Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Review: "This Book is Overdue!"

In This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybarians Can Save Us All (Harper, 2010), Marilyn Johnson writes that she got interested in librarians while working on her previous book, The Dead Beat; she found that librarians tended to have the most interesting obituaries. The book resulting from that discovery (which, I should note, mentions librarian obituaries more than a few times) is a paean to libraries and librarians in a digital age: as Johnson writes, "In a world where information itself is a free-for-all, with traditional news sources going bankrupt and publishers in trouble, we need librarians more than ever" (p. 7). "In tight economic times, with libraries sliding farther and farther down the list of priorities, we risk the loss of their ideals, intelligence, and knowledge, not to mention their commitment to access for all" (p. 8). "In tough times, a librarian is a terrible thing to waste" (p. 8).

Johnson profiles the intersection between libraries and IT, using the term cybrarian "to conjure up the new breed of tech savvy-librarians, part cyborg, part cat's-eye reading glasses" (p. 9), and also uses the book to write about the wide range of library bloggers, the Connecticut Four (those who resisted the Patriot Act's "national security letter" provisions), the generation of up-and-coming "hipster librarians", the library community in Second Life, various niche libraries in New York (including the American Kennel Club library), the NYPL's digital collections and the current transformation of the research library, and the recent struggle between archival institutions for control of major authors' collections of papers.

This was fun to read, and not just because Johnson heaps praise on my field of work (and actually seems to get it, too). She's a good writer, who captures her subjects nicely here as she did in The Dead Beat. And Johnson's humorous interludes were welcome and entertaining (my favorite came in a parenthetical aside: "Someday I will stop being surprised at all the things librarians read; they'll read anything" (p. 49). It's true (to a degree), and I hope many of them will read this book and recommend it to others. I know I will.

1 comment:

Library Cat said...

So, what came first - the librarian or the book fetish?? I have often been accused of reading anything with print, and I suspect I am guilty and of curse, I am a librarian! I am going to have to run out and get this book.
Thanks for the review.