This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson

This Book is OverdueJohnson, Marilyn. This Book is Overdue. HarperCollins, 2010.

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Now, with all the budget cuts going on in the library world, is a great time to read this book. If you ever wondered exactly what it is that your librarianย  does to keep the library running so smoothly, not to mention to protect our rights as readers and to give us all access to as much information as we could ever want or need, check out Johnson’s book and find out.

I read a book like this and find myself thinking, “Why did I ever leave libraries to work in publishing?” (Then I remember, “Oh yeah, I like editing, and, at least according to the authors who have worked with me, I seem to have a talent for it.”) Seriously, though, this book should be required reading for people who love books and reading and who don’t know how to turn that into a career. Marilyn Johnson proves that librarianship (and now “cybrarianship,” as she would call it) is a wonderful career choice for those who love books. If you happen to love books and to be extraordinarily curious? Well, now, that’s even better.

Johnson also debunks that old myth that all librarians are uptight fuss budgets, determined that all fun should be checked at the door before entering a library. On the contrary, librarians are some of the coolest, hippest, and kindest people out there. And quirky senses of humor are their specialty. Of course, I already knew all this before I read the book, but it was nice to have it verified. I also already knew that libraries and librarians have always been cutting edge when it comes to technological innovation.

What didn’t I know, then, before I read this book? I didn’t know that there were librarians in Connecticut who had challenged the FBI’s right to examine their patrons’ records and had won. I had heard of Second Life, the virtual world full of avatars, but I had no idea there were so many librarian avatars out there using this virtual world in such creative and helpful ways. I didn’t know that the major difference between a librarian and an archivist is that a librarian is someone who knows how to find information, and an archivist is someone who knows how to save it, so libraries (of today and the future) can find it. And I didn’t know how much fun it could be to read so much about libraries and librarians (well, maybe I did know that. After all, I’m a library geek. However, I didn’t expect this book to inspire me to want to help libraries come up with ideas during these tough economic times, and I certainly didn’t think I’d be inspired to wonder if I ought to try my hand at being an avatar — still just wondering. It’s a little daunting, truth be told).

Johnson writes with such good humor and such curiosity and such respect and passion, you can’t keep yourself from gobbling up this book. After all, once you’re done, you get to return it to the library and have an excuse to chat with some librarians and explore all they have to offer. While there, you just might find yourself feeling the way Johnson did at the opening of a new library building, where she pulled a book from the shelves and found a corner where she could lose herself in it:

I was under the librarians’ protection. Civil servants and servants of civility, they had my back. They would be whatever they needed to be that day: information professionals, teachers, police, community organizers, computer technicians, historians, confidantes, clerks, social workers, storytellers, or, in this case, guardians of my peace.ย  (p. 252)

So, have you hugged a librarian today?