Friday, October 11, 2002

I am enraged over an online column entitled "Who Needs Librarians, Get Some Trained Monkeys." This viciousness is from Uncle Frank's Diary #10, which you may read in its moronic entirety at

Luckily, I also have a forum for expressing opinion. I wrote the author of that piece, and I'm posting a copy of my rebuttal here:

Dear Mr. Burns,

As a Library Associate, AKA clerk, AKA trained monkey, I must take umbrage with your column, "Who Needs Librarians, Get Some Trained Monkeys - Uncle Frank's Diary #10." It is attitudes like yours that continually besmirch extremely knowledgeable and skillful paraprofessionals, simply because they haven't earned that magical piece of paper with "MLS" stamped on it. Having a degree does not ensure superior customer service, and conversely being non-degreed does not indicate inferior service.

I am the only person in my entire library system, with or without an MLS, to write reviews for the Library Journal. My branch had no Reader's Advisory service until I asked for, and established it. That process included creating a training manual, generating genre lists, and training other "monkeys" and volunteers to work with the patrons. The reference librarians, a lovely group of MLS-clad professionals, were using outdated, outmoded genre lists until I supplied them with mine. They are understaffed and overworked, and consequently are appreciative of the assistance that clerks provide.

Furthermore, when a patron comes into my library with one or two words of a title, no author, a vague memory of plot or perhaps the color of the cover, I am the one who supplies that title. That recall doesn't come with any degree, but rather with being well read and caring enough to pursue it, which as I'm sure you are aware, is merely a personal choice, not an educational or job requirement.

As for collection development, part of my job is to research and recommend titles for leasing for my branch. I also contribute titles to the selection committee on an ongoing basis for the permanent collection, mainly because new authors are often overlooked without this bit of prodding. Cataloguing? I have found errors in our catalogue with regards to translated authors and children's books classified as adult and vice versa. Would I be doing a better job with a degree? Maybe. But I'm certainly not incapable of doing it without it, and that is the point that you don't seem to understand.

Perhaps you are simply unaware that there is a shortage of degreed librarians. My library system has recently created a new position called "Librarian Trainee" because they have had problems filling vacant librarian positions. They are being a little more conservative than the Orange County Library you cited in your piece in that clerks are only able to apply for this new position if they are currently enrolled in an MLS program and have completed at least six classes, and they do not even offer the position until they have exhausted a search for a degreed librarian. Many libraries are migrating towards unconventional methods of filling librarian positions not only to save money, but also because they have needs that cannot be met through conventional means.

Your ignorance about the capabilities of clerks is baseless yet all encompassing. What you obviously perceive as intellectual elitism is actually just a prejudicial smear against those who haven't had a formal education through the graduate level. The virulence you spew not only hurts paraprofessionals, but also contributes to the negative stereotyping of professional librarians as being conservative, resistant to change, superior and smug.

Do you even see the delicious irony here? The patrons that use the library, the very ones you feel are too ignorant to know they are receiving this inept service, lump all of us together. To the overwhelming majority of the public, everyone who works in a library is a librarian.

I have no tolerance for prejudice or bigotry of any type. Personally, I feel sickened to be included in any group of which you are a member.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Literary Stars Fight the Second–Novel Syndrome

Everyone nurses a soft spot for the wunderkind—the Jonathan Safran Foer, Alicia Keys, or Harmony Korine who swoops fully formed out of oblivion and into Entertainment Weekly. The publishing industry has become as besotted with these instant prodigies as the music or fashion worlds. Where publishers once allowed a writer's voice to develop over long, wiry careers, now they're impatient for that instant payoff, the debut blockbuster.

All this mad love for the first novel could have long-term repercussions, though, dumping unrealistic expectations on the follow-up. The Second-Novel Syndrome has long been an occupational hazard in the world of letters, as authors struggle with writer's block, intense scrutiny, and the self-consciousness induced by sudden celebrity. Take Ralph Ellison, who spent more than 40 years after Invisible Man laboring over his unfinished novel Juneteenth (which Ellison's executor finally "completed" and published a few years ago). Or Harper Lee, whose output ended abruptly after she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, and who eventually became the literary equivalent of a hermit (she hasn't given an interview since 1964)... "

~~From the Village Voice Literary Supplement, Fall 2002

To read the complete article:

Thanks to Morvarn for this link.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

by Anonymous

There are many different kinds of moms in the world. Some are warm and nurturing, some strict and disciplined. Then there is the Boca mom.

It takes work and energy to become a member of this fabled group. Training begins long before marriage. It is advantageous to be born the daughter of a Boca mom, lessons learned by example make a strong impression. For those not so blessed, the task requires determination.

The right look is imperative. Hair should be lightened, or at least highlighted. The hours spent in a beauticians chair are good training for later play group gab fests. Weekly manicures and pedicures are mandatory. Nail enamel choices include a French for the extroverted and bright red for the smouldering, moody types. Should your genes have denied you long, strong fingernails, the miracle of acrylics can make up for the deficiency.

Breast argumentation is another popular procedure for increasing one's desirability. A wardrobe of tight tee shirts and sequined tube tops are required follow up to the operation. The metamorphosis can be completed with designer bags and shoes and the obligatory cell phone. A diamond encrusted model that plays the latest Broadway tunes is guaranteed to move you to the top of the trend setter list.

Dressed to kill and made up within an inch of perfection, our Boca woman is ready to become a Boca mom. All she needs now is a man. And since it is as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one, the choice is clear. The astute Boca babe will check out a mans financial statement before agreeing to the first date. This is not as callous as it may sound. The Boca man seeking the
perfect woman has already decided trophies are of greater value than intellectual discussions. Matches of this sort satisfy the wants of both parties, even if they fail to meet their emotional needs.

With a huge diamond and a band of gold securely on the left hand, the final phase begins. Working around her salon appointments and her husbands business schedule, she manages to conceive. This is when all her training is called into play.

As soon as the delivery date is known, she must set an appointment for her epidural, followed by the post birth massage and hairdressing. With that settled, she can begin to think about her child to be.

With a scant nine months before the arrival, she must organize well to accomplish all the needed tasks. First its off to the mall to register for all the high ticket baby items at the best stores. Then to the auto dealership to trade in that cramped Mercedes for a huge SUV. And in her spare time she has to interview potential nannies (no Scandinavians..they might want to sunbathe nude!), cooks, housekeepers and social secretaries. Its enough to make a woman hire a temp!

When the blessed event finally occurs and the video of the birth has been sent to everyone they know, the Boca mom can finally begin to enjoy all she has worked so hard to attain. There are story times available at bookstores and libraries. It is important to attend as many as possible so you can keep up on all the gossip. Proper attire requires you bring your cell phone to story time so everyone can gauge your importance by the number of calls you have to answer. Although the hosts believe this time is for the children, every Boca mom knows it is the perfect time to share adult conversation and compare the latest fashions. If the children miss a word or two of the
story, they can stay for the next one and hear it again. Besides, its good training for those little girls who want to grow up just like mommy!

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