Saturday, January 8, 2011

This Book Is Overdue

The title itself is superb. Right off you think, how clever. Clearly it's a book that has something to do with libraries, but also implies it's about time someone wrote a book like this.

Daffy Du's review at Amazon.com got it right: Marilyn Johnson's This Book Is Overdue "isn't going to be for everyone... but Marilyn Johnson has done a great job of putting human faces on a profession that is often either beloved or ridiculed."

The book started well. At the outset Johnson's aim seemed to be a defense of librarians in an age of budget cuts. Who needs librarians when we have Google and Wikipedia? She makes a strong case for their value and contribution to society. And in every way the early part of the book is both entertaining and important. Even though in my case she's preaching to the choir, I believe she makes a solid defense for the profession. She is convincing when she lays out the arguments as to why we need our libraries and our librarians.

Then comes the middle section. It wasn't enough for her to just comment that there are librarians doing sophisticated things in Second Life, the online fantasy realm where even Hillary's avatar did some campaigning in 2008. Johnson goes into endless detail about the librarians active there, including sexual preferences. She is especially proud of the library work librarians are doing in this shadow world. Evidently whole catalogs have been reconstructed and yes, it probably is amazing, but who cares? The Second Life stories went on and on. Oh please.

The rest of the book got tedious, but I ploughed through. This review by Cathe Olson, again at Amazon.com, captures some of my impressions at this point.

Being a library advocate/activist as well as an elementary school library media tech, I had such high hopes for this book. I didn't even wait for my public library to get it in, I ordered it so I could get it right away. Unfortunately, I have to say this book did not measure up to my expectations. I loved what it was trying to do . . . show how important and relevant librarians have been and continue to be, but I found this book kind of . . . boring. It was mostly anecdotes of the author's experiences while researching this book. While some were interesting and I did learn some interesting things about librarians, I wanted more of a point and a focus to this book . . . not just a librarian rave but more about the importance of libraries in general--with points I could use in my letter writing campaigns to politicians and school boards on why libraries need to be funded and staffed adequately. So, while I'm glad someone had the idea to create a book like this, I just wish it would have been stronger.

Right at the beginning Johnson got my attention by comparing writers to serial killers. Neither one will stop doing what their doing till somebody else stops them. I never though about my writing in that manner before, but as they say, "If the shoe fits..."

Meantime, our libraries do serve an important role in our society. I strongly believe this. So does Marilyn Johnson. And I hope you do, too.

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