Mission Statement

As I leave 2005 behind in a cloud of candy-colored dust, I thought–in the spirit of being reflective–I would repost an entry from my other blog about one important reason why I am a librarian.

So, here ’tis:

* * *

I’ve been interested in copyright and intellectual property issues for a while now, but I’ve become increasingly interested and concerned with them. Julie has been half-teasing me lately about going to law school. “Are you sure you don’t want to study the law on this formally?” she asks. “You could become a lawyer and really fight for this.”

Well, yeah, I could–except I wouldn’t make it through my first semester of law school. But there’s a bigger reason why I feel I’m going down the right path. Lawyers may fight for a free culture, but there are plenty of lawyers fighting against it, on behalf of controlling corporations and oligarchical governments. Librarians? They embody free culture. Libraries are all about universal access and free information. That is the life I want to lead.

And now, I quote from Siva Vaidhyanathan‘s The Anarchist in the Library:

Librarians should be our heroes. The library is not just functionally important to communities all over the world; it embodies Enlightenment values in the best sense. A library is a temple devoted to the antielitist notion that knowledge should be cheap if not free–doors should be open.

That is why I want to be a librarian.

If Feed be the Music of Chat, Play On!

After reading John Batelle’s post about an IM/RSS/publishing mashup, I got to wondering if there’s some way in which libraries can take advantage of this kind of software collage.

Many libraries (although, sadly, not mine) are using IM for reference and other patron-librarian communications. Many libraries (although, again, not mine) are providing RSS feeds for their patrons–from blogs, the library catalog, and so on and so forth. I don’t think it would suit libraries to have chat bots like Batelle writes about. Patrons need to interact with real, live librarians, even it is by way of digital communications. But we will call a patron back if a phone-in reference question is taking too long. Could we also provide RSS feeds via IM to give patrons new information?

This post is all about the rhetorical questions, obviously. This isn’t something that will happen (certainly not at my library) on the immediate flip side of December 31st. But it’s something to let buzz around my noggin.

The Ad Wizards are Losing Their Magic

Audible.com has a new advertising campaign to promote their audio books. It’s meant to be a cheeky play on the ALA’s “Just Read” posters. The slogan? “Don’t Read.”

Is it meant to be tongue-in-cheek? Certainly. Is it cute? I suppose. Could any librarian, in good conscience, actually put these posters up in their library? Sure…and I’ve got some primo beachfront property in Bolivia you should take a look at.

I don’t know who the ad wizards are who came up with this, but they need to stop drinking their morning coffee with bourbon. I’m not sure who Audible.com expects to print and use their catchy, oh-so-ironic posters, but it won’t be anyone I know.

Do you think the “Don’t Read” campaign is a not-so-great idea? Let Audible.com know.

Tomorrow’s Libraries, Today!

As I just found out from the Librarian in Black, there was a nice article on the changing role of libraries in the paper recently: Role changing for ?21st century library?.

Of course, some of the article’s observations of modern public libraries are a bit…behind the times.

City residents are using the libraries not just to check out books, but also to rent movies and music CDs, browse the Internet, read newspapers and magazines, attend meetings and author readings, take classes and bring their children in for weekly story times.

That’s hardly a new thing for public libraries, and the fact that the article makes it seem so noteworthy is positively quaint. But while the article may be lagging behind the rest of the pack in some respects…

?You still have more traditional folks that go to the library as a quiet place for contemplation and reading, but the 21st-century library is also about having a sense of community and common space,? The City?s Librarian Luis Herrera said.

What an important thing to note about public libraries! My coworkers and I talk about this all the time. Public libraries aren’t just storage spaces for old books, or even new-fangled places where you go to learn how to use personal computers, they’re important community centers. They’re not-for-profit nodes of connectivity, social intercourse and education.

I’ll take the quaint, as long as we keep ketting good press like this article.

Running to Crawl

As of today, my place of work has its very own blog!

Er, sort of.

Since my first day on the job, I’ve been pushing for my library to start a blog. There are so many good reasons for a public library to have a blog, but I won’t go into them all here and now. Suffice to say, I put on the hard sell like P.T. Barnum at the Fifth Annual Convention of Slackjawed Suckers, and to my surprise and delight, my coworkers–who are anything but slackjawed suckers–responded with enthusiasm.

Tentative enthusiasm.

They all see the perks of having a blog, and they all say it sounds like a great idea, but nothing happens at my library overnight. Baby steps, all the way.

In the meantime, my branch manager decided having an internal blog for our branch employees sounded like a swell idea. No more paper memos to be lost, no more emails that miss one employee, everything nicely archived and categorized and updated on a daily basis. So it was decided that a blog would be created on our intranet, just for the branch employees, and it would serve as a test case for starting up a public blog.

This was a few months ago. I decided WordPress would work best for us, and it sounded like the easiest to install. Unfortunately, only one employee seems to know how to work with PHP and MySQL, and she’s a part-time employee who doesn’t technically work in Tech Support, and she already has a kajillion things to do around the library. Add to this some technical problems she had in installing WordPress on our server, and the speedy installation dragged on across weeks and weeks.

But she finally got it all sorted out. Well, sort of sorted out: there still seem to be some PHP glitches that show up from time to time. And we haven’t figured out who’s going to be posting to it. And we haven’t officially named it. And the branch manager, being on vacation, hasn’t seen it yet. But by golly, we’ve got ourselves a blog!

Hence the Title

Lo and behold, I’m beginning a new blog, devoted solely to the fine and ancient art of being a public librarian. Why? Good question. Maybe someday I’ll have a good answer. In the meantime, chew on this: everyday I read quite a few blogs written by librarians about librarian things, I enjoy them and learn from them, and I’d like to participate in the biblioblogispherical action in any way that I can. I’ve previously written about library stuff on my other blog, goblin cartoons, but I’ve decided that having a blog devoted exclusively to the ars bibliotheca is what the kids these days are calling “a good idea.” So here I am.

What will I blog about here? A little of this, a little of that. Anecdotes about my workplace, rants and raves about where I hope to see libraries heading, babblings about new hardware and software that contribute to the juicy goodness of libraries, links to news stories and blog posts that tickle my librarian fancy, and…well, who knows? We’ll see how it goes.

“Who are you?” you may ask if you don’t know me from Adam (or even if you do). Another good question. I’m a short, spikyhaired guy, bespectacled and befuddled, with a squeaky voice and a crooked smile. Most days you’ll find me ensconced behind the reference desk at the Indian Creek Branch of the Olathe Public Library. Or walking frenetically through the stacks. Or helping a patron with a computer problem. Or hiding in the back offices, surfing the Web. I hate to brag–really I do–but I have a knack for mischief, a passion for play, and a mad enthusiasm for what I do. I’m the goblin in the library. How d’you do?