Science Fiction and Qualifications

Today my partner, Joe Gebis (future Ph.D.), received a box of science fiction novels from his brother in the mail. I asked him why didn’t his brother give the books to a library, rather than pay for shipping to send them here. Apparently public libraries don’t need lots of science fiction. I told him that was impossible since most librarians are nerds. He laughed and said they’d rather spend money on Rock Band. He seemed bitter, but he had a point. Of course I work in an academic library so the only frivolity I delight in are the odd articles talking about penis envy in transit operations.

Joe’s imminent graduation reminded me of something else that I meant to blog about last week- people who sign their name with their degrees. For some reason, I’m fine with Ph.D.s signing their names with their degree, but librarians who do so flag themselves as possibly pedantic. I know that’s not really fair, and I will cut slack to solo/corporate librarians working in a non-library environment, but when I get an email from somebody on campus or my branch of SLA signing off as, “H. J. Blaume, MLIS”, it annoys me. I would assume most people have the degree, or it seems to be obvious. I know when I get my next set of business cards they’ll say “Kendra K. Levine, MLIS, MSIS”. They’ll also say I’m the grand poobah of public services and probably never actually exist. I think you should be proud of getting an MLIS (no matter how easy it is), but people should detect it from your level of competence, not your email signature.

Have gamers taken over libraries?

Today Steven Cohen at Library Stuff posted an article by Dave Gibson about video games in libraries. Gibson writes:

Libraries are now offering video games and movies to children. Paula Brehm-Heeger, president of the Young Adult Library Services Association said of the new entertainment available: “Librarians are really trying to respond to teens and to keep the library relevant in their lives. Gaming programs can draw in teens that librarians don’t otherwise see.”

I suppose that literary classics, poetry, geography, and great American novels are no longer “relevant: to teenagers. Unfortunately, it appears that this country’s librarians have decided to their part in the dumbing-down of America. What has happened to this country?…All of the librarians I have known were in love with the written word and truly enjoyed opening the door to their world to young people. Perhaps, today’s crop of young librarians would be better served answering their calling as arcade attendants and movie theatre managers.

Cohen responds:

Too much of a generalization here. Not ALL librarians think video game nights in the library are a good thing (I think that they are a childish way for adults to reclaim their youth in an attempt to be a part of the cool crowd).

Jenny Levine at The Shifted Librarian commented with a link to a previous post of hers about video games in libraries.

The way I see it, there are two of issues at play here- 1. Are video games hurting our children? 2. Do video games belong in (public) libraries? To answer the first question, I would say that video games aren’t as bad for kids as people would have you believe, nor is it entirely productive to imagine a world that’s free of them. As for the second question, I don’t think that libraries need video games, but if they have the resources to develop a collection that’s fine. I largely agree with Steven, that a big part of this push for video games in libraries seems to be coming from librarians who are either gamers or struggling to stay relevant with “the kids”. I can’t really blame them, but it seems like a dangerous way to run a library. A similar situation happened in my library where we spent lots of money and time collecting material about all things maritime because one of the librarians was really enthusiastic about that mode of transport. When they retired, we reevaluated our policy and dropped a that area from our collection because it wasn’t in our scope and we wanted to focus on what our patrons actually used. I could see the same happening for video games in libraries- pushed for by a few librarians, but what happens when they leave or switch departments?

I think Jenny’s comment is quite good:

As for librarians, not everyone likes cataloging, not everyone likes reference work, not everyone likes children’s services, not everyone likes law libraries. You don’t want to do gaming, don’t do gaming.

There are all sorts in the library world and she raises a valid point. I won’t begrudge librarians who are into gaming to include it in their library services, and I also think this trend will continue. I’m probably not in the best place to worry too much about gaming in libraries since I’ve pretty much chosen to stay in academic/special libraries, and save for a few train simulators I don’t think we’ll be getting into gaming here anytime soon.