Thursday, December 29, 2005
patrons I can do without
I'll ignore, for the purposes of brevity, discussing whether or not academic librarians work "for" faculty or "with" them.
The public library where I work, we have a handful of pushy, impertinent, condescending patrons. They are usually frustrated with our lack of resources in a given area.
Me: I'm sorry, the only journals we have that discuss medieval architecture are in this database and some aren't full-text. We just can't afford to have more. Did you look in the datab ...
Professor Jackass: Um, YEAH! I'm a professor at (local worthless college) so I know how to do research. I've been here for five hours and you don't have what I need!
Me: OK, good. Maybe you can try (worthless college's worthless library) and see if they ...
PJ: I have to have this syllabus ready tomorrow for SOME reason and the college library is closed this week and I JUST DON'T HAVE TIME!
Alright Senor Snippypants, I'm going to stop you right there. If you were any kind of professor you'd have your syllabus ready already. And if you were any kind of post-graduate educated person you'd be better at research than what I'm seeing, which to my eye resembles a retard trying to fuck a football. Why don't you take your inferiority complex and poor career choices and bounce the fuck up on out of my library before I introduce you to Professor Knuckle and Dean Sandwich.
The upper portion of my brain realizes this. The reptilian portion of my brain holds certain patrons and their "innocuous" choices of entertainment in total revulsion.
By this I mean the personals ads pervert.
I feel for personals daters. I do. Were I not happily married to Mrs. Boneless Chuck (Boneless Charlene?) at a rather young age I'd probably use one of the services.
The guy we have is clearly not, um, dating, as you might recognize it. Isn't online libe dating supposed to be like shopping? You browse, select and then leave, right? Not our guy no sir. Four or five hours a day. Every day. E-mails, chat, profiles, pictures. Never porn, at least not that I can see. But e-mail with e-skanks for hours. He's clearly not looking for companionship, he's into the giddy thrill of a harem.
Which is cool. Far be it from me to piss in another man's pool. So why does Personals Ads Pervert make me want to Hulk Smash?
One, he's just a schmuck. I glanced at the girls he thought he was talking to. That willowy strawberry blond with the cleavage and wicked smile? That girl doesn't need to get dates on the web. She gets dates by getting up and breathing. If she bends over a pool table at a bar for 6 six seconds she'll have marriage proposals tied to Cosmopolitans delivered to her before she can straighten up.
It's a guy, my friend. Or a skank. A bus station-grade skank.
Two, Spending hours amassing a golf bag full of "girls" to chat up is the begining of bad behavior. It's like a kid setting a fire or killing the neighbor's pomeranian. Personals ads guy is getting ready to move up to big boy sex behavior, I'm pretty sure. And all it takes is one whiff of sex criminal in the library for our stock to fucking CRASH in this town. No taxpayer goodwill for us. No sir. We'll be wrestling bums for change for the new Britannica.
So that's why I hate the personals guy. Everytime I see him -- with his weak chin, pointy nose, late-20s baldness, dirty apartment reek, raccoon-in-a-trash-can grin -- I see our fragile little informational ecosphere vanish in a puff of smoke with naked pictures of "kittengurl18" in the background. And it makes me want to throw him a friggin' boot party.
Did you think we would want these? This is not a rhetorical question. Did you look at these loose-leaf binders of home ec. syllabi from 1986 and think to yourself, "Self, I think the local library would LOVE to spend some of its precious staff time to lovingly process these rare jems of intellectual history"? Really? Or the yellow, basement-funk-having science fiction novels? How about the incomplete collection of magazines from the 80s? Salavating for a chance to get our hands on those were we?
Let me save all of you some time. There is nothing interesting about your family. Nothing. Not where they came from. Not what they did. Not what they looked like or where they lived. The only person anyone's life is interesting to is that person.
Everyone will forget about you when you are dead, just as we all forgot about Uncle Ted and Aunt Myra who was born in Cornwall, which is in England, but when she was a girl her dad caught the Wasting and his head fell off. Then they moved to Ohio and she married a guy named Alton, who might have been a Methodist minister or a serial rapist. I'm not sure. Anyway, they died. Here's a pretty yellow picture of them frowning in front of a house. I visited it once. It wasn't really yellow. I think that's just the picture.
Books I can do without
The “librarian” portion of my brain wants to not judge people for their reading habits. Freedom to Read, no disapproving stare or snicker. And it’s good that people read, no matter what it is. Right?
But privately ...Romance novels: Evidence, like you needed it, that feminism hasn’t gotten anyone as far as you think. I don’t understand why people are embarrassed about renting porn, buying birth control or enema bulbs but they have no problem checking out a copy of “The Heave-ening” or “Nature’s Laborer” from the local library.
Here’s a public service announcement for you romance novel readers: The guy on the cover is gay and even if he wasn’t he wouldn’t have sex with ANYTHING with more than 5% body fat. Sorry.
New Age: This is a hard category to pin down so let’s just call it “books that have the word ‘spirit’ in the title somewhere.” We also would accept books on reincarnation, crystals, natural healing, anything involving “energy” not in the 500s (librarian joke, sistas) or psychics.
New age books are read by people who are searching for proof that their lives have a higher meaning or purpose apart from their daily routine.
The minds of new age patrons are so open that their brains slid out and rolled under the couch of a Unitarian church basement in 1981.
If you ever wondered what kind of person believes that angels speak to some gelled-haired idiot on daytime TV carrying messages from dead relatives …
… people who want to read the aforementioned idiot go on for 200 or more pages about it. That’s who.
Monday, December 26, 2005
the on-rushing irrelevance of the American Library Association
There has been a lot of news made recently about ALA's policy toward conference presenters and speakers (read a good summary here http://freerangelibrarian.com/archives/121505/how_do_we_serve.php or Jessamyn West's at http://www.librarian.net/stax/1593) It would be nice ALA was just cheap and politically tone-deaf. Those are minor problems.
The American Library Association has serious and systemic problems that not only make it out of touch with its membership, but alienate the professional community and do nothing to advocate for librarians or librarianship.
In a post to the ALA listserv (http://lp-web.ala.org:8000/guest/archives/ALACOUN/log0512/msg00276.html) Councilor Mark Rosenzweig said: "Since I am probably not alone in not having my head well up in the self-intoxicated ether of the blogosphere, I am undoubtedly not the only one here who until this discussion had no idea who "Jenny" or "Michael" were. Imagine that! ... This discussion is ridiculous and an insult to those librarians who consider it an honor to speak to ALA at its conferences."
Rory Litwin in a post to the same list (http://lp-web.ala.org:8000/guest/archives/ALACOUN/log0512/msg00172.html) said "I don't know who Jenny Levine is, but my feeling is that she has found a rather selfish thing to be outraged about."
Let me respond to Rosenzweig's points first. We, as a profession, have been asked to get by on thanks, goodwill, good intentions, honor and warm fuzzies for decades. The attitude ALA displays toward presenters is one that we internalize and it infects every area of our professional world. Don't ask for more money, don't pressure the mayor / dean / library board for more money for staff. We're just librarians. We don't want to make a fuss. It's thanks enough just to work here. Can I buy some more pens out of my own money, please?
As long as ALA members and especially Councilors have this attitude we will always be at the bottom of the economic and professional food chain.
I don't really care if presenters have to pay a registration fee or what Mark Rosenzweig thinks of it. What I do care about our cumulative professional timidity, the damage it causes and our leadership's desire to perpetuate it.
And as far as Litwin's perspective, I have a question:
Why does ALA have to be a polyglot of every leftist cause, viewpoint and political issue? I say this as a lifelong liberal Democrat. I oppose the Patriot Act. I believe laws requiring Internet filters are unconstitutional. I taste bile when I think about the prospect of interlibrary loan transaction being monitored by federal law enforcement, even though it turns out they probably aren't.
I also oppose the designated hitter rule, the NBA dress code and the breakup of the Fugees. But none of that means that the ALA has to do something about it.
We have the lowest wages of nearly any professional line of work. The APA arm of ALA, that was supposed to advocate for the rank and file, has been invisible since its inception.
ALA's strength is in its numbers and its national status. They could choose to speak for us but instead they speak for causes. Worried about censorship and the freedom to read? Me too. That's why I belong to the ACLU. ALA is squandering its resources doing the work that other organizations do better.
I can think of five organizations that exist to protect the free exchange of ideas. I can't think of a single other one that is supposed to advocate for me and my profession.
"Wow. A 15 second clip on NPR about the Patriot Act. Those were membership dues well spent."
ALA speaks for honor and sacrifice for the good of the Sisterhood. They speak for free expression, Cuban librarians and the anti-war movement.
Who will speak for us?
Friday, December 23, 2005
Oooooh, Library Director of the Year
I think it's a lot more impressive to work-part time with a master's degree, too little support or supplies, in a dangerous building or neighborhood. I think I could learn a lot more from someone like that getting several pages in our flagship publication every year.
I know librarians with roommates. I know librarians whose lunch plans are based on the money left until the end of the week not on how they feel about the amount of cilantro in the thai place down the street. I'd like to know how they prioritize their work in only 25 hours per week.
It's possible that I am just being a prick. But I don't think that I'm bagging on boss types just to score points.
I'd like to hear about an administrator who has managed to get their staff more money. There are public libraries that are scratch-building catalog search boxes nested in web browsers. Let's have a chat with the dude that came up with that.
I'm tired of reading the same article every year. I'm tired of never reading about the things that we actually talk about.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
if I hear one more word about Google
Librarians talk endlessly about Google.
"Well, most of the students I see think they can just Google it."
" ... or they just run to Google."
Can we please cut the fucking shit?
What the hell is the matter with us?
One more frumpy, mousy, cat-obsessed, jumper-wearing, "Buffy"-rerun-watching librarian sniffing derisively about patrons whoring on Google for term papers and I'm going Bruce Banner on that ass. I'm bursting out of my purple pants, turning green and Hulk is going to smash. HULK SMAAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!!!!!!!!!!!!
Enough. Enough already. Let's just move on. It's a tool. It finds stuff. You won't be out of a job. They're not going to shutter the Bodleian because "The Da Vinci Code" is on the Internet.
The truth is no one has any idea what Google is going to do to the Sisterhood. We still don't know what the full effect of the Internet itself is on the profession and we've been living in a live-fire exercise for the last fifteen years.
Shut up. Sack up. Cowboy up. The Sisters have been around since before electricity. Before Columbus. Before paper for Christ's sake. Stop worrying. Shut up and play.
and this one's for ... tha ladies
This is not a big deal. I don't get to geek on basketball at work. No one to geek with.
You must remember, however, that this is female turf and you are a guest, no matter how long you've been there or how "non-traditionally male" you think you are. Keep these guidelines in mind.
Women will not ask you to help set up for birthday parties, events, holiday parties, potlucks, etc. They will just do it. THIS DOES NOT ABSOLVE YOU FROM HELPING OUT. Don't stand there and say "How can I help?" like your dad on Thanksgiving. Finding something for someone to do is one more fucking thing to do. Don't just let "the girls" handle it and hide in your office until it's time to eat. Don't bring in food that your wife or special ladyfriend made, or for fuck's sake don't tell anyone. Make it yourself, big boy.
If you talk all the time in groups, it's not because you are a genius. Women tend to be collaborative and deferential. Talk less. Listen more. This applies doubly if you are the boss.
Don't assume that your man-status confers upon you expert knowledge of cars, electronics, politics, money or home repair. They're women, not 7th graders. Respond if asked.
Remember, men are relative newcomers to librarianship. The flame was kept burning for decades by the women who had our jobs before us. Better recognize.