This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All

Did Marilyn Johnson know about the library closings in the UK, or about Borders biting the dust in the USA when she wrote This Book is Overdue! ?  Did she know Watson, the super computer was going to win an information battle over humans?  Even without a sense of foreboding, Johnson’s book is timely and reassuring.

As she wanders the stacks in assorted libraries everywhere – even cyberspace and Rome, Johnson forever quashes the stereotype of the librarian.  “Miss Marian” in now savvy and hip, possibly tattooed,  politically tuned in, and, of course, knowledgeable.  I once heard that the true mark of intelligence is not necessarily knowing the answer, but knowing where to look for it.  If you’ve been frustrated by the lack of the appropriate word to trigger a google search for what you really want, you may identify with Johnson’s mantra – we need human help – librarians, “who won’t try to sell us anything, or roll their eyes at our questions.”

Starting with her search for a childhood favorite, Easy Travel to Other Planets – (I checked, and it is in my library) – Johnson moves through libraries on the East Coast, but her banter and philosophy apply everywhere.   Johnson talks about librarians blogging – The Happy Villain (no longer active, so don’t try to find her) who disclosed all the secret horrible actions of library patrons when they think no one is looking –

“While waiting for your ride home, do not set fire to your homework to keep warm.”

and the rare librarian who was moving her relatives to the top of the reserve list for a popular DVD.  But when she mentions that her “librarians’ faces light up when {she} walks in; they’re My librarians” – I could relate.  My librarians have a special shelf for my reserved books – and are so grateful to have the space back when I pick them all up.

In her table of contents, Johnson succinctly summarizes each of her twelve chapters, so you can decide what you want to read.  After studiously reading through the first four, I decided to skip to Chapter 8, with the alluring title “Follow That Tattooed Librarian” that turned out to be a funny exposé on the other side of the serious librarian, usually reserved for conventions – not to be seen in public.  Eventually, I read the other chapters – in no particular order.

If you have been taking your librarian for granted, Johnson will change all that. Hail the librarian…

“Civil servants and servants of civility…information professionals, teachers, police, community organizers, computer technicians, historians, confidantes… guardians of my peace.”

4 thoughts on “This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All

  1. My librarians automatically check the reserve shelves when they see me coming through the door. I love those ladies and often wonder what they’re like outside work. It’s kind of like when I was a kid and would see a teacher at the grocery store and wonder, “What’s she doing out of school?” I have a hard time imagining them as tattooed ladies since not one of them can possible be younger than 65. I guess you never know…

    • Not all have them – probably very few – but I agree that I often don’t think of librarians – and teachers – as having a life outside.

  2. Librarians were such an influence on me in my youth, I’d ride my bike up to the library and fill my backpack with books the librarians recommended. Since my son was little, I have worked to foster a relationship between him and our local librarians. Today he happily talks to them about what he is reading, and asks them to help him find books and request books. As he gets older and less inclined to ask me for help, I’m hopeful that he will continue to talk with the librarians.

    • Librarians are great friends to have. I remember walking to the library when I was young too and always being happy to find more and new books to read – haven’t lost that feeling. Good idea to start when young; who knows what libraries will look like when your son is an adult, but reading and curiosity about ideas will always be there.

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