Friday, June 29, 2012

Open Letter to the Book V Blogger who sparked ARCGate

Paper Back Book Rage
Paperback Book Rage by Daven from Le Rage Comics

The Library communities response in #ARCgate bothered me. Not necessarily because of anything any one person said or did, but because of the whole climate it created. More then that I don't think any one really reached out to the creator of the video that set the whole thing off. Instead we just debated about whether ALA was just for librarians or not. I went back and found the video creators blog and I read her posts and about her. After looking at her post, and the other content I'd seen posted I decided that the best thing would be to write her myself. I'm posting it as an open letter because I hope that in the future rather then tearing people down, we can actually connect to them. I know I wish I had written the author of the Forbes piece. I'll be emailing the blogger a copy of my letter as well.

Dear Lola,

I don’t know if you noticed, but your Youtube video caused a bit of a stir on the internet yesterday. In fact, the brouhaha over that did something that the #SCOTUS kerfuffle couldn’t, it made me turn off twitter for the day. If being the target of librarian rage, has left a bad taste in your mouth whenever you hear the words “Dewey Decimal” or look at your library card, I’d like to apologize on behalf of librarians.

Actually I'm writing this letter to try and recruit you into the club. A mere three years ago I was like you: I loved books and bookselling (also at Borders). I was putting my toe in the pool of book blogging; and all I knew about librarians was that you needed a master’s degree to be one and they got paid way more for work that was analogous to what I was doing. It was around the time we were hand selling, The Angle’s Game, that I was driving home and had an epiphany. I knew that I wanted to work with books, and I realized librarianship was the key to doing it. As I did research into what Librarianship was, I realized it involved lots of other great stuff in addition to books, and was a bit more involved and much more fun than I had previously imagined (see recommended reading at the bottom).

That moment, which almost caused me to have a car accident, is why I was a bit disappointed in both our profession’s reaction to your video and in your blog post about ALA. You don’t really mention the most important part of ALA in that post, the librarians. I know for you it was a book conference, and a nifty one at that, but for many librarians ALA is a Hajj. You have to realize how tremendously privileged to have the opportunity to go to ALA. There are many library school students and recent library school graduate who sell a non-vital organ, maybe even part of a vital one, to go to ALA (myself included). Finding librarianship as a calling changed my life forever, and I feel like your ALA experience was a missed opportunity for you to discover the same amazing career I did. My fear is that now curmudgeonly librarian blogging and associated twitter storm may have made it impossible for you to find the same amazing profession I did.

I’ve had the opportunity, over the last year and a half, to become an active participant in the professionalization of myself and others into librarianship through my involvement in Hack Library School. I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you into our profession, and what a wicked cool profession it is.

Your passion for YA Lit makes you perfect for the job of Youth Services Librarian, which is one of the largest growth areas in our profession. Librarians are working hard to stay relevant, and while our user demographics are muddling along, libraries have seen a surge in young users . Imagine getting paid a decent salary, getting good benefits, and being able to turn young people on to the books you love, every single day. Sounds great doesn’t it?

I see you have a lot of great recommendations and reviews on your blog. How does writing reviews for a magazine like Publishers Weekly, or Library Journal sound? You won’t even have to go to conferences to grab hot ARCs, you’ll have them sent to you. Librarians are both literally and figuratively well paid and well respected book bloggers. Plus libraries looking for people with social media skills and blogging, and it looks like you have them. If you like reading and writing about books you don’t have to struggle to find a way to make that work, you have already found it; librarianship.

Even if you decide that you don’t want to spend your days helping people to find the books they’re looking for, just like when you were a bookseller, you can do a lot of other really interesting work with a degree in library science. Librarians work; doing legal research, gathering open source intelligence at the CIA, finding patents for major chemical and software firms, digitizing medical records, data mining, website usability, classifying items to make usable, and literally doing a million other things outside of libraries.

Plus there’s a whole side of ALA that you didn’t see full of secret librarian type meetings consisting of professional development, ALA governance and planning, and networking opportunities. My point is; given that you loved ALA, are a former bookseller, and write great reviews, you should become a librarian. But how would one go about doing that? Well unfortunately you probably have to get a Master’s Degree in Library Science (MLS, or a similar degree). If you don’t have a B.A. already don’t worry, enjoy that process, study whatever you want, we’ll still be here when you’re done. Picking out a program can be tough. Fortunately we have a series on our blog where we review our programs. I liked mine a lot. It’s far away from California, but the opportunities were amazing.

After getting into library school, I am sure as adventurous person as you, will have lots of opportunities. There are often both paid and unpaid gigs while you’re in library that will offer you the opportunity to develop into the amazing librarian I know you can be. It might not be easy, but I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Remember even if you choose a part time or distance route your satisfaction with your degree will be prevalently determined by the size of your network, so go out for the occasional dinner or drink with your peers. After Library School finding a job can be tough, but their definitely out there. According to a Library Journal Survey only 6.7 percent of recent graduates are unemployed that’s about half of recent MBA’s or MA’s in journalism.

Anyway, I hope that you decide to join us in the library. Not just because you’re a great write who’s passionate about books, but because we could always use some more young and adventurous people in our profession. I hope that this letter finds you well, and that you aren’t too mad at librarians for their reaction to your video.
Best wishes,


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