Librarian as Superhero
Publisher Harper Collins has just released a new book – about librarians. Talk about optimistic.
This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson, and it describes the exciting new world of librarians. Tattoos, precision drills using tricked-out book carts, and the virtual reality of Second Life figure prominently. Naturally, I liked the book, but is it possible for a book about librarians to be a money-maker for Harper Collins?
It's a very positive book, filled with enthusiastic librarians who love to acquire, store, and especially share, information. They are privacy rights activists, ardent bloggers, and street librarians. It was fun reading about these exuberant professionals. Librarians aren't what they used to be.
Neither are libraries. Libraries and other “non-essential” public services are getting hit hard in these tough economic times. And yet they keep finding new ways to serve their communities. Here are a few examples:
Drive-up windows. They started popping up about two years ago and now there's no stopping them. Reserve a book or DVD online and pick it up at the drive-up window.
Arlington Heights, IL library drive-up window
Borrow a Kindle. Or a Sony Reader. A few public libraries (and some university libraries) are lending e-readers. People are borrowing them to read bestsellers or textbooks or just to try them out before deciding whether to buy one. This seems like such a good idea, I can't believe Amazon isn't jumping all over it and donating Kindles to public and academic libraries already.
Digital readers aren't the only cool things libraries are lending, aside from the usual books, CDs, DVDs, video games, and laptops. Forward-thinking libraries are lending GPS units, fishing poles, gardening tools, museum passes, and cake pans.
Donate a book. Attacking their financial problems head on, some libraries are coming up with clever and creative fundraising ideas. Several are maintaining wish lists of items that anyone can purchase and donate directly from Amazon. The Santa Cruz Public Libraries go a step further and have created wish lists with local independent bookstores. The Monterey County Free Libraries have received over fifty book donations from their Amazon wish list in one year, plus assorted DVDs, CDs, and language courses.
Libraries and librarians are morphing like superheroes, keeping the Evil Budget Shrinker at bay. Don't underestimate them. Remember, Batgirl was a librarian.