Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This Shit Used to be True.

I want to talk about Awful Library Books. Not so much the web site because I don't really know what they do there, but I want to call out all the librarians who feel superior for identifying some pathetic old outdated book and marching it out for its public shame.

And this is the entry that sparked my ire:

Let’s Be Indians
Parish 1962

This book is still in reasonable shape given its age, although it probably hasn't been touched since I snagged it for this website. Maybe it slipped through the cracks on weeding since the call number on the spine was wrong. (Weak excuse, but I will put it out there as a possibility.) Yes, I did find it in an active public library youth collection. World Cat shows an embarrassingly large group of public libraries and school libraries holding this title. This book is so light on concrete information, they don’t even list distinctions among the native people. They are all just Indians. Time to retire this title, and for the love of God, how about some updated materials on native cultures rather than a marginal craft book?
Hey, this was us. I bet that before this book, most kids didn't want to be the Indian. Back in the 1950's, the weakest kid that no one liked had to be the Indian whenever you played Cowboys and Indians. The Indian was reviled as a sneaky thief and murderer who came in the night and captured our women. So I'm betting that in 1962, this was considered a progressive view of Indians as creative and brave and worthy of being the lead choice in a young boy's or girl's role playing.

We can all laugh and say, "Oh, I would never have bought that for my library." And I would jump into my time machine to locate which books are "awful" fifty years from now and come back and say, "Yes, you would. Here are the ones you're buying now that EVERYONE in the future is laughing at."

Ok, you're right, I'm kidding. I wouldn't do that because there are no libraries fifty years from now. That's just silly. Also, I only use my time machine to:

a. Kill Hitler over and over.
b. invest in something that I can sell for much more money now.
c. fuck hot cave chicks in One Million B. C.

Oh, yeah, we're offended now by the ignorance expressed between those sad covers of all those old books, but we used to believe what is in these books that we now toss out from our libraries.

Suddenly, we're all so enlightened. But the point is that we bought that book because it represented ideas that our society valued, ONCE UPON A TIME. At some point in our past, some person took the time to write a book that made its way to a publisher who thought it might sell a few copies so it was printed and put out for sale and listed in some catalog or even given a favorable review in a professional library publication and some librarian read about it and ordered it and catalogued it and put it on the shelf for all of us to read and take home. And we read it and agreed with it BECAUSE IT WAS THE TRUTH.

Maybe it was some long ago librarian who bought that book that seems so wrong now. Or maybe it was you. If it was you, are you admitting now that you bought a shitty book? No. At the time, it was probably a good idea to get it. It filled a need.

Or did you succumb to peer pressure when you made that decision to add that book to the collection? If so, you suck. Suck. Suck. Suck. You sucky librarian. Or maybe your boss made you do it.

Or maybe your patrons requested it. They don't really know any better; they only do what TV and now the Internet tells them to do. "Buy this money, health, relationship book and all your problems will go away." And because they're too cheap to buy it for themselves, they get the librarian to buy it. Even though you knew it was a shitty book, you bought it anyway. Because these idiots pay your salary.

But that's the problem with serving the public: they are stupid. If enough people ask for something that might present extremely dangerous health advice or risky investments or even idiotic ideals, books that are a complete waste of paper, you'd probably have to buy it. Because it's what your patrons want. And even though the book is wrong, that doesn't make it any less TRUE. It's true that your patrons were gullible enough to force you to waste tax money on shit. I bet I could publish Barefoot and Pregnant: why women should quit the workforce in these troubled times and give the jobs back to MEN right now and promote it on TV and the radio and the Internet and make it so popular that your library would buy it.

And it would circulate 500 times.

Does that make it a good book? Apparently, by library circulation standards, since we really only care about what gets checked out. But it's a shitty book that no one should be reading, but yet everyone did.

But how much crap are you collecting now that will embarrass or enrage future generations? What if some future water shortage has us drinking our urine? And all those books on mixing frozen daiquiris or swimming pool maintenance or lawn care are viewed with the same derision we now foist upon our own obsolete cultural and ecological views.

The point is, we can't know about all the stuff that we think is awesome now that might get shoved back in our faces later.

So my point is, we shouldn't weed these books.

I think librarians should keep these books and place them in a display called, Past Facts, or Local Time Machine, or Mirror Mirrors. There should be a whole Dewey number to represent these awful books.

No one says we need to be proud of them. But I think it's helpful for society to look back at where we've been and decide whether we're making progress.

But to answer your thought balloon: YES. Weed old medical books. There's no reason to kill people just so we can collectively mock useless therapies. It would be funny to do it, but still wrong.

Friday, December 16, 2011

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian

Holy Crap. Some guy at Forbes wrote an article called, "If I Were A Poor Black Kid." Why a poor, black kid? Why didn't he just say, "If I were a kid"? If you remove "poor black" from his essay, it still makes grammatical sense AND it doesn't sound like some WHITE guy just got total amnesia about our history. So if you read the article, just try to ignore that it's completely misplaced advice, but try to focus on the details. Otherwise, damn, he sounds stupid.

With that in mind, I'm going to attempt to solve all the problems of the out-of-work librarian. And it will probably sound just as stupid.


If you're a librarian and unemployed, I don't need to tell you that there are lots of other librarians out there looking for a job.

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian, I would read "If I Were A Poor Black Kid." And I would do what the author says to do about "getting technical." Most of this stuff can be learned through your local library. I hope you knew that.

If possible, I would learn another language. As much as I could. I would give up my free time and devote every second to making myself the most attractive candidate for the job. But for now, I'll assume you've made it past the application stage and have been called for an interview.

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian, I would visit my target library and use all the databases and I would remember to mention them during the interview. I would browse the collection and check the place out. If possible, I'd wear casual clothes (so as not to stand out as an applicant) and visit the library early enough that I could change into my best clothes later. I wouldn't show up five minutes before my appointment looking like I just showed up five minutes before my appointment.

I would buy one good suit and have it tailored to fit like a good suit should. And if I'm a dude, two nice dress shirts and two nice ties. And one good pair of shoes that stay in the box and don't come out until interview day. If I were a poor out-of-work librarian, I'm not going to dress like one for my interview unless I want to remain a poor out-of-work librarian.

I'd think about getting a cheap wifi tablet, not so much to look cool, but to learn about how they work in order to show others, my future library customers. The good news is that many librarians in a position to hire you don't know crap about technology. They might have a smart phone, but they don't know much about it. I don't think one librarian around here understands the word "root" as related to computers. I bet saying, "I rooted my Nook" at your next interview gets you confused looks at most libraries; whereas I would ask, "What were the advantages or disadvantages in doing that?" And you'd best have an answer.

I would ask my employed librarian friends for help. Whatever they think would be useful. And based on their advice, I'd have some presentation ready, my storytime or some quick instruction on using something on the computer like email, attaching a document, anything I feel confident explaining clearly.

Keep anecdotes in mind. You will be asked about events where you needed to make decisions: don't worry if you have no library experience, at this point anything is useful. So long as it's recent and displays your professionalism. You will be asked about situations involving a conflict: the key is that there was some attempt at a resolution that didn't involve gunfire. Again, have a story in mind. If you're stuck, ask your librarian friend for help. And if you don't have an employed librarian friend, find one.

The bad news is that if you don't have a job, then library school ain't over. You need to keep learning. Why? Because you don't have a job.

And here is the worst part: look for work where the work is, even if it's 1,000 miles away. I would give up any idea of my dream job and just get hired. But I don't know if I could work for $25,000. In North Dakota.

Given my experience, I'd recommend creating some tutorials for computer instruction. Because that's what I need when I'm hiring. It shouldn't take more than a couple of days to come up with basic classes on how to teach the public a few internety things like:

Finding Friends on Facebook
Getting to Know Google+
Using OpenOffice: Calc, Writer, Impress
Tweeting like a Pro
Working in the Cloud
Portable Apps in your Pocket

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian, I'd want to appear Intelligent, Reliable, Obedient. And definitely not an asshole. If you're not sure if you're asshole, take a look at your friends and your friends' friends. Any of them assholes? At least one of them should be, otherwise, it just might be you. Every group of friends includes an asshole; make sure it's somebody else.

I'd demonstrate a broad knowledge of the skills I learned in library school, but I'd focus on some specialized area of expertise when given the opportunity to speak during the interview. Maybe it's social networking, or gaming, or web design or children's programs, or whatever, but don't let that aspect overwhelm the interview. Start with the broad stuff, but work in the details when the conversation allows for it.

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian, I wouldn't remain one for long.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

You have wasted your life.

Humans define our attempt at civilization by our shared beliefs, our shared experiences. We bond over our memories. Dogs sniff each other's asses, but humans want to know how much you loved last week's episode of Once Upon a Time.

So I wonder how the future will view us, with our shared experiences as compared to others. For example:

Where were you on December 7, 1941?
I was telling my ma that I was going to enlist. She cried. My pa even cried.

Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?
I spent the day with friends, telling them how beautiful they are. And getting high.

Where were you when we landed on the moon?
I was in front of the television. The whole world was in front of the television.

Where were you when on 9/11?
I went out and bought a gun.

Where were you when the first iPhone was released?
I was waiting in line!

I think we'll all remember where we were on June 29, 2007 for the rest of our lives. In 2017, the news media will look back on the 10-year anniversary of the first iPhone and on the lives of those it changed. What? You don't remember where you were on that day? Are you fucking kidding me?

We don't know who the first person was to buy an iPhone that day, but you can bet he was probably a fat, bald white guy in a Weezer tee-shirt. Or an Asian guy in a baseball cap. Or skinny white dude with an Alice Cooper haircut. Or it could have been a woman. There were a lot of women waiting in line to buy the first iPhone. And that's sad because then that makes the whole waiting in line for a hunk of plastic that no one uses anymore seem almost normal. (Does anyone still use the first gen iPhone?)

But, whoever that person is, fifty years from now, when he or she passes away, a country will mourn. And a new generation will ask, Where where you when the first person to buy an iPhone died? And the answer should be, if future human beings still have any standards, Who the fuck cares?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What I Wish I'd Learned in Library School.

What is a library?

This might seem obvious, but it's not. You also might think that it's something one might want to already know before applying to library school, but again, not obvious. It's like thinking you know what a business is before you enter Business school. There are probably ten thousand different kinds of businesses and ten thousand different ways to manage them. The same with libraries.

Libraries are essentially businesses. They are also government. They are public or private, funded by grants, foundations, donations, millage taxes, sales taxes and fees. I still don't have a fucking clue of all the ways that libraries can be funded.

They buy books or lease them. They process in-house or contract it out, or both. They own the land where the buildings reside or they lease or there could be some long-term donation involved. Again, many combinations.

They hire full-time and part-time people and ask the community for volunteers, promote from within or hire from outside, provide formal classes and on-the-job training.

Even after all these years of being a librarian, I still only have a tiny narrow idea of how a library functions. You might think I'm being flippant, but I'm not. There are so many aspects to the job that you can't possibly know what you'll need to know until you need to know it.

You can't prepare for every library job. Sure, you think you want to know about graphic design now, but in your next job it might not matter. Or maybe you think you should have learned more about computers. And then take a workshop and you realize you already know enough to do your job now.

The point is that all this woulda, coulda, shoulda, thinking is fine for commenting on your blog. But don't dwell on it. What happened in library school stays in library school. You're a librarian now, why the fuck are you still bitching about school?

What did I learn in library school? Whatever fit into my schedule that got me the credits to get my degree. I have no complaints.

I don't understand these people who look back at library school as if it failed them somehow. You learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can, so you don't waste too much money as costs increase over the years. And then you get that degree and look for work. Or if you're lucky, get the degree while you're already working.

You use the degree to get hired. Then you observe what's going on and how your new position relates to those around you. You apply new knowledge to old. You fuck up. But not enough to get fired. And you learn. And you succeed. And you backstab and kiss ass to get promoted. There's no fucking mystery to it.

Monday, December 5, 2011


So the solution for saving libraries is obvious: open internet cafes.

Sure, your library offers free internet, but do you also offer PAID internet?

Here is the difference between the boring free library and the cool internet sweepstakes cafe:
A typical scenario is for a business to advertise itself as essentially a sweepstakes parlor. Customers buy phone cards and get with each purchase a separate, magnetic card with credit for a chance for every minute of phone time purchased.

Players sit at a terminal in the cafe and log onto a sweepstakes account created for them that keeps track of their winnings. Some parlors have 50 or more terminals.
"'You can play all day long for 40 bucks.'"

$40. A day. Every day. Times 50 terminals... that's... something. Oh, I just found my calculator; that's $2,000. Oh, I could have done that in my head. Minus holidays, that's $700,000 a year. Per location. And there are over 1,000 of these sites in Florida alone. And they seem to be perfectly legal.

So why are librarians promoting coffee shops in their libraries just to make a few extra bucks? Or holding gaming nights, minus the cash prizes?

Libraries already hold prime locations. We're in the suburbs, downtown, near shops, on college campuses: libraries are everywhere.

So why can't libraries provide these harmless games to desperate poor and elderly people? Ask this man, who tells us how we would get to keep a whopping 10% of all the money we'd make and let him keep 90%, I guess, for making his informative video.

Remember, this is perfectly legal. At least, for now.

How To Start An Internet Sweepstakes Cafe. Now for Libraries!