Why my husband hates the library

To take a break from writing my final paper, I thought I’d recount an amusing story my husband told me this weekend, when we were on our “date night” (a span of roughly two hours, during which we went to Best Buy and talked to the Mac salesman, and then to Agua Linda).  Over a dinner of vegan Mexican food, my husband (Mr. LShevaun) reminded me of his most memorable encounter with our local public library, an event which he has never forgotten, even though it happened over ten years ago.  He gave me permission to post it here. 

Back in the 90s, he was going through a rough period, and one thing he really looked forward to was the chance to read Bruce Sterling’s new book Heavy Weather. He ascertained that it was at the public library, but when he asked, he was told it was checked out but he could put a hold on it. At this point, his memory becomes a bit hazy–did he indeed put a hold on it, or did he just say, “I’ll check back later”?

In either case, six months later finds him back at the library, still searching for Heavy Weather. This time, an employee informs him the book is not available because it is “on the bookmobile.” “What does that mean?” responded my husband in consternation, by which I think he meant, “How do I get that book if it’s riding around the county on the bookmobile?” The employee, he claims, offered no assistance, explanation, or sympathy.

The happy ending for this story, if you’re anxious for one, is that my husband did get to read Heavy Weather. He ordered it from Amazon, and he credits his library experience for making him a loyal and longstanding Amazon customer.

The flip side of this, though, is that he developed a stubborn dislike for that public library, and for years he did not set foot in it again. Even now, when he sets foot in it, he doesn’t like it. “They think they’re the Pope of public libraries,” he told me over chips and salsa. I had to laugh. The day before we had spent family time at a different public library (which is actually closer to our house), and he had happily checked out several graphic novels. He loves a good story, whether it’s one he’s reading or one he’s telling me.

So, he doesn’t really hate all libraries. But that one pivotal experience with his local library was enough to turn him off the library for years. It’s an excellent object lesson to keep in mind–if people perceive that a library does not care or will not help them, they may choose to stay away, even if they could really use the library’s services.  And it may take years to win them back.

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Published in: on December 3, 2008 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The finger is pointing at me

Last week I was engaged in reading one of our class articles about the sad state of library use among students.  In particular, this one article said, students no longer come to the library to check out books, but rather rely on whatever information they can access from the comfort of their personal computer.  How sad, I agreed, tsk-tsking and shaking my head. 

And then I thought:  When was the last time I checked out a book from a university library? 

Suddenly I was one of those students, reclining in my Principle of Least Effort barcalounger, berrypicking full-text articles and whatever information Google could return on its first page of results.  Of course, my ‘home’ library is now a five-hour drive away, and my local university library does not offer me alumni privileges (I must fill out a form, pay a fee, and wait several weeks for it to be processed, and then I must renew this status every three months).  But I remember enough about the ‘bad old days’ of trudging to the library to xerox articles that every time I sit on my comfy sofa and immediately access a crucial article in full text, I want to shout “YES!!!”

This convenience, it is a wonderful thing, I must say.  But does it make me a bad library user?  😦

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 10:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On Academic Librarians and the MLIS

During my year and five classes in library school, I have learned some crucial things, one of them being the importance of the MLIS to the profession.  From my readings, particularly “Academic/Research Librarians with Subject Doctorates:  Data and Trends 1965-2006” by Thea Lindquist and Todd Gilman and “Just Another Field?” by B. Crowley, I can appreciate what an affront some librarians take the lack of an MLIS as.  Master’s degrees are not interchangeable, after all, and having subject knowledge in a field does not ensure that one can be an effective librarian in that field. 

[A digression:  consider, though, how many university faculty who divide their time between teaching and research have been trained as teachers.  Whether true or not, the assumption seems to be that strong enough subject knowledge will make up for any shortcomings or lack of training as a teacher.  I wonder if the same assumption gets transferred to librarianship–that is, if a person has spent enough time in a library, he or she should know how to be a librarian, because subject knowledge is the most important thing.]

As I stated in an early post, I am a “begin at the beginning” type of person, so even though I might have been able to finagle an academic library job without the MLIS, I am content to work my way steadily through the classes and bide my time.  Not only for the knowledge I am gaining along the way, but also for the slow process of transformation that is occurring.  I am coming to know what a librarian knows as well as to think as a librarian thinks.   And, importantly, to think of myself as a librarian. 

I attended last year’s orientation with a sense of panic.  I’m sure Dr. A. saw it in my eyes.  What am I doing, I thought.  I am making such a mistake.  Me, a librarian?  On paper, it sounded like a great idea, and I must have been convincing to be accepted into the program, but I was having the most difficulty convincing myself.  My memories of Tuscaloosa are of long, sweltering days and the sense that I didn’t belong there. 

This process of identification with the field, and learning to view myself as a librarian, has been gradual and is ongoing.  More and more, I feel at home in my classes, particularly in this class.  I understand more of what librarians are concerned with, what they value, what they strive to do. 

Issues of identity tend to be difficult.  Learning to feel like a librarian is not the only thing I’ve gotten out of the MLIS program, but it’s certainly one of the most crucial parts for me.  I would much rather learn it here rather than hastily try to put it together on the job.

Published in: on October 2, 2008 at 8:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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