For Library Lovers

Don’t fear that the library is going the way of the dinosaur. Check out the links below to see why everyone from the ALA to national media loves their libraries, and how book lending will adapt in the digital era.

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Libraries and Literacy: Vital to Life

Will the Library Disappear?

The University Library of the Future

The Future of Libraries: Interview with Thomas Frey

The ALA Speaks Out on the Issue of Digital Content Lending

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Indie Groundbreaking Book

Indie Groundbreaking Book: Extra-Help Librarians

Bizarre but Unique Book Takes a Detailed Glance at the World of the Library

Library enthusiasts, pay attention: Extra-Help Librarians: A Guide for Success at Public, Academic, and School Libraries, published by Open Vista Press, might just be the most detailed and exhaustive manifesto ever written about the American library system. Penned in non-flashy but endlessly informative prose by writer Celma de Faria Luster, Extra-Help Librarians is essentially a case study into the profession of the librarian. The titular “extra-help librarian” refers to the beginning, part-time or auxiliary employees who help to staff public or academic libraries in the case of other staff absences, though the book goes far beyond “beginner” levels of detail. In other words, Extra-Help Librarians is more than a comprehensive guidebook for those looking to enter the library profession: it’s thoroughly essential for those who want nothing more than to work in a library for the rest of their lives, but a bit of a niche product for anyone else. Even the book’s cover, a spartan orange and white design, makes the proceedings feel more like an academic thesis than a mass-produced independent publication.

All of that would be enough to make Extra-Help Librarians our groundbreaking book for the month. After all, how many professions are outlined so precisely, down to the specific task, as the librarian’s work is here? One can easily see Luster’s book becoming the librarian bible, with a copy in every book-bound cathedral from one coast to the other. However, what makes Extra-Help Librarians fascinating to outsiders is its pure reverence for the concept of the library in general. In a society obsessed with money and material possession, the fact that libraries even still exist is a bit mind-blowing. That there is still a place for people to go read, reference, review, and borrow books, magazines, films, and other forms of entertainment or documentation, goes against virtually every other modern trend. And it is all propped up by the librarians, the professionals who devote their lives to books, to the concept of the library, and to the—at times—mind-numbing tasks of cataloging, classification, library card registration their jobs demand.

As the purpose of libraries shift in the face of the technological movement, the contents of a book like Extra-Help Librarians feel even more remarkable. With the battles between tablets and e-readers, iPads and Kindles, or epub files and mobi files playing out across the landscape of modern digital publication, many have wondered whether or not the library has become an obsolete construct. After all, bestsellers can be bought or rented from online sources, at the click of a mouse or the touch of a button, while independent authors and publishers are freely offering free promotional book downloads to drive traffic to their work. A passionate reader with a Kindle and a few memberships to the many Facebook groups offering daily downloads of free or bargain books could theoretically busy themselves with new titles for the rest of their lives and never have to visit a library.

Still though, well-operated libraries, like well-run independent bookstores, feel like home to us book lovers in a way that virtual marketplaces never will. From author signings to book clubs and other events, there is something about an old library that simply cannot be replicated or replaced by the internet. Even as record stores, video rental businesses, and big box booksellers have folded in the face of the technological revolution, libraries have, at least thus far, stood strong and resilient. Extra-Help Librarians gives us a glimpse into why that is. First, it’s because people like Celma de Faria Luster don’t just enter the library profession looking for a few years of post-college experience; they enter it because libraries are a noble and life-affirming place to work for long years at a time, which means that libraries will likely survive as long as their best employees do.

Secondly, it’s because libraries are making a conscious effort to move into a world of digitalization, even though their main product depends so thoroughly on the physical, material experience. There is an entire section in this book focused on 21st century marketing, including websites, podcasts, blogs, and social networking activity. There’s another section about the evolution of technology within the library industry, which discusses how former technological fixtures in libraries—CD rooms and listening stations, overhead projectors, video cassettes and television sets, etc.—are being replace by newer items like laptops, tablets, or eBook titles. Because libraries have no bigger agenda than serving the public, they have been able to adapt to changing technology with little fuss, and that flexibility has strengthened their durability and resilience.

It’s difficult at this point to speculate on the future of the library as a fixture in modern American society, but those who want to learn a little bit more about the librarian profession or about the book world in general will find a lot to enjoy in Extra-Help Librarians. From book awards to listservs, library catalog interfaces to book classification systems, this book covers the library world from front to back with meticulous research and journalistic reporting. It’s not the sexiest book in the world, but that hardly makes its informative swath any less groundbreaking. Check it out on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

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Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for Independent Publisher, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at manningcr953@gmail.com.


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