This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

thisbookisoverdueThis Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All
by Marilyn Johnson
2010

I enjoyed this book but it also left me feeling kind of weird and antsy in a way that took a while for me to figure out. It’s made up of twelve chapters that are essentially stand alone non-fiction stories about some pretty amazing things that different librarians and groups of librarians are doing in the world right now. This is a direct counter to all those (generally upper/upper-middle class) people who write articles about how no one uses the library anymore. People are absolutely still using libraries, both in traditional ways and in new and innovative ways.

This book looks at twelve ways that librarians have done some pretty amazing things from innovations:

  • Having a real working library offering real world information and services staffed and resourced in an MMO RPG (massive multi-player online role playing game
  • Having mobile librarians working with mobile devices and hooked into real-time databases offering fact-checking and up-to-date information to protestors, counter-protestors and locals alike during massive protests.

to protecting traditional values:

  • Taking on the United States federal government in a massive silenced court case about reporting on the reading habits of their customers
  • Providing computer literacy training around the world to ensure people can access books in whatever form the library happens to have it in, physical or digital.

It’s fascinating and (as a library science grad) personally inspiring.

That said, it also made me feel just a bit antsy with the way the author put librarians on this pedestal of being amazingly altruistic in all ways. She is surprised by their human foibles and shocked when there’s a case of a librarian doing something wrong.

Like any career, librarians include some truly heroic people and some truly awful people, and a lot of people who are generally in-between. There is a strong culture of altruism in the career path, yes, but we’re not saints.

So definitely read this book and read about some extremely cool people who are doing or have done some amazing things. But also take a moment to read a more low-key blog post about your every day librarians as well.