Have you seen the Doctor Who episode where they go to a planet sized library where all of the people disappeared 80 years earlier? It’s one of the scarier episodes, in my humble opinion, but it’s brilliant, like most Doctor Who.
What about that iconic Ghostbusters scene with the scary librarian? Or, perhaps, less scary parodies?
How about The Pagemaster? Not particularly scary, but it freaked me out when I was younger.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? was a TV show that ALWAYS scared the bejeezus out of me when I was little, and they did an episode called “Tale of the Quiet Librarian.” (They just did a marathon of Are You Afraid of the Dark for Halloween, and this episode played and freaked me out all over again…)
Speaking of scary TV shows, what about the Twilight Zone? They had that episode that ended with the guy alone in the library with broken glasses.
The good news is that all of these stereotypically quiet, lonely libraries are gone for good, replaced by colorful, lively places where you can grab a snack and hang out with friends. You no longer need to fear the long rows of books and the deathly quiet stacks…
Or do you?
In my classes, we’ve been talking about how some libraries can get a bad reputation. There are some people who will buy materials because they fear a 10 cents a day fine. Others feel that libraries are musty, old book warehouses filled with smelly crazy people. Even the news perpetuates the library’s reputation as a hotbed of porn-watching, masturbating perverts.
Some of these reputations are based on fact. One library’s desperate attempt to get patrons to return their materials resulted in one patron being arrested and taken to jail. Other libraries are crowded with homeless because of cuts to shelter and halfway house programs. One Cleveland reporter took it upon himself to expose people looking at porn in the library.
However, the thing to remember is that these are not consistent occurrences. Yet, these libraries have trashed reputations. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t give a damn about my reputation,” but in the midst of funding cuts and where libraries are trying to prove their worth to their communities, libraries need to respond. Libraries can’t afford articles called, “You May Not Be Able to Afford Going to the Library.” Did it matter to the investigative reporter that librarians were protecting the first amendment rights of their patrons or that the library has received 5 star honors as one of the best American libraries? Or that the Seattle Library (one of the libraries where people complained about the homeless population) also offers some of the best free programming to its patrons? What about the fact that libraries, already struggling with budgets, lose thousands of dollars every year because
of unreturned materials?
Some libraries are compensating for these issues by doing programs like Food For Fines where patrons can return the materials with canned food for shelters and food pantries.
Others are emphasizing their protection of patrons’ first amendment rights, as well as filters that may be required by federal funding on library computers.
More libraries are emphasizing the right of all patrons, including the homeless and smelly people (I’m talking to you, over-perfumed lady!), to use the library.
However, none of these libraries can do it alone!! Word of mouth is the best way to talk up your library. Post their excellent services on your blogs and on Twitter!
Can you suggest any other ways of improving a library reputation?
So, in Virginia, there is now a history textbook in use with claims that are completely based on information from the internet (not online databases, not by actual historians’ blogs even- just the general internet). The book claims that thousands of blacks fought for the South in the Civil War based on three internet claims by the Sons of the Confederacy. These claims have long been made to make the Civil War remembered as less about slavery and more about states’ rights.
See, this is why all of our teachers got mad when we cited a biased internet source during grade school. They were worried about their students growing up, writing textbooks for their classrooms and then saying, “But it says so on the internet!” Sadly, the author of the book must not have had a stickler teacher like that.
What is most worrisome is that this book is actually in use already. A parent who just happens to be an historian looked at her daughter’s textbook and had a moment of shock. So, the book was approved not just by the author, but by the editors, the publishers, the school board, the teacher, and the list goes on. And, when the people that made the claim in the first place want to back up their research, they can claim the information is found in a history textbook- increasing the legitimacy of their argument without actually increasing any of the research.
Information literacy- you’re doing it wrong.
This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen. It’s an iPhone app called “Access My Library” by Gale. There is an app for Public Libraries, for School Libraries, and for Academic Libraries.
The public library app uses the phone’s GPS to find the nearest library (within 10 miles) and provides access to the Gale online library resources. The school library app gives students unlimited access to their school’s Gale resources. The academic library app uses students’ e-mail addresses to give them access to the Gale resources from their university
I don’t have an iPhone, so I can’t say how well it works (the comments seem to say there may be a bug or two to work out). However, if it works, it seems pretty fabulous! Also, I have not been compensated in any way for discussing this app. I just love talking up people doing cool things for libraries!