The Annoyed Librarian

This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas.

And I’m not, but I’ll be playing him today! Today’s show features one of the show’s most-requested interviewees the show has ever had: the Annoyed Librarian. However, the AL likes his/her/their/it’s anonymous nature, so would only agree to an email interview.

This episode is a dramatization of that email conversation, featuring Steve’s sister AnnMarie (that’s me) as the Annoyed Librarian and his brother-in-law Tony…

That’s me!

…as Steve.

When you search for “Annoyed Librarian”, Google autofills “Annoyed Librarian identity”, so obviously a lot of people are interested in who you really are. Are you still not Meredith Farkas? Are there any other librarians you would like to deny being?

People prefer even minor mysteries to banal truths.

…so you MIGHT be Meredith Farkas?

Oh, please. [said dismissively]

You discuss newsworthy topics in the same way Jon Stewart does, with a sarcastic attitude and viewpoint, while covering the basic ideas behind the issues you’re talking about. Why do you think so many librarians like him but hate you?

The AL’s one of the most popular library blogs around, so there can’t be that many librarians who really hate it.

To what do you attribute your blog’s great success? Any library blogs you follow that you’d recommend to others?

In every post I try to give readers something interesting or fun to read. Sometimes I even succeed. As a pseudonymous blog, the AL has never been about self-promotion. It’s always been about entertaining, informing, or challenging readers. Some people like it, some don’t, but I try to give even the librarians who don’t like the blog something to think about. One of my favorite things to read is, “I don’t normally agree with the Annoyed Librarian, but….” It’s a sign of an open mind, and all librarians should have open minds.

I haven’t been reading a lot of library blogs lately. I’ve been keeping up with library news via other social media and the generosity of kind readers.

The people who dislike you never give you credit when you do defend libraries, as you often do. Why do you think that is?

I can’t begin to judge the motives of people who get so emotionally worked up over a blog.

You’ve been at Library Journal for almost five years. What’s the difference between working for a Big Time Publication and blogging on your own, other than the giant money bin in which you swim?

The goal of the AL has always been to challenge complacent views and introduce points of view that might me unfamiliar to some librarians. That hasn’t changed. So it’s mostly the giant money bin.

You seem to have a special place in your heart of hearts for librarians you used to call twopointopians. Has the population of Twopointopia become refugees in the ALA Think Tank?

The ALA has a Think Tank? I find that amusing. I don’t know where the twopointopians have gone. I assumed I mocked them out of existence.

ALA Think Tank is an informal group, not officially affiliated with ALA. They have a FB page so you know they’re legit. I’m a member, but you know what Groucho Marx had to say about that…

If that’s where all the twopointopians have moved, I might have to check it out. I always need something to blog about and I haven’t had a good twopointopian post since the last time a librarian could say “Library 2.0” with a straight face, and that’s been a while.

What do you think about the Movers & Shakers list, as a general concept? Does it promote the right types of people in the profession?

I haven’t read all the lists, but when I do look through them it seems most of the librarians are being recognized for extraordinary activities that benefited their library communities in some way, along with the occasional librarian who has merely made a lot of noise through social media. It’s good to shine a spotlight on librarians who are working to improve their libraries rather than just promote themselves.

Do you think the AL will ever be acknowledged as either a Mover or a Shaker?

The AL has definitely been an influential voice in the profession over the past few years, but I’d rather see the award go to librarians who have made improvements in their libraries or communities.

You’ve written in the past about the poor state of library school education. What would you like to see changed about the way librarians are educated and trained?

I don’t think library education can be improved much. There are too many competing interests: library schools that want money, LIS professors who want to research anything but libraries, and LIS students who are potentially preparing for professions both inside and outside of librarianship.

Would you agree with former LJ editor-in-chief Michael Kelly that an apprenticeship model would be more appropriate for librarian education?

I know the apprenticeship model works for some library jobs because I know good librarians who have never been to library school. But I think there’s no model that would work for every library job, so library schools cobble curricula together as best they can. The ones with the biggest variety of classes probably do the best.

You seem to delight in catching the profession when its values clash in uncomfortable ways, like the OIF having to publicly defend pornography, which ends up getting you odd allies like Dan Kleinman from Do you relish the fact that that makes you even less liked by a certain population of librarians?

I neither relish nor not relish. I couldn’t care less whether “a certain population of librarians” likes the AL or not. I don’t write for those people. On this issue, I write for the librarians who don’t want creepy guys surfing Internet porn around children. If “a certain population of librarians” can’t distinguish between that and genuine freedom of speech, that’s their problem.

Do you think these librarians are just ignoring common sense in the course of defending their ideals?

Instead I think they’re NOT defending their ideals. They’re just mouthing ALA platitudes to avoid thinking about controversial issues. They’re confusing not wanting creepy guys surfing Internet porn in front of children with the repression of “Constitutionally protected speech.” It just makes libraries look bad when librarians can’t take a stand against Internet porn for children because they don’t want to offend the perverts surfing porn in public libraries with children passing by.

Whenever the day comes when you retire, will you allow some young librarian straight out of library school to take over your pseudonymous reins or will you burn Library Journal down on your way out?

I doubt some young librarian straight out of library school could write the blog. It takes a certain jaded knowingness. On the other hand, it might be appropriate if the Annoyed Librarian became an institution that transcended any individual person. For all you know, it has already.

To end on a somewhat-positive note, what annoys you the least about librarians? What’s the best thing libraries provide to the communities they serve?

Librarians in general are among the nicest, least selfish people you’ll ever meet. They promote literacy and facilitate the enjoyment and appreciation of books, music, and film in their communities, and that’s always a good thing.