Wednesday, February 26, 2014

the first library to partner with google will be the last library standing

A recent story had the mayor of Miami-Dade saying that his library system could be run with one librarian on Skype.

After you're done shouting, Fuck You, Motherfucker, at this shitbag asshole of a mayor, take a moment to acknowledge that he's probably right.

Many librarian skills have been devalued. Research has little value to people who have settled for being idiots. The number of people who claim Google can find anything they need, yet CAN'T USE GOOGLE, are growing exponentially. I have to stand next to an incredible number of assholes who use Google to get to: Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL... AOL is only 3 FUCKING LETTERS! So I stand there as they type G O O G L E and then press enter and then say, "Your Internet is down" with the same fucking authority I might imagine my doctor would use to tell me I have cancer. "I'm sorry. The test came back positive; your Internet is down."

And I need to pretend that this is a teaching moment and remind them that GOOGLE is nothing, but GOOGLE.COM is something. And then they say back, "Well, not on my computer at home. There must be something wrong with your computers."

And I don't say, "Using your logic, you should be able to leave this room, take a left, pull down your pants and take a shit because in your house there's a toilet there. But in the library, that's where the copier is. Have you been shitting on our copier?"

So traditional Reference is dying. People don't want correct answers, only fast ones. And librarians, due to, I don't know, caring or education or professional ethics, can't get their heads around just giving their patrons the fastest answer without it necessarily being the right one:
PATRON: Do you have books on how the building of the Panama Canal encouraged drug trafficking to the United States?
LIBRARIAN: Here! [Hands any random Panama book] And would you like to learn more about Discount Hotel Accommodations in Panama?
Thank you. That was my impression of a search engine.

Library research takes some time, several minutes usually, to locate the right answer to a question. But people have been conditioned to accept every answer from Google as the best answer. Why? Because the Google results often link to a pretty good answer and people have decided that a pretty good answer really fast is better than a really good answer not so fast, or ten minutes later. 

And,... I'm leaping way ahead here (because the adrenaline is burning off and I'm losing interest in the topic), this is why your governments, refer to Miami-Dade at the top of this post, do not want to fund libraries: BECAUSE LIBRARIES ARE HERE TO EDUCATE.

And it's pretty damn clear to anyone paying attention that politicians don't need their voters to be educated in order to get elected.

Now that my political announcement is out of the way, let me get back to whatever it was I was trying to say.

Reference librarians are finding is harder to do their jobs because of not only the historical reasons, people don't know what they do or are afraid to ask; but now people are just settling for some search engine to tell them what the the answer is.

So what the people seem to want is Google-fast with librarian-smart. So like the title of this post says, the first library to partner with google will be the last library standing. If you think a library should still employ librarians.

Libraries will forsake librarians. You will see fewer of us in the future. But there will still be library jobs, just $12-$15 an hour jobs like everywhere else. And the library CEO will make 10X more than that just like real business.

And the librarians who are left will probably be your "rock stars" because they've been climbing over the rest of us for the past 5 years trying to be the important ones, when, frankly, I couldn't name one useful thing any of them has done. Other than get the rest of us to follow them on Facebook.

So expect more mayors to question why we need librarians. Because educating the public, according to them, is the goal of the also underfunded public schools and the out-of-most-of-our-reach-without-borrowing expensive universities and NOT the role of the publicly-funded and therefore free-to-all public libraries. So fuck us for caring.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fun with German Libraries, or You Can't Use the Spear of Destiny to Attach that Photo to Your Email

If you work in a public library, then you understand the agony of helping old people. Some of our elderly patrons will gleefully proclaim their ignorance of all modern technologies and smile as if this should make them appear cute and endearing. But it doesn't.

I've been using computers since around 1985 and I know people who started a few years before me. And AOL, your grandparents' Facebook, started in 1991. But I'll give these oldsters the benefit of the doubt and remind them that Google started in 1997, so that's 15 years they've had to get up to speed with computer technology.

So there's been more than enough time for them to learn something, anything, anything at all. But they haven't.

The old people who know about using computers probably never visit the library, spending all their free time, most probably, helping their computer illiterate neighbors get all their money back from that deposed Nigerian prince.

And this group of helpless mouse fumblers, virus spreaders, accidental rebooters and reckless spam clickers, is, according to Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation. Partly because they won World War II and defeated the Nazis.

So this is what I don't get: if our oldest Americans are so clueless about computers and digital technology and claim they can't learn to use any of it because it's new and strange and confusing, AND these are the Americans who beat Hitler's master race, then... wait for it... what the hell are the old people like in Germany?

Do German librarians work with even stupider people than we do? How did America beat the German Army or the Nazis? You know, the cool looking Germans who held their cigarettes upside down and wore monocles and polished their black leather boots until Colonel Hogan could read the latest secret codes in the reflection. One would think it's because we were better or smarter. Hell, we broke the Nazi code. Or maybe that was all just something that Hedy Lamarr did.

So this Greatest Generation can't figure out email, but they deciphered the Enigma machine. Where does that leave the German former soldiers, the defeated? Does this make them completey incompetent? Or something else entirely?

Based on what I learned from movies, I know Hitler was fascinated by the occult. Maybe German librarians face completely different problems from their aged veterans.

I can almost hear someone telling this to their confused patron and former Nazi: 
"Sie können keine anhängen foto mit the Spear of Destiny." Or, You cannot attach a photo with the Spear of Destiny.

Or worse yet, but would probably only happen once, "Ich kann nicht helfen, I can't help you to email the Ark of the Covenant because I will need to cover my eyes when you open it."