Archive for ‘Libraries’

January 8, 2011

Book Review: This Book Is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

by thiszine

by Marilyn Johnson

Harper Perennial
January 2011 (paperback), $14.99, 304 pages)

I’ve often wondered what would happen to libraries in a world with instant online access, so I selected This Book Is Overdue with high expectations. Marilyn Johnson begins with a brief historical example and an explanation of how librarians have helped libraries (and, especially, their patrons) adapt to this ever-changing online environment.

The first few chapters are full of stories from librarians illustrating their invaluable knowledge that a computer alone cannot provide, from helping the unemployed create resumes (usually people who have never even heard of resumes) to making themselves available to answer questions 24/7 through web blogs. The chapter, “Big Brother and the Holdout Company,” was extremely disturbing. I didn’t know about the gag-order on librarians during the debates on the U.S.A. Patriot Act until I read this book. If you value your privacy and you live in the U.S, you will find this chapter relevant to your life. Similarly, the chapter “Gotham City” was a fascinating revelation into information about librarians not known outside the field.

Another chapter, “How to Change the World” showed how some librarians use technology to improve the quality of life in less-fortunate countries. Though interesting, this chapter didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the book because it was focused mostly on available technology – not unlike an infomercial. I almost felt like I was reading another book entirely.

After that, the author seemed to wander away from the direction she established in the beginning. She spends several chapters making a big deal about librarians who don’t look like the stereotype: blue hair, tattoos, using obscenities, etc. Had Johnson stuck to the transitional experiences of librarians, especially in regard to the modernization of libraries and librarians’ personal dedication to sharing knowledge, instead of sensationalizing the career by discussing topics like librarians who enjoy swearing, I wouldn’t think this book was such a huge disservice to librarians and library science.

I want to make sure people understand that my review is not a reflection of my opinion of librarians (I worked in a library for nearly five years). Unfortunately, This Book is Overdue lacked a serious focus, and strayed from the product description. Instead, if you love libraries, Library: An Unquiet History is a better choice.

– review by Ursula K. Raphael

December 17, 2010

Little Librarians or Little Monsters?

by thiszine


Little Librarian is a DIY kit with the tag line: “Be a real librarian. Just add books!”

Although I think it’s awesome that there’s a toy aimed at turning children onto reading books (the type without batteries or screens) I feel this item should also come with a warning: USE OF THE LITTLE LIBRARIAN PERSONAL LIBRARY KIT COULD TURN YOUR CHILD INTO A LITTLE MONSTER. PURCHASE AT YOUR OWN RISK.

I love librarians. I love libraries. I love librarians and libraries so much that when I was eleven, I geeked out in the stationary supplies aisle of Wal-Mart and purchased a pack of 3 x 5 unlined index cards, a blue plastic index card filebox, a black sharpie, Scotch tape, a rubber date stamp, and a hot pink stamp pad. At home, I took the items to my bedroom and glued an index card into the back of all my books, writing in the neatest handwriting I could manage “RETURN BY” at the top of each one. I reinforced the spines with the Scotch tape and tested the rubber date stamp on sheets of my father’s tax return.

I own a lot of books and at age eleven, this habit was already well on its way to becoming an obsession. Because my middle school had no library, my peers frequently asked to borrow books from me and, always happy to lend them, I was frustrated that many were not returned, or were returned in poor condition. My solution: create a formal lending library.

The next time a classmate asked to borrow a book, I went home and filled out an index card with her name, the title of the book, the date borrowed and due date. I filed the card in my blue filebox and stamped the due date in the book. I was officially in the non-profit business of running a library.

I began to lend out three or four books each day, sometimes to kids in other classrooms whom I didn’t even know. R.L Stine and Christopher Pike were popular authors, so I created waiting lists for especially sought after titles. The American Girl series of books that I’d outgrown a year or two before were frequently requested; less popular were Scott O’Dell and Paula Fox. I lent Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Even The Boxcar Children found new life among my classmates.

Whenever I delivered a book, a single sheet of paper was tucked into its pages: the borrowing rules. Based on the rules of the actual library, I had typed my list of rules on my electronic typewriter and assumed that anyone receiving a sheet with the word “rules” in bold at the top would adhere to them.

Thus began my first lesson as a little librarian: people do not follow the rules.

Books were returned after the due date and were sometimes damaged: covers bent or torn, pages dog-eared, crumbs scattered in the spine. I prided myself on taking excellent care of books and their mishandling at the sticky fingers of my peers angered me. Fortunately, the borrowing rules had delinquents covered.

Per the rules, I was already charging a fine of 10 cents per day for each overdue item. Why not fine people for returning books in a damaged condition? I re-typed the borrowing rules and began to collect payments. Frequent violators had “DO NOT LEND” scrawled across their borrower’s card. Friends were granted clandestine extensions and had their fines forgiven. Boys I liked were secretly moved to the top of waitlists.

At home each night, I sorted through my filebox, checking on upcoming due dates and noting who had outstanding fines. At school, my classmates crowded around my locker as I pulled their book requests from my backpack.

Then it happened. As I would learn two years later from my history teacher Mr. Meiner, absolute power corrupts absolutely. My library was so successful, I doubled the fines. Friends were no longer given amnesty. I spent my lunch period demanding payments. Having learned a thing or two about boys, girl were automatically placed first on all waitlists. Students began fighting over the books as I pulled them from my backpack each morning. My friend Angela had a borrowed a very popular R.L. Stine from me and it was subsequently stolen from her. I still made her pay the late fee and, because book was never found, the $4.99 to replace it.

I can’t recall exactly who or how or why but, eventually, my library was shut down. My rubber date stamp fell to disuse and the stamp pad dried up. The index cards became flashcards for memorizing war battles in social studies class. The blue filebox was tucked into my closet to gather dust. Years later, the R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike books were donated to the town library (I kept Nancy Drew, Scott O’Dell, and Paula Fox), where they were sold for twenty-five cents each at the annual library book sale.

June 5, 2010

Live Show Review: Fucked Up

by thiszine

Two Friday nights ago was a bit of a homecoming for Toronto’s Fucked Up who played a high energy, hour long set at the landmark, Toronto Reference Library in the heart of downtown. The five story building, home to approximately two million books, was filled with kids and members of the media who stood anxiously atop the library’s blood red carpet during the nights opening act, $100.

Fucked Up threw the crowd a curveball, opening with “Two Snakes,” instead of their go-to opener, “Son the Father.” The acoustics rang loud and clear within the library’s open concept. The band played in the main foyer which is five stories high – each level circles around the walls all the way up – giving the show an almost outside concert feel.

The band then took some time to introduce a new song, which they have been playing live for some time, and the B-side to a recent single entitled, “Heir Apparent” (AKA “Holden”), after lead singer, Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham’s son. Soon after, the singer characteristically took off his shirt stating to the crowd, “I have to be the first person in the library to not be thrown out right away for not having a shirt on.”

As the crowd enthusiastically embraced new material and classics such as, “David Comes to Life,” and “Crusades,” from their first LP, Hidden World, the band brought up a string section and placed a podium center stage in order to play the band’s new single, “Year of the Ox.” The song spanned 12 minutes and Abraham had trouble reading the French lyrics, which are sung by a duet partner on the recording. Musically, the song was tight and it kept the audience enthralled enough to stop moshing for a few minutes and just listen.

To inject the energy back into the room, the band played their most rambunctious tune, the fan favourite, “Baiting the Public,” which needed library security and friends of the band to help hold up the stage lighting and monitors. Being that the show was in a library, there were no barricades and as fans rushed the band, they began filling onto the stage and either jumping back or circling the 6-piece into a pocket of chaotic energy.

The show wound down with a staple from the band’s back catalogue, “Police.” Abraham asked the crowd which would they rather hear, the aforementioned or “Black Albino Bones,” from their Polaris Music Prize winning, Chemistry of Common Life. But to cater to new fans, Fucked Up played the albums thunderous opener, “Son the Father,” before wishing everyone happy trails and reminding us all to, “support your public library.”

May 27, 2010

$300,000 Late Book Fee Absolved

by thiszine

According to the NY Daily News, an inflation-adjusted $300,000 late book fee accrued by George Washington was absolved when a replica of the book, The Law of Nations was returned to the New York Society Library 221 years overdue. Mr. Washington was not available for comment, though his estate acknowledged that he “did not do his public duty” by failing to return the book promptly.