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This post was inspired by NPR’s Why the Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries. Full disclosure: I used to work for an NPR/PBS affiliate.
Whenever I find great articles about libraries/librarians or in support of libraries, I tend to get pretty pumped. In the case of this NPR article, I’m not so sure. The cupcakes article went viral last week – I think I had it Tweeted @ me a dozen or so times, posted to my Facebook wall a handful of times, re-posted by librarian friends on their walls, etc. – and I’m already sick of this. This article led a number of my friends and I to discuss whether libraries being a fad was a good or bad thing. Our consensus? It’s not great.
I’ll fully admit that the trendiness of libraries and books is part of why blogs like the one you’re reading have a following. We’re “hip”. Young librarians + the Internet = massive information sharing. We get it.
In the short-term, libraries-as-a-fad could be a great thing. We’re more likely to have mentions in national media, shedding light on our dire funding situations. People might become more educated about how we work and why we exist. In the long-term, however, I’m nervous. It’s no news to regular readers of this blog that my library is up for a millage renewal next week, and if it doesn’t pass, our entire 13-branch system will close on January 3. That’s over 250 library jobs gone. That means that there will only be one, small public library in my county that I’ll have to pay a non-resident fee to use. To be frank, it would be really sh*tty.
The NPR article reads:
There seems to be a preposterous level of goodwill. Quite honestly, I feel like you can go on YouTube and act like a complete goof (in the best way), and if it’s for libraries, people have that same rush of warmth that they used to get about people who had sextuplets, before … well, you know. Before.
Are they saying we’re the next Jon & Kate Plus 8? Really? Maybe not, but libraries are about significantly more than our YouTube videos. The Plus 8 crew has dealt with a huge backlash against them once their saccharine facade cracked in 2009. Does that mean libraries have a few years of goodwill remaining before everyone is sick of our videos? Or us? Before our fall from happy family grace spells the end of libraries? For us there’s no “Twist of Kate” spinoff in development. Pardon the drama, but for us, losing that “preposterous level of goodwill” could spell curtains.
I would love to hear what readers have to say on this subject. Especially fellow librarians.
My third favorite television show growing up in the 1990s was Wishbone. For those of you unaware of this spectacular gem of a show, please consult its Wikipedia page and your local PBS affiliate for more information and to watch an episode or two. I promise that if you love reading, this show will at least make you smile.
At any rate, the episode entitled One Thousand and One Tails was on WKAR in East Lansing, MI when I went to my gym this afternoon. Lucky for me, the episode was beginning right as I got on to the elliptical machine (as if anyone cares what my workout routine entales). Here’s a synopsis of the episode, from KQED:
David has an adventure with bandits on the information superhighway while Wishbone tries to save Emily from the power of greed. Meanwhile, Wishbone, as Ali Baba, has an adventure with forty thieves, and Scheherazade saves her life through the power of stories in “The Thousand and One Arabian Nights.”
I HAD hoped to embed a series of videos produced by the Wishbone team in this post, but alas, finding anything but the show intro and a variety of bad (surprise, surprise) content tagged with “wishbone” on YouTube was impossible. Instead of a bunch of cute videos about visiting your local library and how fun going to the library with one’s family is, I’ve got this video of a barking Jack Russell.
And since this post is “just for fun,” here are some adorable pictures of my two dogs, one of which is part Jack Russell Terrier. Soccer, the dog best known for portraying the most literary pooch of all time, was a Jack Russell.
One of the Fox network’s biggest hits of the year, Glee, is a very charming musical parody of the stereotypical high school universe in a ho-hum Ohio town. Lucky for me, an addmitted “Gleek” (no matter how much I despize that marketing term), Season 1, Episode 4 (“Preggers”) features a brief mention of libraries. High school football star, Finn Hudson says the following during a deep, personal conversation with his Glee Club coach/Spanish teacher:
“I got this at the school library. Did you know you can borrow books from there? All of ’em. Except for the encyclopedias.”
Why this quote matters
Though written and delivered somewhat tongue-in cheek, this remark would make my childhood librarian roll over in her grave. I fully understand that some young people may not realize that encyclopedias are for library use only. They may never have touched a printed encyclopedia in their lives. However, not knowing that libraries exist to circulate books free of cost is alarming. Within the diegesis of the show, Finn is a high school upperclassman, which would land him at about 16 years old, born in 1993 or so. Looking back at my high school years, which weren’t that long ago (2001-2005), a large part of my high school language arts education involved learning to write proper research papers and, specifically to use both electronic databases as well as traditional encyclopedias. At this point in my academic career, I am very grateful that my school had the resources, both in the form of the databases/encyclopedias as well as teachers and librarians, to equip me with these skills. While I fully acknowledge that many schools and even libraries can no longer afford to provide all print and electronic reference sources to their patrons, I’m absolutely floored that someone soon to graduate from high school wouldn’t know the purpose of a library.
Again, I totally get that this is a show, specifically a high school [musical] parody show, but the joke does come loaded with some interesting implications.