‘I love my job’

Librarians have always been my heroes, long before Sir Terry Pratchett gave me my personal ideal librarian.

It was a bit of a shock, the other day, to meet up online with someone who told me she was lucky enough to have a job she loved (a librarian) matching books to readers… and that she was vehemently opposed to Sad Puppies. Because she was adamant Social Justice OUGHT to police what published. And books should have social justice themes. And of course readers would enjoy books by authors with [left wing] political viewpoints other than their own, and such books would ‘expand’ their views. She chose books for them to ‘help’ with this.

She also didn’t believe Traditional Publishing was in trouble. Her ‘remedies’ to re-invigorate what to any other eye is a seriously un-well sector consisted of more books for left out minorities (suitable minorities of course) and teen girls – the two most over-served areas in fiction, in terms of their demographics.

And no, she had no answer to my question about the possibility of readers also enjoying (and being ‘expanded’) books by authors of other political viewpoints than her own. No, she plainly hadn’t read such trash wasn’t going to. Interestingly enough, I raised Chris Nuttall (not knowing he was going to post on MGC at the time) as an example of someone she should read, to see how non-traditional authors were packing the readers in, while her darlings were all rushing off to get Masters or Doctorates (using their own work a subject, yes, really) so that teaching ‘Creative Writing’ could supplement their fast drying-up income. I shudder to think of the outcome of that, but, there it is.

It raised the question in my head: She loved her job… but did her job love her? And no, I don’t mean her employer. I mean the very heart of librarianship: which amounts to addicting generations of readers to books. That’s why, after all, librarians are my heroes. They gave me a lifetime of enjoyment, an escape, a chance for R&R, and incidentally taught me lot. I wondered: does she want that teen girl to grow up and have a husband and raise more teen girls (and boys) who want to read (readers are much more likely to be the children of readers, and if both parents read, the chances are definitely higher still. Besides, I might be biased here, but being a reader married to a non-reader strikes me outright miserable)? I think we can be fairly sure she did get some young girls to enjoy reading, maybe some who wouldn’t have without her. I think we can be very certain she put off far more young men and women who really could have used less of her idea of expansion, and more of their idea of great entertainment.

But she loves her job so that’s just fine from her point of view. She came across as completely incapable of being able to see any other viewpoint but her own, and incredibly self-important and arrogant with it. She disliked the tone and the smart-arse sniping of Sad Puppies, somehow managing to ignore her own condescending attitude (She knew how to find facts. My kind, I was informed, didn’t. When, disappointing to her rapid triumph over a revolting red-neck I showed her the figures in one of her own pet sources, I, the great unwashed, was just looking at those facts wrong, and drawing the wrong conclusion. She couldn’t of course prove this. But she knew it. Maths was for us lesser people, I suppose.) and the vicious nastiness of her side of the debate.

It made me think. I love my job. I hope my job loves me. Part of trying to see it does that is constantly trying to do it better. Part of that is listening to people so I can express other viewpoints, credibly. YMMV but if you can’t get into another character’s head enough to get a point of view which is not your own, your job does not love you.

Readers – and their dollars (the only honest appraisal out there) will hopefully tell me if I am right.

I just wanted to bob back to Chris Nuttall’s post yesterday, which I found inspiring and well written, (again proving yet another pigeonhole stereotype so beloved of our SJW friends completely wrong. Popular Indies, especially ones who don’t follow the prescribed collect-the-PC-token formula are supposed to be near incoherent, spittle covered and ranting. You’re a great disappointment to them, you know, Chris. I do much better.).

I’d like believe in his future, where individuals matter, and people are judged on their merits, and not on superficial characteristics. I try to support this idea in my usual subversive (superversive?) way by writing plausible characters, people that readers feel they’ve met and know, who behave in a plausible manner in the story… who just don’t fit the stereotype, and to whom the PC token characteristic is not the defining feature of their lives, (it may shape them, but doesn’t define them or the story) but is just an aspect of the character’s life. There are times when being black and being discriminated against may be central to your life, but possibly not when you’re facing Scylla and Charybdis (Pyramid Scheme) with a group of other humans. Then not being dinner is central.

To quote Chris Nuttall: “I think, in the future, society will evolve to become more conservative and, at the same time, more liberal.”

It would, I suspect, be a fairly natural path for society to evolve in – current research (by left wing researchers) seems to indicate, (for logical economic reasons I suspect), that the younger generation <25 are more conservative in behavior than their peers of twenty years ago (yes, there are outliers – but the middle of the curve), and indeed that the percentage in that age group supporting traditional left leaning parties has dropped over the last 10 years. Yet the same cohort is more liberal in their outlook on issues of race or gay marriage than older right wing supporters – which would support his contention.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's going to work like that – not because of the elderly right, but because of the Left’s SJWs. You see, victim status has been established as more valuable – in terms of perks, social status and influence – than mere equality. I do not think they will willingly accept an end to that. As the SJW culture has its own power-base (many of the leading lights in our field could not, considered as individuals, qualify for victim status, some because they're generations from any substantive discrimination, and some because, well, they're white, male, heterosexual, well-off — but ardent champions of the victimhood of those who aren't, and reaping considerable benefit from it) in keeping those wounds open, the demands for more special treatment flowing… they're not going to stop. Take a look at the Hugo slates being put up various ‘leaders’ in our field. If they wanted ‘equality’ they’d all be saying ‘not another left-wing message. At least not unless there are some right-wing messages.’ But no. It is about power, short term gains, the ability to enhance their own sales or those of their friends. The long-term future is un-important to them. If you ask them they’ll tell you they’re on the right side of history, and therefore don’t have to worry. They plainly don’t know history.

The idea that the cup of sympathy is a finite one, even smaller in hard economic times, is simply beyond their grasp, despite the fact that we see this in practice all the time. Joe calls in to work to say his kid is sick, and he has to take the child to the ER, gets sympathy. People pick up his slack, and the boss cuts him some extra. But even if the kid IS really very sickly, and it’s not just Joe’s excuse for a hangover, it gets used up after a few repetitions. People think Joe is taking unfair advantage, even if he isn’t. They also just get tired of giving. If you’re on the receiving end and all you give back is more demands, more ‘guilting’ your audience into more giving, the faster that'll happen. Life is much better now than it ever was for all sorts of ‘designated victims’. When did you last hear of anything else but more demands back from them?

The SJW — largely middle-aged, middle class and also largely out of touch with the younger generation (when wasn't this true?) and the working class or the poor, will, in my opinion gradually generate the very discrimination and outright hatred of various minorities they claim to be fighting. I see it already with migrants (where SJW's have vast sympathy, no matter how undesirable the migrant). The young, (in my experience – and I make a point of listening to fair number of my children’s peers, and these have a range of political views) actually have less sympathy than the general populace, and in the general populace it is dropping by the hour, let alone day. I'm a migrant. I am aware of it for obvious reasons, which is why I work hard to fit in. I'm very grateful to be here, to be Australian, and I ask nothing more of Australia than the chance to make a new life as an Australian… but that isn't typical. I don't think it'll stop with migrants, because all the 'causes' sympathize and identify with each other. I think suddenly when the penny drops, we’ll see the larger groups suddenly trying to distance themselves, and they’ll do that more harshly than those supposedly nasty old white heterosexual men did.

So how does this tie in to librarians, writing and reading? I suppose it comes down to: Who will select the custodians? Whether that is a writer or, far more responsible, a librarian? And if you are the lucky custodian enjoying your job, you have be aware that you’re only passing the flame wider, not choosing who gets it, or restricting it. That’s up to the individual. And if you’re writing, well, if your character is gay or female, or sort of golden and changes sex – Slow Train to Arcturus – showing them as an individual we care about is more important than those features. If all the reader has to bind to is that superficiality, you’re doing a job you love, but it doesn’t love you.

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81 responses to “‘I love my job’

  1. I think she really does love her job, but she sees her job as a vehicle for pushing her ideology on an unsuspecting populace. It’s not finding someone a book they will love, that will keep them reading and learning and craving more words, it’s recommending books she loves and by god, they better love it, too. And people wonder why libraries are dying and why kids don’t want to read. Bleh.

    Great post, btw. Got me all fired up before it’s even light out here.

  2. Draven

    Dave, your rats and bats were better characters than i read in a lot of late 90s message centered SF.

  3. Martin L. Shoemaker

    In my lifetime, librarians have always filtered out “trash”, even if it’s trash kids willingly read. The reason I owned a complete collection of Hardy Boys books was that neither the school nor the township library approved of them.

    • Synova

      Exactly. It’s their job. It’s a job that has to be done and it’s the librarian’s job to do it. It’s just when everyone agrees to pretend that they aren’t doing what is their explicit job to do that the whole thing gets surreal.

    • eh. Goodness me. Just when you think you’ve got to the bottom of the cultural differences – my library had ALL the Hardy Boys, and ALL the Biggles and all Enid Blytons. Because their job was to ‘get kids reading’ and thus they pushed those at kids draged in there by mummy or daddy. I haven’t looked for Hardy boys here in Oz but the Adult book section certain contains the Dick Francis books.

      • Martin L. Shoemaker

        To be fair, everything our librarians said about the Hardy Boys was true: they ARE mass-produced “trash”, with outlines dictated by an editor and then hack writers filling them in to order.

        And even after being told that, I devoured them as fast as they came out. They might have been mass-produced, but they were exciting, and they even had a decent bit of age-appropriate research for their exotic settings and mysteries. My mom and dad, bless ’em, believed that any reading was good reading, so they took me to a local supermarket that stocked two new HBs every month.

        That same supermarket had a good selection of other books. On the weeks when there were no new HB books, I had money to spare, so I browsed the others. The science fiction books were right above the HBs, so naturally I saw those first. And there were James Blish’s Star Trek adaptations, so I got those. But those also only came out once in a while, so I browsed for more. And one fateful day I found an anthology, Analog Annual: edited by Ben Bova, with stories by Spider Robinson, Dean Ing, Jack Vaughan, and George R.R. Martin. Plus “Fighting Madness” by P.J. Plauger, the single most influential story I have ever read.

        Did it work? Hell, yeah! The Hardy Boys introduced me to Analog. Today I’m SELLING to Analog. That’s the power of “trash” books. If I’m really lucky, someday some kid will tell a story like that about my works.

  4. The moment I hear someone say anything about the “right side of history”, I immediately discount everything else they’re saying.
    History isn’t a one-way ratchet. And thinking of it as inevitably leading to some kind of utopian ideal (usually Marxist) shows a remarkable ignorance of history in and of itself.
    Great post, Dave. You nailed it.

  5. Not that I’m terribly well studied on it, but ISTR that the American Library Association is a rather slanted to the Left group.

    • emily61

      Yes they are.

      • Good grief. Back in SA, certainly here on the island, Librarians were a group who loved reading.They didn’t really have any other unifying trait. I can’t say one ever pushed me at an ‘improving book’ – and I was a very regular customer. On Rainy days in the holidays, if I could cadge a lift (before I was old enough to walk the three miles or so) I’d spend the day (or as long as I could) sitting reading. I’d get through a few books, so what I could take out would last a little longer. They put up with me. I did wonder what on earth I had hit when I got this evangelizing about SJ tone.

    • Yup. They lost me after I discovered that their “Banned Books” seemed to be all the books that various school-districts and parents groups in the US did not want used in the classroom. Not books that had truly been banned, with a few very notable exceptions (The Gulag Archipelago being one of the few.)

      • Grin. You know, my school library actually had a translation of ‘Das Kapital’ – and really boring it was (no it was not a socialist hive. Just had lots of donated old books. It was a 3 story library for 300 kids. It had everything from Kipling, Wilbur Smith (also banned) to obscure political tomes.)

      • hlvogel

        Yes, not only are the books NOT banned, there aren’t even that many complaints. From the ALA’s own website, they say the decade of 2000 – 2009 had 5099 registered complaints. In other words, they have 510 complaints per year in a country with 300 million people and 120,000 libraries (again, from the ALA website).

        Let’s see, doing a little simple math, that comes to 0.00425 complaints per library per year. Doing a little more math, that means each library will average one complaint ever 235 years.

        Gosh, I sure am glad the ALA makes such a big deal out of this every year! I mean, if it wasn’t for those “banned book week” displays in every library in the country, the vast majority of librarians wouldn’t even know the book world was in crisis over all those banned books.

    • They refused to support Cuba’s independent librarian movement, because Cuba is perfect.

    • Arwen

      Yep. That’s one reason that I don’t want to join despite the fact that I am a librarian.

  6. 🙂 “Who’s going to Cousteau the Custodians?” 🙂

  7. I think she loves what she perceives as her job. She’d likely hate what other perceive as her job: that being, addicting people to reading and helping them find the information and stories most relevant to them, whether it’s what she likes or wants or not.

  8. sabrinachase

    One does wonder how many repeat customers she had. The young are extremely good at detecting “vegetables for your own good” and don’t go back to adults that can’t be trusted.

  9. Just this guy

    In my recent experience, librarians consider this whole “book” thing to be unimportant. They’re more interested in Access! Rights! Differently Abled! Underrepresented!

    The book part is a necessary evil, and we shouldn’t confuse people with different viewpoints. They might veer off into some unpleasant direction, like voting against tax increases for libraries…

  10. This is nothing new. When I was in school I’d sit and read at the public library because they wouldn’t allow me to check out the books I was interested in. The librarian tried to tell me I couldn’t even go in certain sections and I ignored her. Eventually I had to tell her that I would write letters to the paper to embarrass her and try to damage her funding if she didn’t let me alone. Once money was mentioned I became invisible.

  11. Pingback: Nocturnal Lives » It is not your job to indoctrinate my children

  12. Pingback: It’s Not Your Job to Indoctrinate My Children – Amanda Green | According To Hoyt

  13. Years ago, when I was but a wee lad, the school gave us a reading test. In the fourth grade I had a high school reading level. So I was checking out pretty much anything I could get my hands on until one of the librarians (who had been at the school since oh, dinosaurs roamed the earth) told me I couldn’t check out that book (Paul Bunyan stories, if I remember correctly) because it was “above my approved reading level”. Which I dutifully reported to my mother when I had to give her the note the librarian sent home for my misbehavior. I had misbehaved by pointing out that they had given me the test, and the book was in my reading level as evidenced by their testing methodology. This lead to a discussion over the phone with said librarian and use of the phrase “You gave him the damn test and it shows his reading ability. Let him check out the books or we will be seeing the school board about this one, again.” Needless to say, after that the librarian never questioned what I was checking out – although there was much eye rolling and dramatic sighing over some of my choices.

  14. Matthew

    Methinks there are a great many poor librarians out there whose words should be reduced to “Ook”, and a few truly excellent ones whose words should be exalted and magnified to “OOK!!!”

    (and now I need to go and reread Guards Guards…)

  15. Jim McCoy

    For the record and before I really get started…

    I remember RBV as less a “breath of fresh air” and more of a

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHH. Hehehehehe….. THAT WAS AWESOME!

    kind of thing, but maybe that’s just me. Then again, I spent most of the nineties reading fantasy and there’s less out and out leftism there.

    (Seriously. Something about communists being bat-(as opposed to bird-) brained just worked for me. Oh, and the good guys winning was cool. Oh, and I like things that explode.)

    That librarian makes my just the tiniest bit furious and ready to go supernova. Seriously. She seems to think that her job is to direct people only to the things that she approves of. Um… no. The job is to match person to book or, barring an ability to do that, to put the volumes on the shelves and stay out of the way.

    I wonder how many potential readers have had their experiences ruined by mindless lefty drones like that librarian. I’d like to know how many of those same people may have had their experiences improved by being steered to something based on their tastes instead of that librarians. I wonder if that woman realizes that she’s putting herself out of a job through her own stupidity? I wonder if she would care if she did?

    • Heh, RBV’s most worrying aspect is people who quote bits at me. And then wonder why I look faintly puzzled. They re-read it last week…

      Look, this woman plainly didn’t get maths at all. Not even elementary maths. So logic probably also ran. Funding for libraries depends on people loving libraries. If you count out at least 50% of your support before you start, and bore most of the rest…

  16. As an old fart, I had a similar experience to Lloyds. We were ‘poor’ in that I couldn’t afford to buy books as a youngster, and the library provided an escape on a rainy day and during the winter. Reading gave me the will to want to better myself and broaden my horizons. The Iliad, Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, Zane Gray, L’Amour, Spillane, McDonald and others showed me there was a much bigger ‘world’ out there. As a writer, I’m trying to craft believable characters, in believable situations and I’m not trying to punch all the ‘correct’ buttons, so I guess my books wouldn’t be suitable for this librarian or any of her ilk. The real world, sadly, doesn’t hew to the SJWs little utopia regardless of how much they rant and rave…

  17. Cat

    Go librarian! So nice to see someone helping broaden kids’ horizons. It’s a thankless job in some quarters, so I’m happy she’s still willing to do it.

    • You mean, “broaden” them by making them read the same crap every school and authority figure pushes? More victimhood, more “poor me” more lesbian, pagan, handicapped Hispanics (the “hero” of one of the books the kids were forced to read — if “hero” means someone who gets beat up on for everyone and sniffles and snivels and begs for protection from daddy government) forever? Oh, please, Cat, ever since you pretended the “If you were a dinosaur” crap wasn’t about “working class” in my comments (faculty lounges have pool tables, and beat up on unsuspecting paleontologists, of course) you’ve become a parody of yourself. Perhaps actually thinking could broaden YOUR horizons.

    • Ah Cat. Our weekly drive-by of dumb. We missed you last week. For certain values of ‘missed’ anyway.
      Firstly, restricting reading to material that matches your political outlook is not ‘broadening’. Go and look up ‘doctrinaire’. Clue: It does not mean ‘broad’.
      Secondly, as sure as death, the worm turns. You’re too narrow-minded to see that I am advocating for laissez faire – which works as well for books any slant. Your ‘broaden’ amounts to censorship. Be careful what you wish for.

    • Jared Anders

      This may sound over the top, but when a child (or adult) goes to a librarian and asks for a book recommendation, it is completely an issue of trust.

      Any librarian that betrays that trust be recommending something “for their own good” or because they believe it is “goodthink” runs the risk of permanently damaging that child’s enjoyment of reading.

      I’ve seen it too many times – the assumption that “they just don’t like reading” is _MUCH_ more common than “the librarian doesn’t know what to recommend,” because they’re the professional. Of course the librarian knows better than the kid what’s good.

      And really, we are at the point when Inigo needs to come in and talk to you about your use of the word broaden. You know the rest. (Or maybe that’s an assumption I shouldn’t be making? You do seem to have a tendency to completely misconstrue everything, perhaps the problem runs deeper than thought.)

  18. Synova

    Think about it.

    Librarians are *professional* censors. This is why I just about get the belly-laughs any time I see a “banned book” display at the library. It’s their JOB. And I’m not going to argue that it’s not their job. It’s their JOB to decide what will be available on the shelf and what will NOT be available on the shelf. The heart of their entire profession is the exclusion of unworthy books.

    Take that librarian woman when Sarah Palin was mayor, who was upset that someone else in city government might have a say in which books were on the shelf at the library. That was practically the librarians whole job… to decide which books to spend money on and decide which books they *would not buy*. What was she mad about? Only that SOMEONE ELSE had the gall to have an opinion over what she viewed as her exclusive bailiwick.

    So I’m not at all surprised that a librarian would find it perfectly normal to view as Right and Good the selection of what they, in their professional capacity, felt to be worthy literature. I still find it funny beyond all words when I see those displays of “banned” books… which essentially means nothing more dire than “books that someone complained about once or twice but they weren’t a librarian so it was bad when they did it.”

  19. Synova

    I think that some librarians do their best to do a good job and make a point of ordering a mix of books and order what people request even if they don’t personally like it. It’s just that their profession is one that involves a great deal of moral hazard because it requires them to DO exactly what they’re supposed to be working against.

  20. Synova

    Could add a note to all the Sad Puppy nominees… “Banned by a Librarian.”

    Set up a “banned book” display…

  21. I don’t know – I worked as a librarian and we were specifically told NOT to push books at anyone. (The academic justification was that reading lists were set by the course professors, who knew better than us (or were at least better paid.) The public justification was never spoken, but I suspect it had something to do with the fear of lawsuits.)

    That said, when I was a kid, I did have the experience of having my parents called to vet the books I wanted to take out. Mum was not particularly amused.

    Chris

    My Site: http://www.chrishanger.net/
    My Blog: http://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
    My Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall

  22. Pat Patterson

    Just posted my review of ‘Red Fiddler’ on Amazon. Lovely short story, had the joy of reading it last night before I finally went to sleep, then reading it again before posting the review. Sometimes, the sleep interval (or maybe the sleep meds) interfere with my ability to retain. It’s not entirely a bad thing; I was able to enjoy re-watching the entire series of ‘My Name Is Earl’ without any of the plots being familiar to me. I wonder if I could do the same with Sherlock?
    Anyway, Dave, It’s pretty clear that at least your WRITING job loves you. Can’t speak for your fish job, have no evidence of that at all.
    So now you are tied with almost everybody with four reviews each; Peter has five, Cedar has six, but then I started reading Cedar before I signed up for KU, so she has the advantage there. Sooner or later, though, I’m gonna run out of MGC to read, so then I guess I’ll have to go see the librarian, and get a recommendation. (umm, confession: I’m reading an non MGC work right now, Man-Kzin Wars XIV.)

    • emily61

      Do try Jerry Lawson’s Future Tech series. The first book in the series is No network found. Marion Harmon’s Wearing the Cape series is also great! His first book is called Wearing the Cape.

  23. Okay, I am off to fry pancakes, so I won’t reply for some time. It’s Shrove Tuesday here (I don’t know if this applies in the US or elsewhere, but it’s a big day for our little church.) We make pancakes. No preaching, no questions asked, no payment requested (there is a donation basket for a charity we feel needs help) just come and have a pancake with the filling of your choice and we do our best to provide a selection. not what we like, but what is popular (I have done about three quarts of spicy tomato and wallaby mince, and the same in Thai green curry. Hot is the new cool, it seems). Last year, in our little town of 190 people I fried 320 pancakes. Maybe libraries should serve pancakes. Or at least let people pick their own fillings.

  24. Draven

    I wish someone would link Breda into this conversation…

  25. Somewhere around 64 or 65 when I was 10 or so, Mrs Pennington – the greatest small town librarian that ever was – put the library’s copy of Rocket ship Galileo in my hand and the world changed….

    • Honestly, I don’t remember the librarian (either at school or at the local public library) being especially involved in my book selections. They just checked out the books for me – ten at a whack, especially in the summertime, when my mother obligingly ferried us, too and fro. I really don’t remember even Mom being all that worked up about my book selections, although she was a bit … perturbed by my 2nd grade fondness for the Freddy the Pig books, by one Walter R. Brooks. I think I read most of them – harmless adventures in an interminable series. Eventually I moved on … to practically everything else in the library.
      Look, I was a weird kid – even Mom admits it!
      I think I was out of the kid stacks and into the adult by junior high. And I can’t recall any librarian refusing me anything, or my mother being particularly excised. Although my paternal grandmother did not believe how fast I was reading books, when she indulged me with a trip to her neighborhood library when we were visiting the Grands.
      All I knew of the librarians, was – they were the ladies who flashed the book cards and my library cards under the curious machine at the check-out desk. Nothing more.

      • Oh, Celia, you too? FREDDY AND THE SPACESHIP, found by chance one hot summer’s day when the Bookmobile made it to my remote neighborhood, was my point of entry into whole worlds of wonder! Though I think I liked Freddy’s pal Jinx the Cat better than Freddy himself. Once, in Fourth Grade, we had to give oral book reports and I did one of a Freddy book… only to discover later that every other kid in the room was completely confused by what the heck was I even talking about, because they had misheard Jinx as Mr. Jinks, the cat on TV in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons who “hated meeces to pieces,” and assumed I was somehow slipping in a review of a cartoon under the guise of a book report.

        • The Freddy books were awesome … and they sneaked in all sorts of humorous bits, like the names of the owners of the local music store – Beller and Rohr, if memory serves. And Jinx the cat was also pretty awesome. There was a scene withy Jinx working out in the North Pole Santa gymnasium where he was admiring himself in the mirror and slathering some kind of gunk on his bald spot … no, I did not make this up! I remember it, very clearly!

    • hlvogel

      Unlike Geoff, I don’t remember the name of my small town librarian, but when I asked her for science fiction recommendations she handed me the Foundation Trilogy. She wasn’t a science fiction fan, but she knew what science fiction fans liked to read.

      Mrs. Hammond, the librarian throughout my years in grade school, first put me onto Alexander Key as well as the Danny Dunn series.

  26. Jared Anders

    See, me, I actually love the job I’m supposed to be doing instead of the propaganda BS she’s doing.

    One of the best parts about working in a library is recommending books for people to read. Except, to actually get them coming back, you have to recommend stuff *they’ll* actually like to the best of your ability.

    I’ve recommended all kinds of different books for people, including books I personally didn’t like.

    Heck, when I was still just a shelver (and about 22 or so) I had a couple of girls, probably around 14 or so, come up and ask me to recommend some teen romances for them. I managed not to outwardly laugh at the idea that I would be a good resource for that particular question, and directed them to a few authors who I knew were popular because I was constantly putting them back on the shelf.

    I’ve even recommended the sort of stuff that normally wins the Hugo’s, not because I’ve liked them recently, but because from what the patron said they’d like that kind of thing.

    Libraries have to make decisions about what gets bought and what doesn’t, sure, but they are failing as libraries if they are making those decisions on political or message lines.

    I can’t stand Scalzi’s stuff, but not for a nanosecond would I argue that we shouldn’t have his books in my system. Now, we don’t need as *many* copies of his stuff as say, Jim Butcher, but that is directly because of how popular they are in our area, not because of anything either author puts or doesn’t put in their work.

  27. Pat Patterson

    Are librarians influenced by curriculum supervisors at major universities?
    I think I read somewhere about a book about a girl that was recommended by curriculum supervisors.
    She’s just a good little girl at the beginning of the book, but she works her way up to become Empress of the WHOLE WORLD! Almost unbelievable, isn’t it?

  28. I was blessed as a child. I was served by one of the finest small city libraries in the country, and with librarians who cared enough to help me find what I was looking for rather than what they thought I should read.

    I was out of the children’s stacks on my 10th birthday, bearing the great and mighty sword of the red stamp that said “Access” across the pale blue of my children’s card.

    When I turned 14 and could get an adult card, I fondly remembering the librarian asking “Why bother?” — and my replying “It’s symbolic” and she smiled so big.

    I wish, oh how I wish that they had had more time to talk, to direct me out of my little nooks and corners of SF and electronics and maths and physics and point out that I would have vastly more access to information if I used part of the time to learn another language, if they had introduced me to history and archeology 10 years before I discovered it. When I complained that I had read-out section X, the Y they pointed at was almost always associated rather than related… a twist instead of a jump. Oh well.

    As recently as 20 years ago, my children had the same experience. My neighbors kids inform me that the same library is still the same welcoming place filled with helpful people who love their jobs.

    Most people work hard and are honest. There aren’t enough supervisors in the universe to ensure that every craftsman makes good solid square joints, weighs honest weight, tightens the bolts tight. Librarians are no different. There are horrible ones, as there are carpenters and teachers and auto mechanics, and dare I say it? novelists. But MOST do their level best. Some, like the woman herein cited, sadly produce their best while failing a moral bar that one wishes she could leap. How sad.

  29. Marty

    Doctorates (using their own work a subject
    I’ll note that Rebert B. Parker wrote his first Spencer novel as his Phd thesis. I don’t know if he ever taught “creative writing” but he sure wrote a ton of books that were very enjoyable reads. And, I read many, if not most, of them.

  30. I was lucky to grow up in a small town and have a small town library half a block from my house, mainly due to access, but also lucky in that they didn’t have the budget to make a lot of purchases and so held onto their old books longer than I’ve noticed is the custom (now that my small town is a small city I find the library has a much larger budget and turns over books at a faster pace, but that could just be an anomaly, I don’t know). And why was that important to me? Because the older books were better.

    In the eighties most new books for kids weren’t for kids, they were for girls, and even the ones that were ostensibly for boys weren’t exactly for boys (with exceptions like Gordon Korman, but as a general rule I’d say that holds water), they were for those boys’ mothers, as in books Mom would like you to read and you would rather not.

    But the old books? Had normal boys being normal boys, going on adventures, doing stupid but fun stuff, experimenting, solving crimes, being something to aspire to and enjoy reading about.

    It was a small town library though so even with those good older books I ran out of things to read when I hit twelve as there was a summer reading program and I wanted to set a record that would never be touched, 132 official (rules were each book had to be by a different author and if I liked an author I’d end up reading all of their books) books later I was done with the kids section and onto the adult section.

    And it wasn’t because I’d read everything but because I’d had to read the newer books in order to set that record. Even then I knew the books had gone wrong and more than half left me with a sour taste in my mouth which I wouldn’t be able to articulate for years.

    So, I read the adult section voraciously, until I’d read just about everything of the older books that I might have liked and started trying out new books. Most of which were explicitly not for me, though that was more down to the librarian chasing the majority of their readers and I was not of the majority (middle-aged women). But again I noticed that even the few that were intended explicitly for me were not really for me, they were anti-me, as in if ever a character in a book believed as I did (conservative libertarian), or looked as I look (6’1 blonde hair, blue-eyed, broad shouldered, absolutely gorgeous), that person would be either the villain, or at the beginning of a redemption cycle. As if being me was something to apologize for, to be ashamed of, and to grow out of.

    I let my library card lapse and if I hadn’t found Baen, I’m honestly not sure I would have started up reading again (and I read much more than Baen, I’m just saying Baen was my entry back into reading, not that it was the end point).

    That all said, I didn’t detect any malice or agenda pushing on the part of the librarians, not at all like the librarian in Mr. Freer’s story, no, what I saw actually kind of frightens me more: That the weight of the publishing industry, the push of the authors, and the tastes of the librarians (who at least in my small town were all middle aged mothers) colluded to accidentally produce an environment that wasn’t conducive to getting boys to read, in fact I might even say it was actively obstructive to boys reading.

    Steve

  31. Librarians in the Seattle Public Library seem most concerned about making sure the Homeless choose THEIR facilities to urinate in (And I don’t mean in the bathrooms) and to make sure that the internet computers provide full and unfettered access to all the porn the patrons can find (And if you complain that the screens are visible from the children’s reading area, they will call the cops on you. Even those screens that narrow the field of view are not to be mentioned.)

  32. I went to a small private school for my elementary grades. The library was little, but the stock was great. I read all the boy (and girl) mysteries and even a complete (I think) set of Tom Swift. I also read a wonderful and poignant story called David and the Phoenix. I didn’t remember much of the adventures, but I do remember the part where the Phoenix had David help him gather things that were eventually going to be used for his Pyre (without telling him the purpose). For the longest time I didn’t know the title, since none of the words in the title are exclusive enough to search on, but eventually I found it on Amazon, and the reviews showed I wasn’t alone in my memories.

    At one time we got catalogs from Scholastic Book Services. I don’t remember all the books I got, although I’ve always been curious about one I didn’t. My sisters also got some fun books from the library like “Half Magic” (There was another book of a similar theme where they had a trick illustration on both sides of the page, and you held it up to the light to see the result. Try THAT with an e-Book!).

    • I had never heard of David & the Phoenix until David Weber had Honor Harrington reading it to the children.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I hadn’t heard about until the cover of one of the Honor books showed Honor holding it. Oh as Jasini said, David Weber had Honor reading from it.