Friday, February 26, 2010

Librarian, cybrarian appreciation is 'Overdue'

By Craig Wilson, USA TODAY

Who knew librarians had become so ... cool? [Well, of course...]

Marilyn Johnson is the author of the new This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All..., a humorous, unabashed love letter to the men and women who used to toil quietly in stacks but now circulate in cyberspace.

"They're smart and they're funny and they totally get it," says Johnson, whose respect for librarians grew tenfold when she was researching The Dead Beat, her acclaimed 2006 book on obituaries and obit writers. "They're not saints, but ethically and morally and every other good way, they're professionals. They're good people."

And possibly endangered.

"It turns out this is a good time to point out that we're shooting ourselves in the foot if we let these people go from our lives," says Johnson, 55, who lives in New York's Hudson Valley. "We need them more than ever."

The reasons are simple and multiple: "The middle class is squeezed and needs libraries more, information is multiplying at an alarming rate so we need librarians more, and the jobless are streaming to libraries in droves," she says.

Overall, the use of public libraries is up by 6% over last year, according to the Library Journal, while states and municipalities are drastically cutting back on aid to libraries, causing many to close. New York has just proposed its fifth cut to state library spending in two years. Ohio libraries were threatened with up to 50% cuts in aid last summer before thousands of patrons protested to legislators, who then cut state funding by 18%.

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