Book Review: This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can save Us All

Friday, April 16, 2010
My love for books and libraries runs deep, and I concur with Argentine philosopher Jorge Luis Borges, who said, "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." Here on the earthly plane, we have many wonderful librarians to help us use and enjoy our libraries. They are celebrated and explained in Marilyn Johnson’s This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can save Us All (c 2010 Harper Collins Publishers).

Johnson addresses some typical questions, including whether librarians are becoming obsolete in the age of Google. Her answer is a resounding “no” and she argues that the work librarians do is needed more than ever. Readers take various trips with Johnson as she explores the world of librarians and cybrarians, and we soon agree with her assessment.

Librarian stereotypes are also debunked in the book, with nary a humorless shusher found during Johnson’s travels. Hilarious librarian blogs, social clubs, and a great ALA conference skit illustrate what many librarians are really like. They seem to be a fun group.

Other chapters portray librarians as heroes, defending our rights of free access to information and of privacy in our choices. We also learn about archivists, who work to preserve information, often creating digital archives of things worth saving. Johnson shows us how librarians wear many hats, some of which are described as: “information professionals, teachers, police, community organizers, computer technicians, historians, confidantes, clerks, social workers, storytellers,” and more.

The final chapter highlights the opening of a new public library in Darien, Connecticut—an example of what a library can be for its community and beyond. This amazing library offers local patrons classes such as BlackBerry Boot Camp, the ability to check out laptops, GPS devices, and Kindles, and access to the Wall Street Journal online. The library’s web site offers podcast interviews with authors, staff written reviews, and other services available to both patrons and visitors. The librarians there are also happy to help anyone, from anywhere, using their Ask a Librarian instant-messaging service.

In conclusion, This Book Is Overdue! is a fascinating read, especially for writers, who are usually frequent library users. It’s full of stories about interesting people and places, and entertainingly illustrates the importance of and great need for librarians and libraries. It certainly left me with an even greater appreciation for what we have available in our country, and the individuals who make it work.

Review by Marcia Peterson


Brenda said...

Very interesting post! (I've been frequenting libraries since I learned to read; can't imagine life without them.)

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