Buried in info? Cross-eyed over technology? From the bottom of a pile of paper and discs, books, e-books, and scattered thumb drives comes a cry of hope: Make way for the librarians! They want to help. They're not selling a thing. And librarians know best how to beat a path through the googolplex sources of information available to us, writes Marilyn Johnson, whose previous book, The Dead Beat, breathed merry life into the obituary-writing profession.
This Book Is Overdue! is a romp through the ranks of information professionals and a revelation for readers burned out on the clich�s and stereotyping of librarians. Blunt and obscenely funny bloggers spill their stories in these pages, as do a tattooed, hard-partying children's librarian; a fresh-scrubbed Catholic couple who teach missionaries to use computers; a blue-haired radical who uses her smartphone to help guide street protestors; a plethora of voluptuous avatars and cybrarians; the quiet, law-abiding librarians gagged by the FBI; and a boxing archivist. These are just a few of the visionaries Johnson captures here, pragmatic idealists who fuse the tools of the digital age with their love for the written word and the enduring values of free speech, open access, and scout-badge-quality assistance to anyone in need.
Those who predicted the death of libraries forgot to consider that in the automated maze of contemporary life, none of us--neither the experts nor the hopelessly baffled--can get along without human help. And not just any help--we need librarians, who won't charge us by the question or roll their eyes, no matter what we ask. Who are they? What do they know? And how quickly can they save us from being buried by the digital age?
Librarians and archivists, in all their eccentric, tech-savvy, and service-oriented glory, are celebrated in this highly complimentary and lively survey of their professions. Journalist Johnson (The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries) admires the dedicated librarians she profiles. Among them are bloggers, Second Life enthusiasts, the Connecticut challengers to the Patriot Act, a founder of the Radical Reference collective, public librarians, and archivists organizing and saving collections for posterity. A strong section of the book is Johnson's exploration of the changes taking place at the venerable New York Public Library (NYPL), where this reviewer worked from 1998 through 2001. NYPL has enthusiastically embraced its digital potential and offers remarkable online collections, a bonanza for researchers everywhere. Johnson also notes, however, the merging of its circulating and research libraries, which has led to downsizing, the closing of its esteemed Asian and Middle Eastern Divisions, and the diminished number of degreed librarians on staff, all of which give her pause. VERDICT This spirited book will be enjoyed by all who love libraries, or are poised to discover their value, but is likely to be most treasured by librarians and archivists seeking a celebration of their work.-Donna L. Davey, NYU Lib. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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February 01, 2010
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