Marilyn Johnson is awesome because she thinks librarians are awesome.

Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book is Overdue, is awesome because she thinks librarians are awesome. And given her background as an an obituary writer, I imagine she can't wait for each of us to die (in a good way).

I just saw her presentation at the 2010 Florida Library Association conference in Orlando. Marilyn is awesome because as much as she loves libraries, she also loves librarians. I've heard so many pep talks about how communities love their libraries or how everyone needs libraries, but not so much about the people who devote much of their lives to making sure that libraries are useful tools. I've heard many pro-library talks, but not so many that are so overwhelmingly pro-librarian.

Through Marilyn's book and her presentations (no, she did not give me a shiny penny to plug her site), she praises librarians for their uniqueness and their expertise. To listen to Marilyn is to learn that a librarian can literally do anything. A library without a librarian is just a Barnes & Noble. And I can never find anything in that place.

Marilyn talked about "street librarians." Damn. Now I want to be a street librarian. I want to take what I know out to the people. Like if our community was holding some large event, like a fine art and antique show or a concert or a walk to raise money for a cause, the street librarians could be there, with the people, answering their questions. But I don't know so much. I am pretty stupid. And I frighten children. And old people. So maybe I won't be a street librarian. But I think it's a great idea.

But think about that: tons of people have smartphones and apps and all that junk that's supposed to make them smarter. But most people are not any smarter with their smartphone. A librarian with a smartphone is ten times smarter than a regular person with a smartphone. Even with every useful application, a smartphone is still just a device for receiving data. Librarians are trained to take all this discordant data and make music. Data without a librarian is just a robot on Star Trek.

Librarians turn piles of books into libraries. Librarians organize and synthesize and archive and compile and define and label, and generally make finding stuff a lot easier. So Marilyn reminded me that the library is the tool and the librarian is the craftsman. She reminded me that librarians are individuals, and from that I remembered that my library patrons are individuals, too.

Yes, there are times when I think of library patrons as a collective. I lump them all together and the burden of serving them wears me out. But I need to remember that each individual patron deserves my help and that I should use all my skills to assist her.

The library isn't my job, each patron is my job. The library is there to serve the needs of that customer. So I organize and maintain my tools in preparation for that customer. A few posts back (on my blog), I went off against devices and how libraries should be about people and not their damn iPricks: Oh, look, Steve Jobs had to make a bigger iPhone, what insecurity do you think that expresses?

But libraries are also devices. And in these lean economic times, libraries can't cut costs simply by trimming staff. What good is a library that's open all week if no one is there to help people find what they need, even if it's only to locate that recently returned copy of Zombieland? Libraries need librarians.

I'm going to keep reminding myself that the customer is the end result of my job. Yes, I can buy databases and DVDs and downloadables for their freakingly-stupid devices, but all these things, books included, are just the tools to satisfy that outcome.

If the customer is King, then who can be above a King? God. Yeah, the Librarian is God. I like that. Now, I'm going out for waffles...

Special Secret Note: Ok, I really had the french toast. And yes, I ported this over from my blog (but replaced the swear words) because I expect that most of you don't read my blog and I really wanted you to read this. So now I've tricked you; you've read my blog without realizing it. Ha! .... Stop crying.

Comments

birdie -- insensitivity, not intentional

since this is LISNews, I make the assumption that everyone is a librarian or library-type person. I'm sure in your hands a smart phone is very smart. Hell, you run a business, and I just wait and hope that someone sends me some money every 2 weeks without any control over my future.

it was funny at FLA: just minutes before she began her presentation, I said, "I know you will be busy later and I just wanted say Hi. I'm the effing librarian."
And she shook my hand and I thought that would be it. But then we started talking, and this is pretty much the time she's presenting. And we're talking, and I felt like a dope because I'd sat back down, but she's standing in front of me talking about library stuff... now I can't even remember what... for almost a minute. And I started to feel like I was completely undeserving of this attention, since the room was filling with about 200 people, and I said, "please don't waste your whole presentation on me (or something like that)." And so she got behind the podium and did her thing.

then later I got a 2nd copy of her book signed, this time to my 'real' name. and I offered her my books which she accepted even though they are about 300 page each and probably a pain in the ass to carry back on a plane. (and fyi: I carry copies of my books everywhere and perform readings in public restrooms to captive audiences of men using the toilets. I can read a few paragraphs before they pull their pants up and chase me away.)

so yes, a good experience. and yes, I AM awesome. :)

Effing

I'm so jealous of Marilyn Johnson; she met you and SHE thinks YOU'RE awesome.

It's an effing love fest.

But let's not degrade the rest of us (non-librarians), some of us have some smarts too.

no.. I've gotten nothing from that...

I really was impressed with her appreciation for librarians as individuals. Nobody cares whether my blog is mentioned in her book; I still need to trick people on twitter to visit -- "Justin Bieber involved in car accident! http://bit.ly/Q17eRtI6" -- which links back to my blog.

Wrong Title

You mean... "Marilyn Johnson is awesome because she put my blog in a book!"
:-)

t-shirt reply

after thinking about it, I prefer: "A librarian with a regular phone is ten times smarter than a regular person with a smart phone."

but use the line however you want...

T-shirt

This line you wrote in your blog entry would be a good t-shirt: A librarian with a smartphone is ten times smarter than a regular person with a smartphone.

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