Library and Librarian Myths and Legends

Library and Librarian Myths and Legends : the Truth behind the Stacks

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Wisdom

Librarians have often been surrounded by mysteries, myths and legends.  What is the truth about Librarians?  Are they all-knowing godlike beings?  Do books magically appear on shelves?  Is the MLS a real degree?  What about buns?  These gems of corrective, collective wisdom are courtesy of the PubLib Listserve. 

David Faulker in Austin, Texas opened the discussion of De-myth-ifying librarians  with:

Just for fun I’m curious as to what are some of the wildest myths people have about our profession?

The one I hear is that, “it must be nice to work for a library and get to read all the time.”

to which the Publib Chorus responds ~

Well, there is always the one that all men who work in libraries are gay. Also that everyone is a volunteer. ~ Andrew Porteus 

 Everyone there is a librarian It is such a quiet, stress free place to work ~ Meg VanPatten  

  And it’s not just the patrons. I’ve actually had a board member ask me if I was a paid employee or a volunteer. ~ Dorothy Fleishman

“That must be a nice QUIET job.”   ha.  Come visit when we have 60 kids plus their associated older/younger siblings & adults on hand for storytime.  Or when the Chinese Lion Dance team is parading through the stacks celebrating Chinese New Year.  Or when two patrons start arguing about the noise from the headphones of one watching music videos online distracting the other who is trying to complete an online test. Or…  well, you can fill in your own blanks here.  ~ Tina Rawhouser

Most frequent for us, folks believe:

1.  That publishers are required to give books to us – we don’t have to buy them.

2.  That we are REQUIRED to put on the shelf certain books that the “government” tells us to.

3.  That we are REQUIRED to put on the shelf any book anyone wants us to… ~ Dusty Gres

*That we spend all day reading

*That everyone who works at a library is a librarian

*That there’s no reason for us to be at work when the public isn’t there (or to be off-desk for specified shifts) because, without the public, we have “nothing to do” (I’ve even had a library employee question this)

*That libraries are peaceful, calm, quiet places of work suitable to introverts and the socially inept

*That being a librarian isn’t “real” work  ~ Ann Moore

I’ve heard many who don’t frequent libraries say that  libraries are nothing but a den of homeless people who smell bad, talk to themselves & bathe in the library restrooms.  Our little library has none of that; the only ones talking to themselves are the  perhaps staff  – – after all the kids have gone through… ~ Karen Mahnk

Once at a pool party a guy asked me what I did.  I told him that I was a librarian.  He said, “That sounds really boring!”  Turned out he was an accountant, I bit my tongue and said nothing.  Librarianship is many things, but boring it aint! ~ George Hazelton

Does anyone think Laura Bush helped promote the idea that we read on the job? I remember when she said she loved being a librarian because she got to read her way through the gardening section. I cringed at that one. ~ Judy Anderson

“The ALA” controls public libraries ~ Nann Blaine Hilyard

granted, this one was from a 13-ish-year-old, but he was honestly surprised that I have a home, a husband, and a son.  He actually said the words, “…you don’t stay here?” ~ Sarah Morrison

How about the (hopefully small) group of patrons who think the public library provides some sort of dating service with the employees as the dates? ~ Mary Jane Garrett -

How about those folks who want the medical/mental help advice (as if I’m qualified for that) and then start flirting with you? . . . my mum was shocked recently to discover that I help folks with technology questions.  She thought I should hand over questions regarding things such as Microsoft Office, using email, or basic troubleshooting as to why the library computer won’t connect to the internet/print to the IT dept.  All because I’m a librarian and I shouldn’t have to deal with technology.  And then she asked me for help with her Kindle.  ~ Megan Coleman

“What do we libraries or librarians for, isn’t everything available on the internet?” ~ Jane Jorgenson

When my fellow teachers ask how the contract affects me (uh, I have a K-12 teaching cert so the same as you) and were SHOCKED that I had a student teacher. Librarians are TEACHERS not SUPPORT STAFF ~ Steph Sweeney

That reminds me of the only time when our budget did not pass and it was suggested that we staff the reference desk with volunteers because people basically ask the same 3 or 4 questions! ~ Meg VanPatten

That I keep their information in some secret place to share with the government. ~ Terry Ann Lawler

Librarians are pushovers ~ Robert Balliot

. . . you must get so much needlepoint done in between customers at the library ~ Nann Blaine Hilyard  

That all female librarians are some kind of sexual deviants hiding behind the stacks. ~ Melodie Franklin

The other one isn’t actually about librarians, but about libraries.  That’s the one wherein people think the publishers GIVE us all those books.  “You mean, you have to BUY the books?”  Well, yeah, we do; with the fine money that is surely our only source of income (don’t people look at their property tax bills?). ~ Lynne S. Ingersoll

There’s the one that all female librarians are old maids with their hair in a bun and pencils stuck over their ears. The one I like the best is that we, men and women, are all smart and know everything! ~ Anne Felix

Aischylos sans bun

I use this one to my advantage. At least once every day I hear, “but you don’t look like a librarian.” To which I respond, “Oh. That’s because I quit putting my hair up in a bun.” Then I show them my MPB spot and add, “See? I ripped it out by the roots.” ~ Darrell Cook

Upon learning I am a librarian someone once said, “That must be peaceful.” Then I told her about the guy who came into the library following kids around who turned out to have a rap sheet with charges of assault and rape (minors) on it, how some patrons act when they haven’t been taking their meds, and the  patron who yelled at me by telephone for five minutes because she felt two of my co-workers (no, I don’t supervise them)had not given her satisfactory  help. ~ Kevin O’Kelly

Once a candidate for a job told me she wanted to work in a library because it’s an easy job where she could sit down all day. ~ Gair Helfrich

Boy, I sure would like to work in a place that has peace and quiet! ~ Linda Dydo  

“I wish I got paid to read all day.”
 “I wish I got paid to color and cut things out all day.”\ ~ B. Allison Gray
 
“You need a masters degree? Don’t you know alphabetical order?” ~ Diane Doty

Several times I’ve spoken with people who can’t believe that we haven’t read all the books on our shelves. Maybe that’s why they think we’re smart? ~ Tom Cooper

Personnel & Personnel

People don’t understand–including people who are leaders, administrators, executives, whatever, in other vocations–that directors or other administrative folks in libraries deal with the same issues that other leaders, administrators, and executives do: personnel, personnel, and personnel, along with budgets, personnel, boards, personnel, personnel, and, now and then, personnel.  Buildings and grounds.  Contractors.  Also personnel. ~ John Richmond

Directors named Dusty are male. And if a woman answers the phone she is his Secretary as in {snarky tone} “I ASKED to speak specifically to the Director NOT his Secretary…” And if I say, “This is the Director” then the response is, “Oh, well, Debbie…” or, this is the best one, “Oh, really, what’s your REAL name?” ~ Dusty Gres

They also think we keep everything forever! ~ Anne Felix

People always think that library staff get perks like getting to jump to the top of the holds queue or not having to pay overdue fines. I tell them that in terms of using the library, we are just like the patron and we get no special treatment, which always shocks them. They’re also surprised when I point out that, if anything, we have the opposite of perks because our coworkers know what we check out and put on hold and how much we owe, so we have to sacrifice our privacy. ~ Cheryl Hill

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Surreal Librarian

I’ve had that ‘is that a real’ degree on the subject of the MLS a few times, and never once has a fearless leader of mine allowed me to smile sweetly and say ‘nope, it’s a surreal degree.’ ~ Kathleen Stipek

I am surprised by how many people ask, “How much does it cost to get a library card?” We have a fair number of immigrants in our community, and they are often surprised to learn that public libraries are free. ~ Anne Felix

. . . wasn’t that “a lot of education to sit behind a desk and wait for someone to ask a question?”!!  ~ Penny Neubauer

I overheard a mother walking in front of my desk tell her child “Don’t bother the librarian. She’s busy working. They’re for important questions.” That child will probably never ask the librarians a question, and will probably not use the library as an adult. ~ Angela Morse

. . . people think that a library, any library, will keep forever that very special book or collection of books (or National Geographic Magazines) they are planning to give to the library one day.  That day might be just tomorrow because they’re cleaning out the old family house after the death of a parent, or it might be a plan they’re making for years ahead when they move their stuff to a smaller apartment and get rid of some of their books. ~ Alain

Librarian Legend :

baseball field by Robert Merkel

Coach's box= dugout

I first got Dodger season tickets in 1994.  I got in the habit of bringing cookies to the guys in the bullpen.
The then-bullpen catcher asked me my name, but there was so much noise he couldn’t hear me. 
I whipped out my business card and handed it to him.  He walked over to the other guys, shaking his head, and saying:  “You’ll never guess what she does for a living!” ~Sue Kamm

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Royal Reprints: Margaret Campbell Barnes

Royal Reprints: Margaret Campbell Barnes

~ Elisa Babel, MLS

Elizabeth of York

A young English princess tries on her wedding gown with excitement only for her betrothal to the French Dauphin to be broken shortly afterwards.  So begins the first chapter of The Tudor Rose, a novel about Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII.  I knew who she was but what was she like?  This wonderful novel by the late English novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes provided an answer for me.

Margaret Campbell Barnes (1891-1962) began her career by writing for various leading British literary publications before turning to historical fiction.  Her agents at Curtis Brown Ltd. encourage her to write historical novels.  She wrote ten novels between 1944-62.  In 1944 her son Michael’s death in World War II combat operation devasted her and her husband Peter.  Her love for her son shines in her writing.  (A fuller biography may be found in any of her reissued novels)

I first discovered Margaret Campbell Barnes in high school.  The copy of The Tudor Rose  in my high school library wasn’t very distinctive on the shelf: it was a hardback rebound with the title engraved on the spine.  (I don’t remember if any of Barnes’s novels were there)  I went on to read other historical fiction novels but I didn’t forget this novel. Years would pass before I saw it again…

Tudor Rose

What I enjoy about Barnes’s novels is her writing style and how she brings her subject and the time period to life. As I read, I feel I’m watching what’s happening: the battles, political upheaval, murder, vying for the throne, feasts and royal pageantry, and domestic life. The individual people in her novels, both well-known and lesser known, come alive on the pages.  Because it’s actual history, there are no surprises about the ending. The way Barnes tells the story will have you wanting to know. Barnes follows the historical records about her subjects accurately, and she includes an acknowledgement about her research in her novels.  As an undergrad history major, I appreciate that.

If you enjoyed reading Margaret Campbell Barnes when you were younger, you’ll be delighted her novels have been reissued with beautiful covers after being out of print for many years. I’ve bought four of the reissues including The Tudor Rose. Three of them were new to me so I was in for a treat. (My second favorite is My Lady of Cleves)  Below is a list of Barnes’s reissued novels in chronological order in English history and their original publication dates:

The Passionate Brood (1944)

Within the Hollow Crown (1947)

The Tudor Rose (1953)

Brief Gaudy Hour (1949)

King’s Fool (1959)

My Lady of Cleves (1946)

Mary of Carisbrooke (1956)

This is the first in a three part series about my favorite historical fiction novelists.  Next installment: Margaret Irwin.

 

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Tea Parties and Terabytes : the Digital Library Revolution

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Tea Parties and  Terabytes  : the Digital Library Revolution

Tea Party

A few months ago on Publib , I entertained the idea of replacing a brick and mortar library with electronic book readers and subscriptions.

Our local free library had spent about $8,000,000 on a library renovation / reconstruction employing grants, local taxes, donations and state funds.  Notably, it had started out being about a 4 million dollar project.   What would 8 million dollars along with yearly operating funds  purchase now?  Could the needs of library users be met with electronic book readers and subscriptions?  Could accessibility be expanded?  

Asking those questions met with sharp disapproval from the librarian in Rhode Island who had overseen the project. She characterized me as a tea bagger – (derogatory slang meaning Tea Party member) for daring to bring up the idea.   At least I think that was what she meant.  The Urban Dictionary has some other definitions that are not very nice.

I'm late !

Why would entertaining a simple idea of how  8 million dollars could have been spent create such a visceral reaction? Public libraries represent the most efficient aspect of local government.  Hardly any library system is a  beneficiary of public largess.  The entire loosely affiliated public library system in the United States is efficient because of internalized ethics, highly trained personnel and sharing.  Sharing resources means everyone benefits.  Sharing is something other public services have never done as well as public libraries. Are public libraries in such precarious shape that civil discourse threatens libraries as the bastions of civil discourse?  Is time running out? Are we too late?

Imagine no brick and mortar library exists.  What sort of digital book access could an initial 8 million dollar investment and a yearly operating  budget of $480,000  afford?  …

$8,000,000  could buy:

 Amazon Kindle . . . . . . . . 57,553 units retail    at $139 each or
 Sony eBook Reader . . . .  62,015 units retail    at $129 each or
 Barnes & Noble Nook . . . 53,691 units retail    at $149 each 

 A $480,000 operating budget could purchase:

Lots of electronic books. The cost of many titles through Amazon’s Kindle program is $9.99 or less. So, yearly new ebook accession could be greater than or equal to 48,000 titles. That seems like a fairly small collection to support sixty thousand ebook readers

The 60,000 ebook readers could also be shared within households. With  2.59 people on average per household – 155,400 people would be sharing only 48,000 titles.  That is less than 1/3 of a book simultaneously available to all readers at once during the first year.

But wait, there’s more, terabytes more:

Amazon also provides Kindle Popular Classics with almost instantaneous free access to over 15,000 books.

Project Gutenberg provides Free eBooks with over 33,000  titles.

The Internet Archive provides free access to massive collections .

The Google Books project also provides free access to terabytes of text and images and is partnering with major libraries around the world.

Digital collections such as the Perseus Project   and Lincolniana at Brown offer a vast wealth of specialized subject matter.

The United States Government along with State and Local Governments are providing more and more public information in digital format.

So, what does that mean?

60,000 households could each have immediately access to hundreds of thousands of free books and articles and increasing access to new books and articles. 

But what about catalogs and reader services?  Doesn’t everyone need catalog help? These collections are HUGE!

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the United States.  The Library of Congress Catalog is massive and serves as the expert resource for copyright.  The Librarians who staff the Library of Congress are some of the most highly compensated in the US. 

Which catalog is intuitively better?

Library of Congress Catalog search:

Here is the output in basic search for the word balliot:   http://bit.ly/fCXAnh

Select item 2 –  CONVAL Report:  http://bit.ly/ijNORk

Using the same search strategy in Google Books:

Here is the output in basic search for the word balliot:    http://bit.ly/faHnAT

Select item 1 – CONVAL Report:  http://bit.ly/gUPu1v

It is even intuitively easier to search within  Library of Congress collections using Google Books full text.  LC requires a copy submitted to them when they formally copyright.  

Full- text of the Copyright Catalog available within Google and not within the LC catalog:  http://bit.ly/gzJf7S  provides reference pointers to LC’s collection.

The HELIN  Library Catalog employs  III encore software and includes: Brown University, Bryant University, Community College of Rhode Island, Dominican House of Studies, Hospital Libraries of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University, University of Rhode Island, and Wheaton College holdings.

Which catalog is more helpful? 

Here is  HELIN‘s output searching for the phrase Windows Forensic Analysis DVD Toolkit, Second Edition:   http://bit.ly/g8mOa0

Here is Amazon‘s output searching for the phrase Windows Forensic Analysis DVD Toolkit, Second Edition: http://amzn.to/gBpxkZ

Encore tells us that we should use other words and check our spelling. It offers no leads to additional material.  Amazon provided the book, the electronic version, reviews, shots of inside pages and related works.  Some library catalogs intergrate similar features in the user interface, but they are not leading the way.  They are merely following the examples of successful for-profit library catalogs that only recently began to market books.

The Digital Library Revolution

 $8,ooo,ooo in construction expenditures and a $480,000 yearly budget represents the real-world costs of operating a public library in a community with about 22,000 residents and a fairly small collection.  Using the revolutionary digital library model presented here, the same funds would support 155,400  people in 60,000 households while providing instant access to terabytes of digitized collections.
 
The digital library revolution is a radical departure from the way that library materials are contained, published and distributed. Instead of allowing public libraries to disappear from the conversation,  civil discourse should continue that includes public libraries as significant partners and facilitators in the evolution of this digital library revolution.  It is not too late.
 

 “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” ~ Lewis Carroll

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