...

Every year, Florida is hit by hurricanes. Millions and millions of federal disaster aid dollars are spent on the rebuilding of Florida. Then another hurricane hits and more rebuilding must be done. As a tax payer, I don't think the problem is that the Florida libraries are economically inefficient. The real problem is that Florida is a disaster-aid money pit. Shut down Florida, move everyone out of a hurricane zone, and we will all save money.

Anonymous said...

The last place for serious research is in a public library (Boston excepted, maybe). You have to contend with the homeless, unwashed, semi-literate "patrons" as well as the latch-key youngsters who insist on creating noise for noise's sake.

You want to use the computer to access the Internet? Stand in line behind some juvenile idiot intent on playing a game or accessing the mother lode of porn.

The best you can do is to check out the book you need (if they have it) and run for the nearest exit.ssezqf

webbygrl said...

Anon 4:30pm - Exactly! I saw that right off. "Stacks" is a term usually reserved for those who work(ed) in a library.

~sniff,sniff~ Somethin smells fishy... (wrinkles nose)

Anonymous said...

For you few folks that think this is a fake... rest assured it is not. I work at said facility and saw the original date stamped letter sent to the city and county commissioners. It has authentic contact information for the rube. Apparently the rube did not like the response sent to him from our director (basically the follow up from the link posted later) and took his case to the editorial area of our local news rag.

Thanks for anon 3:08 for posting a few stats about us. We actually have more up to date stats for many of the areas, but I am not sure how frequently FLA, ALA, or the state publishes such information. As an independent taxing district we do occasionally get criticism pointed at us. However our budget is reviewed annually by several sources and we are often commented on for running a very tight ship. We are one of the leading libraries in the state of Florida. I can only guess that doesn’t mean much to several of you give your comments about Florida, but I don’t really care. We are not a guitar hero library nor do we have a coffee bar; we focus on education, information and entertainment as any decent public library should. We coordinate literacy efforts for our entire county, offer programs for all ages and bring notable authors to our area to speak. We offer a wide variety of easy to access information data bases and we offer one of the best genealogical collections in north central Florida. We are proud of our services and what we return to the citizens of Alachua County.

So, harp away all you like on Florida or Public Libraries. I certainly won’t disagree much with some of the Florida comments, but before you make too many comments about our state, how about posting what state you live in… just to be fair :-)

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice this is a perfect microcosm of what's wrong with the library world? Guy writes a letter to the editor saying shut down the libraries because you can get books everywhere. Some patrons reply saying it's still useful. Librarians are content to let the patrons speak up while they argue about politics.


We're doomed.........


Librarians are doomed. But go to a conference and you don't think so. The martinis flow, vendors show up, people give serious talks and people sit in the audience and nod their heads appropriately.

But,

The world is passing us by.

We will all wake up one day wondering why we are being lumped in with buggy whip manufacturers.

Oh yes, we still do exist, but as a quaint little notion that sits in the back of the Vermont Country Store.

cheers

Library Elf said...

I am surprised that this was even published. i would think that most people who would even read the Floridian, see some value in public library use.

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

Not to go Humorless Marxist on you, but: "To pour forth benefits for the common good is divine." motto for the Library Company, founded by Ben Franklin.

There is a place, albeit a very small one, for collectivism.

soren faust said...
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Anonymous said...

The book will continue to loose relevance. That doesn't mean the idea of the public library will die.

The public will continue to need access to free continuing education. If we can recognize this need and fill it by providing the right information at the right time, we won't end up as museum exhibits.

We just won't be doing this with books.

Anonymous said...

Let's form a committee and come up with and action plan and a Power point presentation.

Then, we can retire to the bar for some much need martinis

Anonymous said...

What is with all the attacks on subliterate rubes? I know a few rubes (as white trash I aspire to rubedom) and lack of literacy is hardly confined to Florida trailer parks. How many public library Board of Directors, Trustees, Board of Supervisors, however they are titled, even have library cards?

Anonymous said...

Subliterate rubes are the bread and butter of public libraries.

If you are a literate rube or above, you would venture into a public library unless you were paid a lot of money to.

or it was a stunt on Jackass.

Anonymous said...

Aw, come on with the comments about not being able to conduct research in any Florida libraries.

Florida ARL Libraries:
University of Florida
Florida State U.
University of Miami

Anonymous said...

Florida ARL Libraries:
University of Florida
Florida State U.
University of Miami



The subliterates have to go to school somewhere to get their "quality" edumacation.

Anonymous said...

The subliterates have to go to school somewhere to get their "quality" edumacation.

Be sure to e-mail this guy and tell him he's affiliated with subliterates: http://www.english.ufl.edu/faculty/jtwitchell/

AL said...

Why, does he hate libraries, too?

Kevin Musgrove said...

Why the surprise? Whatever we might think about public libraries there are always going to be people who see them as a waste of public money, same as any other public service. It's part of the fabric of democracy.

The important thing is for people who care about libraries -- perhaps even a few librarians -- to keep making the *business* case for them. Again and again and again. The people who will be swayed by the nice cosy, fuzzy stuff will have bought into the idea anyway. Irrational library lovers, rational library lovers and persuaded sceptics outvote irrational library haters every time. (Well, mostly)

Anonymous said...

Unless, of course, that person uses it in a way you don’t approve of, e.g. playing games on the computer—after all you are the arbiter of everything good.

Normally I think Soren is funny, but this is a bit much. Let's drop the politically correct nonsense that we can't tell anyone what to do and at least let people who want to do research be able to do it.

Having to work around gamers and porn surfers is one of the most common complaints abut using public libraries, and saying we can't tell them no is a lot of the crap that got us in this mess in the first place.

Because change is inevitable despite how loathsome a thing it is to some conservatives.

Ever think librarians would have more friends if they weren't so political?

soren faust said...
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soren faust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
soren faust said...
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Heidi said...

My parents live in Gainesville. They were so furious about this that they wrote a letter to the paper about it.

I used the public library SO MUCH when I was living in Gainesville. I do not know what I would have done without it. It eventually led me to becoming a public librarian in another Florida county.

We NEED the public library. We sure do.

Dances With Books said...

Hey, J's idea of trading Florida to Cuba for some left handed pitchers, some Cuban cigars and other things sounds great. I bet some fine Havanas would go great with a few martinis.

>>Having to work around gamers and porn surfers is one of the most common complaints abut using public libraries, and saying we can't tell them no is a lot of the crap that got us in this mess in the first place.<<

Anon@ 813. Of course, we do know that if we actually exercised some judgment, the 2pointtwopians would be all over it. Because heaven forbid you actually use the library for something educational (and no, Guitar Hero is not educational no matter how much certain geek wannabe librarians want to disguise it as such). As for the porn, if it is the legal variety, I have no problem with it, but libraries need to take a stand. Either put privacy screens or simply say no to it (go get the porn elsewhere). But what else is new? Heaven forbid some common sense works out.

Having said that, do we also kick out/say no to the MySpace, Runescape, so on time-wasters? That's a lot of work that could take time away from the martinis (or your preferred alcoholic beverage).