Wednesday, April 16, 2008

National Library Week

This week is National Library Week, and I'm sure you've all been bombarded with people coming up to you on the street and saying, "hey, I'm glad you're my librarian!" According to the ALA NLW Fact Sheet, National Library Week "is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support." We've taken that seriously at my library, and we've been celebrating like crazy. To be honest, though, I think that all night pub crawl was a bit much, but then I'm not as young as I once was.

To show just how far we libraries have progressed, check out the brief history of the founding of National Library Week:

"In the mid-1950s, research showed that Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments. Concerned that Americans were reading less, the ALA and the American Book Publishers formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee in 1954. The committee's goals were ambitious. They ranged from "encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time" to "improving incomes and health" and "developing strong and happy family life."

In 1957, the committee developed a plan for National Library Week based on the idea that once people were motivated to read, they would support and use libraries. With the cooperation of ALA and with help from the Advertising Council, the first National Library Week was observed in 1958 with the theme "Wake Up and Read!""
Listen to how quaint all this sounds now. Concern that Americans are reading less. Motivating people to read. "Wake up and read!" The fifties were such an innocent time, at least if you worked for the ALA.

Now, instead of concern that people are spending more on radios, TVs, and musical instruments than books, the ALA and lots of American libraries have decided to throw in the towel. Libraries must, we are told, get away from the "books" brand, because it's too staid and dated. That's like so 1950s, man! Except it turns out that the libraries were in danger then as well. Back then they decided to fight back and say "Reading is good! Don't buy so many televisions!" But now many librarians have decided to join the illiterate barbarians instead of trying to elevate them. Instead of identifying the library with reading and promoting that heavily, we get all the gamey librarians and the twopointopians declaring that the library needs to change, change, change to stay "relevant."

The ALA does still have their READ posters, and plenty of librarians still promote reading, but it seems to me that a big part of the ALA and plenty of folks concerned with libraries don't have the will their predecessors showed in the 1950s. Fifty years ago libraries decided to promote reading to build up library support. Libraries have survived fifty years partially on that effort. Perhaps this is the week where librarians can dismiss the gamey librarians and the twopointopians. Instead of giving the library over to the gamers and the like, maybe we should do more to promote reading instead. Some gamey librarians are disingenuous enough to say they just want to get these kids in the door with gaming so they'll learn to like books and reading, but we all know that's hogwash. The fun and games are ends in themselves. Books are old fashioned. It could be, however, that as go books and reading, so go the libraries, and if that's the case, who'll be celebrating National Library Week in another fifty years?

45 comments:

Kristen said...

They seem to have succeeded at stamping out musical instrument buying.

Anonymous said...

Who will be celebrating National Library Week in fifty years?

No one.

We will have a national holiday celebrating the founding of Google, but not much else in the way of celebrating information.

Libraries will be transformed into gaming meccas and books will be something that you find in line at the Antiques Road Show.

Librarians have three options now: retire, find a new career, or don't even go into the field.

It is dead.

Just about as dead as libraries will be in the next decade.

Have fun.

Anonymous said...

re: anonymous 10:35 AM

I hear you. It's been a downward spiral since we turned our back on scrolls.

Jaded said...

I hope we aren't celebrating National Library Week in fifty years. Books won't die, but maybe libraries as we know them should.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on we can always learn how to make latte and work for minimum wage at the Barns and Noble

Crumbly said...

I have never cared for "Days" or "weeks" but I did like "the year of the quiet Sun" though.

Howver it is dead right that libraries should be promoting reading and books. When will libraries learn to play to their strengths? Or what were their strengths.

E-books, publish-on demand etc, certainly. Archive and repository, oh indeed yes. Strengthen ILL, digitise op books in heavy demand, put their contents online.

Even if libraries and librarians retreat to a niche somewhere but remain accessible to the public they will remain used and useful.

dave said...

"a library is thought in cold storage"

i'm headed off to bcla this week to present on competitive intelligence, but in reality a chunk of my presentation is really about increasing relevance to local patrons...didn't even realize it was national library week, but i can't image that the media could do any less to foster public awareness...boo hoo.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to celebrate individual librarians...we can't live with 'em, we can't live without 'em.

From Publishers Weekly:

During his testimony, Vander Ark, a boyish, 50-year-old former middle-school librarian...When asked if he considered himself part of the Harry Potter fan community, he broke down in tears, initially answering, “I did,” but then saying, “I do.”

We need to rally 'round and support our librarians against the evil publishing companies!

bladdered 'brarian, UK said...

"all night pub crawl"

now I know you must be British. I am, and this is what I do every night.

Anonymous said...

We need to rally 'round and support our librarians against the evil publishing companies!

Amen to that.

We don't buy anything from any publishing company.

We create our own books and databases in house.

Who needs them?

faaaaa

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

Well, is IS "National Library Week" and not "...Librarians..." or "...Books...".

So, in 50 years, I would guess that our local branch of the American Architectural History Society will celebrate some library somewhere. As an artifact. A building to honor.

Still, if America actually had a National Library ... maybe more folks would be jumping on the celebration bandwagon. As it is, not many people get excited about spending a whole week celebrating something that doesn't exist. (well, unless maybe you're at a Star Trek Convention)

---Kurt

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I didn't know that gaming and reading were incompatible. I wish I knew that before I went on school visits, booktalking *and* promoting my game day.

All in the same visit!

Turns out my gamers are also my heaviest readers. Who'da thunk?

Anonymous said...

Even Entertainment Weekly is recognizng NLW:

http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20190897,00.html

Kevin Musgrove said...

I think all libraries should go out on one long piss-up, pausing now and then only to empty their bladders in the street and pass packets of crisps out to the library staff.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather play one of my many musical instruments than read one of my many books. Sadly, reading is more convenient...

Unemployed Librarian said...

Librarians have three options now: retire, find a new career, or don't even go into the field.

It is dead.


I don't know who wrote this, but whoever you are, you sound even more bitter and pessimistic than I am.

Want to work together, perhaps on shutting down a library school or two?

I hope you'll get in touch with me, at least just to say hi.

unemployedlibrarians@gmail.com

Andrew said...

In my humble opinion, libraries (well, at least public libraries) are turning their backs on the people that they rely on most for survival - people who actually read and enjoy books. And yes, there are a lot of them out there, believe it or not.

But by making libraries more "relevant", they make the bibliophiles "irrelevant", and instead pander to the gamer kids and internet addicts, and then suddenly wonder why their circulation stats have gone downhill.

And to those who say "Libraries are dying" - I think that this is true in some respects. I think you have to ask yourself "Is my service absolutely vital?" And I don't mean this in an idealistic sense - I mean this in a "people will die" sense.

Pragmatically speaking, public libraries are a luxury. Most people who use them, don't need them, and most people who need them, won't use them (at least, not in the sense that they were designed for.)

So, librarians, stop stamping your foot about being "underappreciated", and actually find a library job where your work is *actually* important. Like in a government / special / law library, where you can use "real" library skills.

Anonymous said...

The truth is, there is a low supply of quiet space and high demand. Libraries are the Boardwalk and Park Place of quiet spaces. Dry your tears librarians, you're doing just fine. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, public funding is going to dry up.

In our fight against terrorism, illegal aliens, and every other crises du jour, we as a society are pumping tons of money into a big rat hole.

Who pays the cost?

Schools.

Libraries.

Us.

Library funding is going to dry up and blow away.

Why?

Oh you know, you can get it on Google!!!

Want a book? Go to Borders. They don't even get mad when you sit there for hours reading a book for free.

The days of the public library are numbered.

Tim Reynolds said...

Libraries are not dying because bookers are irrelevant they are dying because people are lazy. Not just the kids but adults of all ages. Thats why Google is a success. The 2.0s are pandering to this lazyness.

We have become a nation of information parasites. We are parasites who find those people who bother to have information and knowledge (who are becoming fewer and fewer) and suck the information right out of them. We have social networks and even ALs blog which we read and steal from and never give back to. We go to our smart friends and steal their knowledge.

Soon we will have Library 4.0s and plagiarism will be legal. The only work you will have to do is the search for the report. "Good Johnny you found Dr. Smiths paper and Black holes, you get an A in astrophysics"

If you dont believe this is coming you should have seen Dataline this weekend. They showed people who a wrote a book and sold the right to be a co-author to their book to 100s of other people. Thats right for $1500 you to can be writer.

So save your money and when libraries go we can all become international best salers of a book with nothing but the web address for the next Google in it. "How to know everything without knowing anything" is my working title.

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

It is not a matter of incompetent people being out there but whether society is willing to carry their incompetence.

Money is king and it will be harder and harder to justify pumping money into the library system when "everything is available on-line."

Yes, WE know that is not true, but the people who make the decisions about public funding need to be aware of it too.

If we keep along the passive-agressive trail of librarianship then we are doomed to fail.

Doomed.

Anonymous said...

Multnomah County (Portland, Oregon) had one of the nation's highest public library circulation rates last year at 28.4 checkouts per capita. In 1993 circ there was 11.4 per cap, mostly books. In 1993 that library spent 6.6 times as much for books as for AV. Last year they spent 2.1 times as much for print as AV.

Crook Librarian

Anonymous said...

Why should taxpayers support what amounts to Netflix for deadbeats?

If you cannot afford $4.99 a month for a Netflix subscription, then how did you afford the DVD player?

Cut them off, all of them.

Anonymous said...

"Libraries are not dying because bookers are irrelevant they are dying because people are lazy."

Tim Reynolds himself is lazy enough to butcher English composition.

soren faust said...

Tim Reynolds himself is lazy enough to butcher English composition.

Lookout, it's the Grammarian Rat Attack! Run before the Grammistress beats you with her gram o' nine tails. Ouch.

Over.

Anonymous said...

AL, check out the comments in Ellen's blog post on the librarian Ssshing stereotype:
http://ellen.warnerbros.com/2008/03/my_thoughtand_i_do_have_one_82.php
Hilarious. They are so defensive and humorless!!! I'm glad I'm a librarian who doesn't take herself so seriously.

I'm Kat! said...

I thought we do have a national library...called the library of congress??

or is that just another big relic??

Minks said...

Libraries will still be here in 20 years. There are still some economies of scale that they do well.

1) Books. Sharing books is still cheaper then buying them I have faith the the human race will continue to be cheap. That is the beauty of this catch 22... People have to be cheap to get rid of libraries,, but yet it is their cheapness the necessitates libraries. Awesome no??

2) Databases. It is very cost effective to offer databases (foreign language for expample) to the masses via the library.

3) DVDs. NetFlicks is $4.99 a month. Actually,, is it more like $16.99 a month,, that is what I pay. The library, on a wild average costs taxpayers about $40 a year. Winner - Library

4) Virtual Reality Sex. Ha! Got your attention! Well,, fast forward 50 years... VR sex capsules will be the rage, but they will be expensive. Only about 10% of the population can afford them. The library can provide them. After all, you only need about 10 minutes a day.

lol.. I crack myself up.



Just, don't expect them to be staffed like they are today.

Kristen said...

'Soon we will have Library 4.0s and plagiarism will be legal. The only work you will have to do is the search for the report. "Good Johnny you found Dr. Smiths paper and Black holes, you get an A in astrophysics"'

I did recently receive this :

Join the Center for Intellectual Property (CIP) at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) for its annual symposium.

Keynote Address:
--Copyright 2.0?: Reimagining Copyright in a World of User-Generated
Content--
James Boyle, Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law & Co-Founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

"Much ink has been spilled and uncounted venture capital dollars spent hyping the Web 2.0 bubble -- the idea that the old internet is merely a platform on which users will build communities, add commentary, tag, link, and annotate. Many of those contributions will be covered by copyright, whether their creators know it or not. We have spent a great deal of time -- rightly -- worrying about the threat posed to creators and content industries by illicit copying. Should we be spending an equivalent amount of time imagining a "Copyright 2.0" -- a copyright for user-generated content?"

Anonymous said...

"The truth is, there is a low supply of quiet space and high demand."
Amen, Anon 8:08am. And people still want quiet or we wouldn't be debating cell phones on planes. Lots of people at my public library are keeping it quiet and busy. Circ is up. Add a good reference librarian (with some decent readers' advisory skills and the ability to get out of the chair once in a while) and you can make a library a lot more than a coffee shop/arcade/video hut. Libraries (and newspapers) need to understand and promote what is UNIQUE about their respective institutions and stop fretting that the Internet is out to get them.

Anonymous said...

"Librarians have three options now: retire, find a new career, or don't even go into the field.

It is dead.

Just about as dead as libraries will be in the next decade.

Have fun."

It's headed the way of Arbor Day. I wasn't even aware that this was National Library Week. I've already found the other career.
Many parks are becoming 'defunded' as the result of the current downturn in the economy. I wonder how long before the tsunami hits publicly funded libraries again.
I recall in the late 70's there was a button; "Proposition 13; Take a Libraian to Lunch".

LuLu said...

I'm employed at an academic library, and today we (library support staff, of course) served cookies and punch to the university faculty, students, and staff (please don't forget us in the capital campaign!). We broke ALA rank by not hosting a gaming night this week (even though they've become a regular part of my library's scheduled events.) As always, I enjoyed your post.

Please be quiet! said...

As a librarian married to a member of the clergy, I am in a unique position to watch the race between libraries and churches. Which group can do the dumbest things to prove their relevance, thereby insuring that the general population will think them even more lame? Keep in mind that video games are usually somehow involved...

I'm Kat! said...

Joseph Bros.
Noahman
Miss Noahman
The Legend of Princess Hatshepsut
SuperSmashDisciples
WiiBible
WorldofWorship
RunLotRun
LocustHunt
Jewtower, Jewisland, Jewfarm, JewCity, JewCity2000, Streets of JewCity, The Jews, The Jews: Crucifiction Party


Ok Ok I'll Stop!!!

Anonymous said...

re WiiBible<<

I'm guessing you thought you were joking. Unfortunately not.

Anonymous said...

If I can draw any conclusions from the negativity and sarcasm of Annoying Librarian and all his readers, who apparently feel so superior to their patrons and their colleagues trying to improve things, then I would indeed worry about the future of libraries. However this seems to be a small subculture of frustrated, inflexible underachievers who take it out on anyone with ideas, hope, vision or good will. Once they're all retired or fired, then I think libraries will be much better places.

Anonymous said...

re: If I can draw any conclusions from the negativity and sarcasm of Annoying Librarian and all his readers, who apparently feel so superior to their patrons and their colleagues trying to improve things...<<

You must be new around here. I really love it when someone discovers this blog for the first time. Fresh meat. You know what they say about assumptions...

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

Good grief, Soren, what are you stocking in the reference library that makes your patrons evacuate their bowels?!

I'm Kat! said...

Kevin, Perchance perhaps the Reference Manual for WiiBible?





[Anon 9:14, the best jokes in my mind, are those that have their roots in reality...satire at its best!! I am NOT surprised such games exist!]

driblib said...

I know this isn't the most sound logic, but if Americans were spending less on books, wouldn't they be using libraries more? I guess that's the furor that occurs when the ALA gets manipulated by American book publishers.

I'm Kat! said...

Americans are spending less on books because they don't demand as many any more - not because they don't have money to do so. So it's simple - those that used to buy books now buy videogames or somehting else and spend the time it would take to go to the library to use that other thing they bought instead.

The library really is the last bastion for an education for those who cannot afford books - but still want them. But what if the people don't want them?

Not only are less bought, but less are also read - by even those who read loaned books before.

Anonymous said...

Not a single customer wished me a happy library week. It was the same old routine last week: head down, stampede to the free internet terminals.

JR in the OC