Since “This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All” hit shelves last year, even more e-readers have crashed the Kindle’s party. Post-WikiLeaks, an increasingly small but uncharted world is at our fingertips — no quaint card catalog required. And thanks to cash-strapped budgets, libraries are on the verge of extinction.
Which just further proves author Marilyn Johnson’s point: Librarians are more important than ever. Tech-savvy, knowledge-obsessed, damn-the-man, access-for-all librarians are the answer to our digital world, not some relics of a musty, dog-eared past. With the paperback edition now on sale, we checked in for an update.
Your book looks at the role of librarians when it comes to information sharing. How have they responded to WikiLeaks?
It’s been controversial, of course. There was an outcry when the Library of Congress blocked WikiLeaks on its computers. Was it stolen information or information that all researchers should have access to? I think most librarians feel, if it’s out, we should have it.
Why are libraries such easy targets when the budgets come up, despite the fact that they’re even more well-used in poor economies?
Libraries are invisible to people in power. Politicians have their own research staffs and IT support and newspaper subscriptions; they don’t see how dependent the rest of us are on that shared information. How can the President talk about economic recovery and not mention libraries, where people educate themselves and search for jobs, and freelancers and small business owners work?
What was the most surprising thing you found out about librarians?
They’re funny! For instance, there are librarians who compete in book cart drills.
You previously wrote about obituary writers in your 2006 book, ‘The Dead Beat’ — what initially attracted you to these two professions?
People dismissed them as boring, and didn’t see them as individuals with varied and fascinating and occasionally dramatic jobs. People ask librarians questions all the time, but not about what they think.