The Biblio Files  

  our bookish life  

The Biblio Files

The Biblio Files
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
January 01
We (Steve and Helen) irresponsibly gave up our promising careers in aviation and bookselling over ten years ago. Now books seem to have taken over our lives. We frequent libraries, bookstores, and thrift shops in search of interesting books. We buy/swap/sell, but mainly, we read. We both wear glasses and have been mistaken for librarians.


Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 17, 2010 12:31AM

Batgirl Was a Librarian

Rate: 35 Flag



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?


this book is overdue


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.


  nympho librarian

Librarian as a different kind of fantasy figure

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Love it! If I go to library school, can I wear a Batgirl suit?

I nearly went to library school years ago... but didn't. Seemed like every librarian I talked to was either laid off or about to be (public, private, academic, museum, elementary school, you-name-it). Every organization seems to think they can cut the library first before the "real" staff.

I hope that's not still true (this was 15 years ago).
Pow! drive-up lending! Sock! borrow a kindle! Ca-runch! sexy Batgirl!

Total Knockout! THIS POST!

Love it!

If my local library would rent me their attic I would live there.
I was already pleased to read about this book. But then the book cover at the end raised my whole day to a new level.
Don't reveal the secrets of the sisterhood! Just joking. Really, libraries do innovate constantly. What we tend to think of as public libraries only dates back to the turn of the century, when Carnegie helped countless cities and towns build their public libraries. While there isn't much money in being a librarian, if you like solving problems, you can find plenty of challenges. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others provide a wealthy of scholarships--especially when we can talk someone who is underrepresented in libraryland. In the 1990s there was a lot of talk about retiring librarians leaving many openings, but instead, the libraries cut positions and hours and a lot of librarians stayed in place. If you have something special--like a willingness to work with children, automation, fund-raising, local history, or with non-English speakers, you can find more jobs. Too many graduate library schools cut their cataloging class requirement--which makes the class of "accidental catalogers" much smaller.
I love this! I had to leave my job at the local library due to scheduling conflicts with my husband's evening work schedule ... but am still good friends with my co-workers. I think this is my favorite OS post I've seen today!! Love love this!!

As for librarian jobs ... they're getting harder and harder to come by especially now with all the libraries facing budget shortfalls. It's very aggravating! I have been thinking of getting my masters in library science but hate to invest all that money only to find out there's no jobs. :o( Libraries and state parks are always the first to go ...

Thank you for the good post! I needed it!
What's a library?
Grat piece. R
Finished my MLIS in 99 - have had a wonderful career since then, though not always in libraries.

Rated for sharing how awesome we are.
froggy -- nolalibrarian has some insight a few comments down from yours, sounds like it's a challenge. "Non-essential services" -- phht.

Greg -- I vaguely recall a book about kids getting locked in a museum overnight. I used to think getting locked in a library overnight would be better.

Thanks, Bonnie!

Ranjit -- And for only $250 you can have a copy of your own!
nolalibrarian -- thanks for the view from inside the sisterhood. The book pointed out that no one becomes a librarian for the money. But I still love the idea of being a reference librarian, fielding all questions.

Will -- please keep your voice down.

rebelmom -- expensive education, low pay, little job security -- and they still love it!

john -- grrr

sueinaz -- thanks!

WalkAway -- dewey or LOC? Let the debate begin...
Aspiring library school student here- I'll have to hunt this book down.
Librarians are kind of scary sometimes...some of us, anyway. Thanks for this.
Steve and Helen, amazing to read what's going on with some libraries these days. The drive-up window is something I have not seen before and an order of French fries with the books would seem appropriate!
Yay for librarians! I will take this fine post and use it as an opportunity to sing the praises of the first librarian in my life: Miss Pratt, The Children's Librarian. Our relationship began when I was four years old and continued into adulthood. When I entered the library and walked toward the children's section, she would always enthusiastically greet me and often she would have some books set aside that she thought I might enjoy. If she didn't, she would walk along with me in the aisles and tell me about her latest favorites. As I got older and discovered John Fowles on my own, Miss Pratt was there to discuss his work and explain things I had no basis for understanding at the ripe age of 14. She was a great woman, and I honor her outstanding career as a Librarian to be reckoned with. xox
Ah, yes, "Nympho Librarians," one of my favorites. You can't beat the classics...
As a librarian who once (briefly) had the title of cybrarian, that subtitle bugs me. I don't immerse myself too deeply in the world of librarianship but "cybrarian" seems like a term which never really caught on in the first place and is now rather dated. And if there is one thing that librarians hate more than an overdue book, it's providing inaccurate information.

Still, I'm excited to see this book and am very curious to read it. I've never been one to go ga-ga over the physicality of books -- I'm more interested in the information contained inside. So the fact that the author explores all sorts of non-book related librarian activities sounds fascinating. Being a librarian is a far more versatile career than most people realize, and many businesses, and individuals, could benefit from the application of the basic skills learned in library school, such as online search techniques, categorization / classification and principles of organization, and informational interview techniques, to name a few.

Thanks for pointing this one out. I'll have to see if I can check it out from my local library!

(PS: my dorm library used to lend out prints of art works for students to use in decorating their bare white walls. I always thought that was one of the most creative uses of a library.)
I love libraries. We had a closure of one here when black mold attacked the stacks. We suspect the city was just going to let it go quietly under, but after a year of letters, emails etc, they have opened it again in a new location.
The reference librarian is your friend. Let me tell you that when I first moved back to New York 18 months ago, the first thing I did was get a library card, as I had not TV nor desire to get one.

I went to the Yonkers library and got a card, then proceeded to check out 5 books. At checkout, the librarian commented that I was checking out "books". I said this is a library isn't it? She said most of the lending was for electronic media, DVDs and Computer the world has changed.

I married a librarian's daughter. Rated.
Holy Macaroons! Yeah, I was always one of those kids who thought our school librarians were goddesses. Well, except for Mrs Hill. She was just an ogre, but that's for another discussion. But truly, most librarians I knew growing up were like keepers of the treasures. I worked in libraries from junior high through college. I only did the little things, shelving, rebinding, checking books in and out - but man, I loved handling all those books! And when no one was peeking too closely, naturally I was a little naughty and read a bit. Some of my fondest memories are of libraries. *sigh* Thanks for a great post!
I would be much more interested in this book and the creative fundraisers outlined in your post if I didn’t live in a metropolitan area that is determined to drive their library system into the ground.

A few years ago, in a froth of self-righteousness, our library system, once considered one of the country’s best, decided to institute draconian policies for dealing with overdue and lost books. It’s simple – anything that is reported as lost is billed to the patron as worth $100.00. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book, comic book or magazine – you are billed $100.00. If the money is not paid within a month, they turn you over to a credit bureau. It doesn’t even matter if you eventually find the item. They don’t want it back – they want the $100.00

As any idiot could have told them, patronage has been going down, down, down. Gee, I wonder why?

I come from a family of librarians and worked my way through college at the university library. I know the problems they face. But this solution is so batsh*t crazy I can’t even imagine how it has stayed as policy for so long.
My sister just earned her Masters of Library and Information Systems somewhere south (north?) if her 50th birthday. She happens to be MY hero!
Library science has changed a lot, and in good ways, but I do miss the old-time school librarians from my childhood.
In a different career, I was a high level library technical assistant (LTA) but never manned up and got my MLIS (master's of library and information science). So I abandoned my potential future as a librarian and instead joined a punk rock wrestling show, before quitting that and writing about it. Now I'm a research analyst at a major university. Soon I hope to leave this career for a turn as a lion tamer or maybe a sword swallower. Rated.
Many of us think of ourselves as the keepers of the treasure, too, or more accurately the guides to it. I love showing students some cool new book or website or journal with just the right information for the research they are doing. I'll have to see if my public library can get me this book.
In another life, I wanted to be a librarian. I may be yet.
flyover52 -- In our own neck of of the woods, one library system just had a two-month amnesty for fines and overdue materials. Another library doubled their fines. The amnesty library recovered a ton of "lost" books, etc., as well as patrons who'd been staying away because they felt guilty. I hope the other library is taking notes.
This is an interesting post on what innovative services libraries could provide. I am still heavily dependent on libraries for information and insights delivered in hardcopy printed books, and I will hate to have libraries closed down.
And thank you too on Batgirl life history.
Great and greatly needed post! Free Public Libraries are a part of out national heritage. I think it was Benjamin Franklin's idea. In a time of tightening the governmental purse strings, Libraries should be the last to be cut.

As for librarians themselves, there are no other class of workers who surpass them for helpfulness in their respective fields of work.
@Biblio Files: Interesting story about the two libraries. The whole situation here really breaks my heart. I grew up going to libraries at least once a week and took my kids to the library every Saturday morning for books and research.

I never thought I'd see the day when I couldn't afford to go to a library. I can't remember the last time I lost a book, but anything can happen and we simply can't afford the hundred dollar hit, or the damage to our credit and neither can my son, who no longer goes there.
I went to grad school for library science and it almost killed me. I even kept a picture of Batgirl on my binder for inspiration. I so value books, love them, cherish them.... I love research, the gathering of knowledge.... the quietness of a library... the reverence.... HOWEVER the entire process of cataloging? OMG NO. To me, a l iterature major, it was up there with only Algebra as something to make you want to rip your face off. And the people in the program....let's just say it's no shock they are there. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from NYIT...however, I failed out of LS Grad School in less than 21 hours..... Not only could I just not get it.... I could not wrap my head around how to deal with not being able to get it. It made about as much sense as this posting does.

I still think it would have been a divine job...back in the day.... BEFORE so many non-bookish things.... I still think it's an amazingly important job--these are our cherished documents, they need to be preserved....and I still dream of the suit. I just wanted to wear the Batgirl suit. Yes, I'm sure it came with the diploma.....
Oh and in terms of jobs, PUBLIC SCHOOL LIBRARIANS is a hot, hot, hot field. The graying of the industry is bringing on the need. I know in Texas it is one of the Top 5 jobs over the next few years! So for those who can.......more salary and less hours than teachers, no exams!
My family has a full-fledged professionally credentialed librarian and our favorite "library" movie is "It's a Wonderful Life."

"Tell me, Clarence, where's Mary" sez the desperate George

The angel sez, "You won't like it, George."

Go to next scene with a bespeckled Donna Reed as Mary, "They are closing up the library" as if the narrator said, "Hannibal Lector just ate you for lunch."

Good to see librarians get some positive press.
Thanks for mentioning this! I think Harper Collins will make some money off this; our local library has 15 copies. (Still not going to get it right away. There are 36 holds before me.)
15 copies, that's great! I saw This Book is Overdue on the new book table at Borders yesterday, and since the publishers pay for those spaces, they must be pretty confident about it. The employee of the year in our town was just announced -- the acting senior librarian!
Im going to dress as a superhero and go to the Library today just for the hell of it.
Great post! I'm thinking about library school and will definitely have to check this book out!
Oh wow, I am so sad I missed this post when it first appeared. Funnily enough, I probably missed it because I was working either in the library or going to library school.

I'm excited for this book. I have to wait until my semester ends but it's on the topen of my way too big stack. As a young (almost) librarian, it's really great to read all the posts about what libraries meant to different people at different times in their lives.

I try not to worry about the budget/all the closings. It scares me. Not just for me, but I'm scared for our literate society.

Anyway, @biblio files--the book is From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg and it's one of my all time favorites.

For those people considering library school: please feel free to send me a message if you have any questions about my (slooooow) journey through SJSU's MLIS program. .

As for LOC vs. Dewey? This might give you an indication of how I feel about it: