March 07, 2003

In the Information Age, Librarians Will Rule

In the information age, librarians will rule, because only they will be able to find things in the dataflood in a timely fashion. Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a post on how to welcome our wearing-their-glasses-on-chains-around-their-necks sweater-wearing overlords-to-be:


Making Light: March 2003 Archives: Why You Should Fall to Your Knees and Worship a Librarian, from the Librarian Avengers website. See also their Stupid Research Tricks and What They Didn’t Teach Us in Library School sections, which will teach you that (1.) being a librarian is more challenging than you may have imagined; and (2.) it isn’t hard to make them happy, so get with the program already. (via The Shifted Librarian)


Librarian Avengers:

Why you should fall to your knees and worship a librarianOk, sure.  We've all got our little preconceived notions about what librarians are and what they do.  Many people think of them as diminutive civil servants, scuttling about "Sssh-ing" people and stamping things.  Well, think again buster. 

Librarians have degrees. They go to graduate school for Information Science and become masters of data systems and human/computer interaction.  Librarians can catalog anything from an onion to a dog's ear.  They could catalog you. Librarians wield unfathomable power.  With a flip of the wrist they can hide your dissertation behind piles of old Field and Stream magazines.  They can find data for your term paper that you never knew existed. They may even point you toward new and appropriate subject headings. 

People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to disciplines. Librarians are all-knowing and all-seeing. They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the masses. They preserve every aspect of human knowledge. Librarians rule. And they will kick the crap out of anyone who says otherwise. 


Personally, I've thought the Berkeley solution for how to make librarians (or at least young librarians) happy is superior:

  • Rename your Library School the "School of Information Management and Systems."
  • Give its graduating students not M.A.s in Library Science, but M.A.s in Information Management.
  • Watch them get job offers that pay them $60,000 a year insted of $25,000 a year.

Posted by DeLong at March 7, 2003 11:25 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Brad -

Forgive a change of topic. What does the loss of 300,000 jobs in February mean? My guess is we are barely growing once again this quarter, and in danger of a slow down in consumer expenditure. I am worried.

Productivity high, GDP growth low = less need for workers. Darn.

Posted by: dahl on March 7, 2003 01:13 PM

No no, you're right on topic. The solution is simple:

1. Rename the unemployment rate to "Employment Rate" (at a robust 94.2%! Nothing to worry about!)

2. Get new credit cards that allow you to shift living-expenses debt without interest indefinitely.

3. Watch, wait, pray - (and I hope to God that you were able to save during the boom).

Posted by: Saam Barrager on March 7, 2003 01:40 PM

I went to my little library this afternoon. I was browsing around the stacks and I found a copy of Joseph Brodsky's "To Urania" in between translations of Virgil and Ovid. I looked at the number and sure enough somebody thought this book belonged in the "Latin" section. I went and asked the librarian. She had no idea who Joseph Brodsky was, so I explained it to her. Oh well she said it's the cataloguers they make these mistakes all the time.

Soon the Patriot Act will make Librarians into FBI agents.


Posted by: Bruce Ferguson on March 7, 2003 06:25 PM

The Patriot Act may try to (indeed, emphatically does) force librarians to report data to the FBI and then gags them from telling anyone about the little visit. That doesn't mean they like it. Similarly, white people turned black people into slaves, but they didn't particularly like it either. You can blame them for being slaves if you want.
Remember, this act was brought to you by an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

Posted by: John Isbell on March 8, 2003 11:20 AM

Well, I prefer to think it was brought to us by an undemocratic bully standing on close to 3,000 dead bodies, but

Posted by: julia on March 8, 2003 03:30 PM

“I went and asked the librarian. She had no idea who Joseph Brodsky was, so I explained it to her.”

This has also been my experience. I take it for granted that the vast majority of librarians are incapable of offering me serious assistance. The Internet is much more useful than these professionals. Do I think that librarians are stupid people? Not in the least. It’s just a matter of there being so many books and areas of interests that no human being can stay on top of the ever increasing knowledge heap. At the very best, the Librarian is useful to the general public that is desperate for an help whatsoever.

Posted by: David Thomson on March 9, 2003 03:46 AM

My wife will be joining the Berkeley faculty this summer (hurrah!), and I (about to get my master's in library science) hope to put my skills to work in one of Cal's libraries.

Anyone with advice on where to live in the East Bay...I'm all ears!

--Jason in Cambridge

Posted by: Jason on March 9, 2003 03:17 PM

Dear David,
if you let me know which library you visit, I will recommend to the librarians that they pull all the books from the shelves and mix them up in random order.

Have fun! I'm sure the Internet will help you locate the book you want.


Sarcasm aside, librarians, unless they are hired to be specialists (and many of us are and have the subject degrees to prove it) are hired to be generalists. In many University libraries, we are hired to help thousands of undergraduates navigate the massive amount of knowledge out there. A lare part of our job is to correct the impressions created by their instructors (I'm trying to be polite here). See, as the "handmaidens of education" we are not supposed to reveal that the instructor doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground; so we have to find creative ways to explain to the student how to find what he really needs. For every "librarian couldn't help me" story I can raise you two about the basic research assignment that was so screwed up a librarian had to rewrite it from the ground up. In one library I worked in, we created bibliographic aids specifically aimed at specific professors (they were handed out at the bibliographic instruction classes with a sweet reminder to KEEP THIS WITH YOU AS YOU GO THROUGH YOUR RESEARCH). Only, of course, we are not allowed to embarrass the mighty professors, so we allow them to call us incompetent.


Bruce, I suggest you talk to your library director. It sounds like your cataloging department is screwed up; somebody needs to point it out to him/her. That's not a common mistake. I don't know anything about your library, but most libraries these days get their basic cataloging from the Library of Congress; and, according to WorldCat that particular book has no alternative cataloging numbers. If your library's cataloger is making those kinds of mistakes, he/she is senile.


Posted by: Emma on March 10, 2003 06:40 AM

Emma

I don't buy books anymore. Haven't for years. I just use libraries. I love them. And I did try to make the library aware of the problem. I will again when I return the book. This is just a little local library. A couple of months ago I tried to find a copy of Das Capital by this guy Marx, maybe you heard of it? It was not in the data base. Returned nothing for Karl Marx and nothing for Das Capital. They did have the book in the stacks. I also pointed this out to the librarian. I asked her jokingly if this was part of the Patriot Act. She didn't like that.
I heard on the radio the other day that all library records were open to the public until about 1972, if I remember correctly. I wonder why that changed?

Thank you for keeping the Books in circulation.

Posted by: Bruce Ferguson on March 10, 2003 07:54 AM

Brad,
They have renamed the studies in the UK. Alas, the salaries seem to have remained the same, which was the reason I decided to stick with the original plan of applying to a MIS MSc, and dump the idea of also applying to some Information Management MSc programmes, no matter how intellectually rewarding they seemed.

Posted by: Petar on March 10, 2003 09:47 AM

“A couple of months ago I tried to find a copy of Das Capital by this guy Marx, maybe you heard of it? It was not in the data base. Returned nothing for Karl Marx and nothing for Das Capital.”

God is answering my prayers. I am almost relieved that Karl Marx’s major work is not readily accessible at your library. Some books are best forgotten. By the way, is he one of the members of the Marx Brothers comedy team? I think I also saw Karl in “Animal Crackers.”

“Dear David,
if you let me know which library you visit, I will recommend to the librarians that they pull all the books from the shelves and mix them up in random order.”

I’m just telling you what has been my experience. Once again, however, I am not insulting librarians. One should not expect them to possess the knowledge that I have on the subjects which mean the most to me. That would be utterly unrealistic. However, I’m sure that a librarian might be most helpful if I had to tackle an unfamiliar topic. And yes, the Internet is my best bet when searching for books and other reading materials. Amazon.com, for instance, is often quite useful. Also, the Houston Public Library system offers me the following option:

http://catalog.houstonlibrary.org/search~S1/

Posted by: David Thomson on March 10, 2003 01:48 PM

David,
thank you for making my point for me. When you go on the /net and visit libraries, you are visiting tools created by librarians. All library catalog and website content is created by librarians or under a librarian's supervision. That option is available on all public catalogs, everywhere, including most academic libraries--BECAUSE librarians have long fought to make library contents available to the public.

Bruce, IMHO there's something really wrong at your library.

Posted by: Emma on March 11, 2003 07:00 AM

David,
thank you for making my point for me. When you go on the /net and visit libraries, you are visiting tools created by librarians. All library catalog and website content is created by librarians or under a librarian's supervision. That option is available on all public catalogs, everywhere, including most academic libraries--BECAUSE librarians have long fought to make library contents available to the public.

Bruce, IMHO there's something really wrong at your library.

Posted by: Emma on March 11, 2003 07:56 AM
Post a comment