Review: This Book is Overdue!

This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians can Save Us All

Marilyn Johnson

283 pages

Publication Year: 2010

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Source: Publisher


Publisher’s Description: Those who predicted the death of libraries forgot to consider that, in the automated maze of contemporary life, none of us-expert and hopelessly baffled alike-can get along without human help. And not just any help: we need librarians, the only ones who can save us from being buried by the digital age. This Book is Overdue! Is a romp through the ranks of information professionals-from the blunt and obscenely funny bloggers to the quiet, law-abiding librarians gagged by the FBI. These are the pragmatic idealists who fuse the tools of the digital age with their love for the written word and the enduring values of free speech, open access, and scout-badge-quality assistance to anyone in need.

I don’t often use the publisher’s description in my reviews but I had to use in this time. This Book is Overdue! is jam-packed with information about how librarians are shaping our world for the better along with how this profession is constantly evolving to fit the needs of patrons.

With our country going through a recession, libraries across the country are being hit hard with budget cuts. Many libraries have had to reduce their hours, laid off staff, cut services, and even closed. Though they are facing many challenges, libraries are needed more now than ever before in these dark times. People think just because technology, especially the internet, is becoming more ingrained into our everyday lives, librarians don’t have a role in our lives and that’s not true. Libraries everywhere are helping those who don’t have access to computers or the internet at home by offering internet classes and time on libraries computers.

Marilyn Johnson profiles just what it is that makes this profession so special. I learned about the librarians of St. John’s University in New York who travel to Rome twice a year to train graduate students from around the world on how to help their own communities while using technology to document and investigate any injustices. These are graduate students who come to Rome with no idea how to use a computer and leave weeks later, learning how to use the internet and every technological tool they will ever need.

While reading this fantastic book, I learned about the Radical Reference librarians, a group that started taking to the streets of New York City during the Republican National Convention in 2003 to make sure demonstrators and activists had information they could trust. The group is called radical because they believe in providing services to all without any regard to political leaning. I hadn’t thought of librarians taking their skills and information out to events to help people.

There’s so much I could still talk about like the importance of archival librarians saving important but forgotten history and keeping it safe for all of us or how libraries are evolving to service not just those in their physical communities but also anyone who needs help in their digital ones.

It doesn’t matter if you visit your library often or not at all, I think it’s important for everyone to read this celebration of librarians and all that they do for our world. As Johnson herself wrote,

Librarian’s values are as sound as Girl Scout’s: truth, free speech, and universal literacy. And, like Scouts, they possess a quality that I think makes librarians invaluable and indispensable: they want to help. They want to help us. They want to be of service. And they’re not trying to sell us anything. But as one librarian put it, “The wold is always at the door.” In tight economic times, with libraries sliding farther and farther down the list of priorities, we risk the loss of their ideals, intelligence, and knowledge, not to mention their commitment to access for all— librarians consider free access to information the foundations of democracy, and they’re right. Librarians are essential players in the information revolution because they level that field. They enable those without money or education to read and learn the same things as the billionaire and the Ph.D. . . They are the little “d” democrats of the computer age who keep the rest of us wired.

In tough times, a librarian is a terrible thing to waste.

If you haven’t read this book yet, it’s time that you do.

My question for you today: What is your favorite library? It can be the library of your childhood or one that you’ve only visited once. What makes that library so special to you?


24 thoughts on “Review: This Book is Overdue!

  1. I remember when this book came out, and have heard very little about it since then, I actually think yours is the first review I have read. I do want to read this because the library is just such an important part of the culture and it is so sad to hear about how dreadfully their budgets are being cut. No library should ever have to lay off employees or close their doors. It is a travesty that just should never happen. Thanks for the great review on this one!

  2. I’ve been looking at this one for awhile, but more seriously since I saw you were reading it. I will see if my library has it (right, use the library for the library book). I love my library now, Beverly Hills Public Library. It’s old and beautiful and wonderfully stocked. If it goes away I don’t know what I will do.

  3. My favorite library is my hometown library. I seriously missed it while I was away at school. I went way overboard ordering books from it while I was home for Christmas.

  4. I really want to read this, but it is insanely popular at the library right now. I will have to just wait for things to calm down a bit.

  5. I’ve just finished this one myself! And I marked down that exact same passage you included at the end to post. Great minds and all that 😉

  6. Oh by far my favorite library is the one I grew up with. Being away from it just makes me realize even more how good a library it was. When I was in middle school, my friends and I used to get dropped off at the library and spend the day in the back corner of the children’s nonfiction section where nobody ever went but us. It was brilliant. We brought snacks and hoarded books in piles to decide what we wanted to keep and not.

  7. this sounds like a wonderful book. Libraries and librarians never get enough credit or money, kinda like teachers. Why is society like this? It’s the teachers and librarians etc. that is/should be shaping our youth today (along with their parents) not the media and video games mega centers. sigh.

  8. I’m so glad you enjoyed this book! It was one of my favorites from 2010. Marilyn Johnson throws so much information at you but it’s still a super fun book to read.

  9. Great review! I loved this book, so I’m glad you liked it as well. Marilyn Johnson did an excellent job with this one.

    My favorite library? It’s a toss-up. Probably my university library. I’ve always found solace in them but my grad school library was especially wonderful since I practically lived there.

  10. My favorite library is the on-line site for our library system, where I can download e-books and audio books from home, and not worry about forgetting to return them.

    This sounds like a great book. I wish I’d thought about it before nominations for our latest round of book club picks, since I suspect the group would enjoy reading and discussing it.

  11. This sounds like a truly fabulous book, and one that would make a great gift for a librarian – what better way to say thank you for all you do?!

    Thanks for your enthusiastic review!

  12. I’m reading this book right now and will be reviewing it next week for TLC Book Tours. I’m amazed at how much information is packed into one little paperback novel!

  13. Even though the title makes it really obvious, I had no idea what this book was all about when I first started seeing it around. With all that is going on with the libraries, this is a great time to be learning more about them and the value they provide to so many communities.

  14. It sounds really different from my usual reading, but quite interesting! And by reading other comments here, it sounds like it’s a must read too.

  15. I hadn’t really thought about reading this one, but your review has changed my mind. I am a lifelong library user but my favorite is the little branch library in the basement of my elementary school — yes, the city library had a branch in my school (back in the dark ages). I remember many hours spent picking out what books to take home with me.

  16. I just picked up this book today. I’m working on gathering up enough research/inspiration to write my personal statement for MLIS programs.

    I don’t think I have a favorite library, though I did enjoy both of the libraries at UC Irvine. I spent a lot of time there and even had a job there too.

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