Saturday, December 08, 2007

Free for All in the Public Library

Every so often, an amusing book about some aspect of the information professions surfaces, such as Don Borchert’s Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library (New York: Virgin Books, 2007). The discovery of this book came just before our December 07 graduation ceremony, and I used it in my brief remarks, as follows:

Our School has been educating individuals to function as librarians for well over a century. The LIS program is internationally recognized for preparing public, school, children’s and youth services, medical, academic, digital, and special librarians, as well as archivists and preservation administrators. Some of these positions are quite new in their origins. Now you might one working as a Webmaster or an Electronic Records Specialist, jobs the first graduates in 1901 could never have imagined. We also have graduates of our program teaching in countries around the world as well. And we are happy to be recognizing the most recent graduates of our program today, hoping they understand the proud legacy they will be part of here in just a few moments.

All of you will face new and exciting challenges. Don Borchert, in a humorous book just published, Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library, provides a sense of these challenges: “Libraries are a footnote to our civilization, an outpost to those unfamiliar with the concept, and a cheap, habit-forming narcotic to the regular patron. Walk into a public library and it is usually as calm and inviting as a warm bath. It is clean, well kept, and quiet enough to do the Sunday crossword puzzle (the one you brought with you from home, not the one torn surreptitiously out of the library’s copy of the paper while no one was looking). . . . The staff is invariably professional, courteous, and unobtrusive. They are almost always educated – not just disillusioned college grads who could find nothing in their own field but majors in Library Science, a degree as arcane as alchemy or predicting the future by reading the entails of a recently slaughtered lamb.”

Now, some might not agree with Borchert’s assessment, and his book is a bit of a trip, but we know you are ready for your new careers. And, we know as well, that if you don’t know what alchemy is or lack experience reading lamb entails that you know where to find the information about such activities and then preserve it for others to use.

1 comment:

Scott Douglas said...

Please also check out my humor memoir on libraries "Quiet, Please" (Da Capo Books. ISBN: 0786720913), which comes out in April