Friday, August 19, 2011

Libraries: making you feel like shit all over again

It's pretty much ever other day since I became a librarian that I hear, "It's been so long since I've been to the library."

And since computers have existed since before I went to library school, it's been every other other day that I've heard, "I've never used a computer."

And by next year I'll need to find new days to squeeze in for all the times I'll hear, "This fucking iPad can suck my dick."

So it seems like forever that libraries have been making people feel stupid or guilty or unsuccessful or lazy. We're constantly changing to add new technologies to make our patrons feel like shit.

Remember that many of your patrons learned to use the library by borrowing printed books. And that technology didn't change very much from year to year. Except the collection changed. New books arrived and found homes on the shelves next to the older books. So there was an actual, tangible history on the shelves. One could hold an old book that was once enjoyed in childhood in one hand right along with the latest bestseller in the other. And it inspired reflection, reflection on the years that have passed, on life, marriage, children, work, health, death. And all that reflection sucks.

People don't want to remember their lives. Or rather, they want to remember but only when they are guaranteed to not remember the next morning. And that's why we drink. To remember how much our lives suck and how much promise was wasted but to be able to forget it all tomorrow.

That's why shopping is awesome. Everything is new. You don't have to compare your life to some old diet book you tried to apply to your live 15 years ago that didn't work. Or to remember how much you loved reading Dean Koontz and how you met someone else who loved Koontz but then that person turned out to be such an asshole. Everything is wonderful in the Macy's Juniors department.

But libraries always remind you that you don't know shit. If you read books and love them, the next the books will be stamped on gold foil that you read by rubbing them against your teeth. Or worse, the books will require some special hardware to read and some overly complicated process for getting them out of the sky and onto the device. A process that makes you lose control of your bowels, just a little.

So let me apologize to all the library users who just want things to be the way they were way back when they first visited the library. I'm sorry. From all the libraries everywhere, I'm deeply sorry.

Libraries keep changing. But yet we keep all the old stuff to keep you off balance and fuck up your day. Just when you got used to borrowing The Sound of Music on VHS, we dumped that copy and bought it on DVD. And now that you've learned to love your DVD player, we're switching to blu-ray. And next April we're going full streaming HD video. Won't that just make you lose your shit?

But it's not our fault.

Your one bit of satisfaction should come from knowing that all the smug assholes stroking and caressing their iPads now will be the old codgers later when the idea of manipulating a device with one's hands will seem prehistoric because all the world's data will just shoot out from our asses.

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