Friday, February 24, 2006


I need more patrons like this

"Hi, I'm going on a long ski trip with my daughter and two teenaged boys. Can you recommend a book or two to listen to in the car?"

"Sure, um, let me think for a minute ... "

"And don't worry about swearing or violence or filthiness. We love filthiness."

"God bless you, ma'am. I'll pick you a winner."

Good day for it, kiddies. Good fucking day to be a librarian.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Professional development courses that should be required for all librarians

Buy New Clothes.
We will familiarize participants with easy-to-remember tricks like "New President? New Pants." We will also discuss wearing different outfits on different days.

Eye Contact.
Contrary to popular opinion looking at people will not cause rickets, cholera, dropsy, athlete's head, gout, The Wasting or scrufula.

TV: There are other channels besides Sci-Fi and PBS.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

The Director of the Newton (MA) Public Library drew heat (see below) for asking FBI agents to have a warrant to seize the library's computers.

The Washington Post gives us an excellent reminder of how librarians can keep the "law" in "law and order.

Homeland Security Porn Police. That's the line you two want to go with? Isn't there Merry-Go-Round at the mall being left unguarded right now?

Monday, February 13, 2006


Want to know why the rest of the country thinks liberals are crazy?

Look no further than SUPERbold.

SB is an organization that opposes the use of RFID chips in books at the Berkeley Public Library. They have three big reasons.

1) They claim it it is "potentially unheathful."

I hope it doesn't give you grammar cancer, because that shit would be unhealthful. Not like the portobellos I grow myself in that small patch behind the commune's compost heap.

Thinking that radio waves from RFID are harmful is like thinking that the radiation from stop lights is going to make your face rot off. A) How did you come to such a conclusion and B) Ever notice that it hasn't happened to anyone?

This is the kind of thing that people who are desperate to seem smarter and more aware than other people just LOVE talking about. Like I'm going to take science advice from someone who learned their chemistry from the label on a box of gluten-free cookies.

2) It threatens privacy. They maintain that RFID can be used to find patrons who have checked out a certain book so the Patriot Act Police can come gitcha.

We already have a system that tells you who has what books. It's called THE FUCKING COMPUTER AT THE LIBRARY! And that has the old-fashioned version of RFID is which is called, I think, YOUR FUCKING ADDRESS!

It's not really feasible (yet) to track things with RFID outside of a stable enviroment like a store or library. But it could work. On the other hand, is this the biggest problem you can find to work on? This isn't even the biggest problem for libraries.

3) It's a waste of tax dollars. Berkeley is strapped for cash, as are a lot of cities. SB thinks that RFID costs too much and they may have a point. They also say that the technology might replace union workers and they may have a point.

Here's my point: Butt out. Yeah, it's your library. But the Sisters run it. We try to have as many of the items and services that you want. We try to be open hours and locations where you can use us. But you're not in charge. I'm trained to run this place, not you. Who asked you to weigh in on our planning process with your uninformed opinion? Probably the same person who asked you block up the whole aisle at the grocery store while you and your home-schooled nimrod browse for "just the right kind of spirulina."

You're in charge of putting lengthy, clumsy bumperstickers on your car. I'm in charge of the library.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


FAQ: Fucking Annoying Questions

Q: You're a librarian? It must be great to read books all day.

A: I'm puzzled as to why people think this. Lots of people do. Do bakers eat bread all day? Do ranchers and butchers spend their whole day wolfing down meat? We have about a quarter of a million books.

Q: You're a librarian? Oh ...

A: It's not really a question. Actually, it's not an explicit question. The implied question is "What the hell for? Did you have a closed head injury in college? Did your balls fall off?" This question often travels as "You don't look like a librarian" which means "You don't resemble the insulting stereotype I have in my mind that I saddled you with before you said it. Why don't a joke with you about it like you've never heard it."

Oh, right, the answer. "Fuck you." That's the answer.

Q: You're a librarian? Uh oh! I have overdue books!

A: You're a doctor? Great! Here's a stool sample I've been carrying with me since last week. I can you give it to my doctor when you see him? Where's that lawyer I met a minute ago? I'm sick of carrying around this bloody knife and roll of tape.

I'm just kidding. I know you don't have any overdue books. You don't look like you can read.

Q: Have you ever shushed people?

A: Ever had your ass kicked by a librarian? Hang on. It's coming.


god DAMMIT, grandpa!

The library ecosystem has a very common pest. This pest has many names. I call him Grandpa, Uncle Walter, Ding Dong, The Mouth, Lips, Foghorn Leghorn, Mr. Bull Horn, etc.

Let me back up. The reference desk is a "talky" place. People ask questions, get them answered and as more questions. The phone rings. People stop by to chat. All libraries have regulars that the staff gets to know so we talk a bit if there is no one waiting.

The pest abuses this delicate social niceity. The short chat with a patron is predicated on you LIKING the person, or being at least slightly interested in what they have to say.

The pest does not pick up on this cue. He is probably also the last-guy-at-the-party guy, the too-into-local-politics guy and the expert-on-local-history guy.

"Hey there, Chuck!"

Mary, Mother of Christ ...

"So, they working you too hard?!"

Actually, I'm the highest ranking person out here, shitbird. I work as hard as I damn well please.

"Here, I got a question for you. I wanted to know about that dam on the river north of town."

Oh no you don't, Uncle Walter. You want to run your mouth about the dam and I can't even imagine what else. This is just your twisted little segue.

"Well, that part of town was all walnut groves and uranium mines until the mine forman got his legs blown off by a malfunctioning kerosene stove. But what is interesting is that that damn was made with concrete rebar AND flamistan grommets on the flange weasels ... "


"... so by that time I had already been to Korea ... "

Our Father, who art in Heaven ...

"I have this book here about dam construction. Have you ever read 'What's your Dam Problem' by Kent McCord?"

Oh grand, the I've-read-more-than-the-librarian contest. This will end well.

"You haven't? Well, it's a great book. Here you can borrow it."

Do you realize you just asked me for like two, solid waking days of my time? If I asked you to come to my house and sit in silence, starting at my dining room table, you'd think I was fucking crazy and you'd be right. How is this different?

"You know, I thought about going into damn construction ... "

Don't all people have an instinctive sense of discomfort when a conversation is a) 20 minutes long and b) so one sided it would capsize if it were a boat? Not you, grandpa.

I should have been a cataloger.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


update -- the woodshedding of Richard Cravatt begins

From today's Globe, letters to the editor:

... should he (Cravatt) himself ever need to be catalogued, I've got a spot for him on the shelf at 621.945. That would be the 620s for Engineering, 621.9 for Tools and Fabricating Equipment, and, specifically, 621.945 for Boring Tools.



If a letter to the editor could be represented by a picture it would be this:
Dunked on. Nuts to grill. Clowned on "Sportscenter." Next case.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I am Melvil Dewey's furious anger

A Richard J. Cravatt published an editorial in the Boston Globe yesterday which you can read here.

Cravatt's thesis is a many-splendored thing.

First, that librarians actively protect terrorists and actively seek to prevent their arrest and prosecution.

After a credible terror threat to Brandeis University was traced to a public computer at the Newton Free Library on Jan. 18, the FBI and local police rushed to secure the computer, with the possibility of identifying the nature of the threat and the person behind it.

What law enforcement had not anticipated, however, was that their pressing search would be abruptly sidetracked when Kathy Glick-Weil, the library's director, informed them that no one was searching anything without a warrant.

Glick-Weil, like many of her counterparts who are members of the American Library Association (ALA), was well-prepared to stymie the investigative efforts of government officials.

The laws of Massachusetts state that a court order must be obtained for the disclosure of library records. If Cravatt is so hot for law and order, he can start by respecting the laws of the Commonwealth.

This is where he starts to shank them off the fairway:

The would-be terrorist who threatened Brandeis University, far from relying on an expectation of privacy and the ''right to be left alone," in fact loses those protections once he conducts his transactions in the public marketplace. As Heather Mac Donald, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, recently observed, ''Like it or not, once you've disclosed information to someone else, the Constitution no longer protects it. This diffuse-it-and-lose-it rule applies to library borrowing and Web surfing as well, however much librarians may claim otherwise.

Hmm? The diffuse-it-or-lose-it rule? This isn't just overly general, it's wrong. The library is public property. It's records are not. I don't have a right to expect that a phone conversation that takes place on the street is private. But I do have the right to expect that my phone records are private.

Not only does Mr. Cravatt not understand how this area of the law works, but he appears to have not watched TV in the last 25 years.

We all have jobs to do, Mr. Cravatt. Yours is, I assume, pretending to be smarter than everyone else. This Sisterhood runs libraries. The FBI enforces the law and catches bad guys. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, specifically the legislature, writes laws. This division of labor becomes important after Cravatt says:

...why a library director could even exercise the authority to block access to vital evidence requested by the police and FBI, stalling an investigation during an ongoing crime where stakes are high. More to the point, why are librarians, whose professional training concentrates on mastering the use of the Dewey Decimal System, making any decisions that affect law enforcement?

Here's a question for you: Who cares what a English Ph.D has to saw about law enforcement or the administration of a library? Can I have the list of who died and made you boss faxed to me? Richard, I know it makes you feel all warm and tingle-y to use your outside voice and show us how brave you'd be if it was you going after those terrorists but a few minutes of thought over your point would prevent you from looking like an ass, provided you aren't already used to it.

We AREN'T making any decisions about law enforcement. The Commonwealth made the law and the library director followed it. The FBI has the right to do warrantless searches if they feel they are necessary to prevent an imminent threat. They did not feel that was the case and so they applied for a warrant.

The system worked perfectly, Mr. Cravatt. Does it tell you anything that you are the both the angriest person about this situation AND the person who knows the least about it? Does that happen to you a lot?

And thanks for the shot about the Dewey Decimal System and librarian training. My degree had more to it than that, but if facts never got in the way of you making your point, don't let them start now.

Further, I'm proud of what Dewey accomplished and of what the Sisters and I do everyday. I dare say we contribute more to society everyday than a windy, bloviating, factually-challenged English Ph.D from Punditville, USA.

This is one of the stupidest editorials I've ever read. Awful. Appalling. You can write to and tell them what you think Richard Cravatt's embarrassing Andy Rooney impression.

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