So this is a book that came out almost exactly two years ago, while I was still in library school, and so I heard lots of good things about it — after all, the subtitle is “How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All.” How do you get a better endorsement than that? But I was busy, like, passing library school, so I never got around to it until I found it on OverDrive and decided it would be a good way to kill a few cataloging hours.
And it was, mostly. Johnson is not a librarian, but she spent a good deal of time shadowing/stalking/hanging out with librarians for the book, so she has a good perspective on how libraries are awesome but also have their problems. In this regard, I particularly liked a section where she talks about a library getting a big computer upgrade and the librarians being absolutely friendly to all the patrons and then making mean faces at the IT guys who in turn were like, “Shut up, librarians.” As they should. Or the story of the Connecticut librarians who went up against the FBI over the Patriot Act, which made both me and my law-student husband just slack-jawed in disbelief.
Johnson also has fun being amazed at the variety of librarians and libraries that exist, which is fantastic and even I learned some new stuff there. Unfortunately, Johnson also falls into that “these are not your grandma’s librarians!” trap wherein she gives a description of every librarian to prove that they don’t all wear their hair in buns or whatever, which… whatever.
One of the problems with reading this book two years later is that it’s a bit… dated. The longest chapter by far is the one on Second Life, which may still be popular in its own little circle but I have not gotten an invite to an SL library party in ages, and in fact I had almost forgotten about the thing entirely. But Johnson loves it, or did then, at least, and so she goes into great detail about the clothes she picks out for her avatar to wear and how she goes to the different places and meets people and “dances” with them and I am like omg get on with it and then there’s some interesting stuff about people who are librarians in Second Life (if not always in real life) and so that’s cool but then she goes off on this tangent about some sexually ambiguous librarian who intrigued and confused her. As you do? I don’t know. It got a little out of hand there.
The fact that that part of the chapter was even in there is testament to how little focus this book has. It waffles between being a study of libraries and librarians, a love letter to libraries and librarians, and a wide-eyed look at fancy technology (Second Life, of course, but also blogs and Wiis), and it just never struck the right balance for me.
Maybe it’s because I am a librarian, so I had more familiarity with Johnson’s topics and a bit of in-the-loop disdain for those outside of it? That’s probably at least part of it. I can imagine that if you aren’t a library person a lot of this might be new and interesting to you, although on the other hand you might just be like “who cares.” So… read it if you care?