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Some Takeaways From 'This Book is Overdue'
April 27, 2010 - 9:17pm

I'm dying to book club This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, maybe we can start the conversation virtually.

Some Takeaways:

--I think if I were an academic librarian the book might be somewhat annoying. Johnson's strength and her weakness is that she is not a librarian, rather a librarian groupie. She has an outsider's appreciation for the librarian profession and the workings of a library. As an outsider, however, I think she misses some (if not most) of the big issues, challenges, and trends facing the discipline. This goes doubly so for the world of academic libraries. I hope that Johnson's passion and respect will inspire someone embedded in an academic library to write an account of this world for the non-specialist reader.

--The more time I spend thinking about the library world the more I realize how little I know and understand. I'm not sure if my lack of understanding is due to my own limitations of perspective (coming from a teaching and technology background), or due to some inherent insularity of library culture. An example of my own lack of knowledge about library culture and structure is how struck I was by Johnson's description of the growing cadre of disruptive librarians. These are librarians, some of whom are academic librarians, who are engaged in challenges to the library and institutional status quo using online tools such as blogging and social media platforms. What surprised me is how much more diverse (and sometimes radical) librarians are compared to both my image and my colleagues in computing. The fact that librarians are so engaged in rethinking their profession and institutions probably would not come as a surprise to any librarian, but to an outsider this is an eye-opening notion. You will have to tell me if this observations means that librarians should be spending more time talking and engaging to non-librarians about their ideas and plans for change and re-invention, or if non-librarians need to spend more time hanging out with our colleagues (at library conferences, library blogs etc.).

--My other big takeaway from This Book is Overdue is a new appreciation of the centrality of the moral code that motivates librarians. I had not fully grasped the degree to which librarians are dedicated to the the non-market distribution and availably of information. Nor had I fully understood the central librarian ethic of privacy and confidentiality. Does academic computing have anything comparable in terms of outlook and orientation. We have debates about open source, transparency, and open curriculum - but I don't think we have anything close to the cohesive philosophy that peoples access to information should not be dependent on resources, status or position that seem to be universal amongst librarians.

For those of you thinking about reading This Book is Overdue, I'll warn you that the first half of the book is much better than the second. Again, I hope that my academic librarian colleagues do read the book, if only to discuss and make plans to write a better one.

 

 

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