Monday, June 28, 2010

Booknote: This Book is Overdue!; It is also overhyped

Below is my review of the book, which I wrote for my GoodReads page, that a few librarians out there seemed to like. I was not too impressed, but at least, if anyone asks, I can say I read it.



This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson


My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Given that this book has been hyped by a good number of librarians in Librarian Blogsville, I resisted picking it up. I am not much into reading stuff that seems to be over-hyped. In the end, I picked it up because I saw it in the new books shelf of my local public library, so I figured it would be a low risk reading. The book does not even live up to the hype.

When I started reading, I noticed right away that it has a fanboy tone to it, and I am not using the term in a good way. The book seems to be written more for non-librarians and people outside the profession. Those of us in the profession already know most of what is in the book. I wanted to think that it was a good thing that someone would write something positive about librarians in this age when governments and communities want to cut library funding left and right while people think everything is online (it is not, contrary to a lot of wishful thinking, nor will it all be online anytime soon). If nothing else, the book is a pretty quick read. If you are a librarian, as I said, you probably know a good amount of the material, so you can likely skim parts of the book without feeling you missed anything. For instance, if you are a librarian blogger, or you at least follow library blogs, you can safely skip the chapter on librarian bloggers. There is nothing new here that you have not seen before.

The best parts of the book, at least the ones that resonated with me, were the chapter on Radical Reference, the one on the Connecticut Four, and the profile on the New York Public Library. The Radical Reference folks are a good example of what librarians do best in terms of helping a community right at the street level. The Connecticut Four chapter is a must read if you do not know who they are or what they did to fight for your right of privacy. They fought a government more than willing to set aside the Constitution and your rights for the sake of security. What was that thing Benjamin Franklin said about those who are willing to give up their freedom for security? These guys were not willing to give up their freedom, and they fought and won. Be sure to thank a librarian for they are one of the few folks these days willing to stand up for your rights. Finally, the NYPL piece shows a real tragedy, in spite of the good work this institution does, in terms of forsaking specialized, often unique knowledge and resources, for the short term chimera of more foot traffic. Folks may try to spin it, but that is what it boils down to.

In the end, the book has a good moment or two, but overall it just tries too hard to promote the hipster librarian image a little too hard. Sure, we are trying to get away from the shushing librarian with a bun image, but this book goes to the other extreme. I feel the book could have been more, but it failed and took an easy route. I think some people should read it, to get a sense of some of the good things librarians do these days, but be careful not to fall for the excessive hype and attempt to be too cool. If you have to keep proclaiming how cool you are, you are not.

View all my reviews >>

2 comments:

The.Effing.Librarian said...

I think we needed the book. This has been a tough year for libraries and any positive publicity is welcome. Besides, I'm mentioned in it, so a big thumbs up from me.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Effing: Hey, you deserve to be mentioned there and everywhere. I certainly always follow your blog. I think for ordinary people, we can use some positive publicity. I just wish she had not laid out so thick that we look all look like hipster geeks (a la NYT article). As always, best, and keep on blogging.