Buried in info? Cross-eyed over technology? From the bottom of a pile of paper and discs, books, e-books, and scattered thumb drives comes a cry of hope: Make way for the librarians They want to help. They're not selling a thing. And librarians know best how to beat a path through the googolplex sources of information available to us, writes Marilyn Johnson, whose previous book, The Dead Beat, breathed merry life into the obituary-writing profession.Read more...
Buried in info? Cross-eyed over technology? From the bottom of a pile of paper and discs, books, e-books, and scattered thumb drives comes a cry of hope: Make way for the librarians They want to help. They're not selling a thing. And librarians know best how to beat a path through the googolplex sources of information available to us, writes Marilyn Johnson, whose previous book, The Dead Beat, breathed merry life into the obituary-writing profession.
This Book Is Overdue is a romp through the ranks of information professionals and a revelation for readers burned out on the cliches and stereotyping of librarians. Blunt and obscenely funny bloggers spill their stories in these pages, as do a tattooed, hard-partying children's librarian; a fresh-scrubbed Catholic couple who teach missionaries to use computers; a blue-haired radical who uses her smartphone to help guide street protestors; a plethora of voluptuous avatars and cybrarians; the quiet, law-abiding librarians gagged by the FBI; and a boxing archivist. These are just a few of the visionaries Johnson captures here, pragmatic idealists who fuse the tools of the digital age with their love for the written word and the enduring values of free speech, open access, and scout-badge-quality assistance to anyone in need.
Those who predicted the death of libraries forgot to consider that in the automated maze of contemporary life, none of us--neither the experts nor the hopelessly baffled--can get along without human help. And not just any help--we need librarians, who won't charge us by the question or roll their eyes, no matter what we ask. Who are they? What do they know? And how quickly can they save us from being buried by the digital age?
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In an information age full of Google-powered searches, free-by-Bittorrent media downloads and Wiki-powered knowledge databases, the librarian may seem like an antiquated concept. Author and editor Johnson (The Dead Beat) is here to reverse that notion with a topical, witty study of the vital ways modern librarians uphold their traditional roles as educators, archivists, and curators of a community legacy. Illuminating the state of the modern librarian with humor and authority, Johnson showcases librarians working on the cutting edge of virtual reality simulations, guarding the Constitution and redefining information services-as well as working hard to serve and satisfy readers, making this volume a bit guilty of long-form reader flattery. Johnson also makes the important case for libraries-the brick-and-mortar kind-as an irreplaceable bridge crossing economic community divides. Johnson's wry report is a must-read for anyone who's used a library in the past quarter century.
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A new breed of free-range librarians
My first thought upon seeing the title of this book was, wow, talk about preaching to the choir. I love librarians: their quiet efficiency, their confident bookishness and the way they can always help no matter the request, from a picture book on potty training to the latest chick lit to an obscure bluegrass CD. But as Marilyn Johnson postulates in the gloriously geeky This Book is Overdue, librarians are no longer ladies in cardigans hovering over the card catalog. The new librarians are bloggers, information junkies and protectors of freedom and privacy in the Patriot Act era. Says Johnson, “The most visible change to librarianship in the past generation is maybe the simplest: Librarians have left the building.”
Johnson travels around the country and the world meeting those behind Library 2.0. She writes about the “street librarians” who stood outside the 2008 Republican National Convention with their iPhones at the ready, telling passersby about the candidates, nearby tourist attractions and street closings. She visits college librarians working to arm students from far-flung nations with the latest technology to help them earn their degrees. She talks to librarians who sued to protect patrons’ records from the invasive grasp of the feds.
She also writes—very amusingly—about the seemingly endless number of librarians with blogs: The Annoyed Librarian, Miss Information, Free Range Librarian. It turns out these “mousy” librarians have a lot of opinions, and they’re not afraid to share them
Energetic, winningly acerbic and downright fun, This Book is Overdue will leave you convinced that librarians really can save the world.
Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington.