Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: Harper Perennial
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?