Shelf Life

Why we still need librarians

Bill Radke Apr 13, 2010
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Shelf Life

Why we still need librarians

Bill Radke Apr 13, 2010
HTML EMBED:
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: Google is still waiting for a federal judge to decide whether the company can create a digital library and bookstore. Google wants to scan millions of books from libraries around the world and make all that information digital and searchable. Which makes you wonder, if the future of book-searching is on the Internet, does that mean the end of the line for librarians? Let’s ask author Marilyn Johnson. Her book about librarians is called “This Book Is Overdue.” Marilyn, good morning.

Marilyn Johnson: Good morning.

Radke: Is the librarian a dodo bird?

Johnson: Goodness, no. We need librarians more than ever now.

Radke: How so?

Johnson: Well you know, you say that Google would be a substitute for librarians, but librarians are in charge of our public computers.

Radke: And yet, where there’s government support, that support’s being taken away, isn’t it?

Johnson: Yes, it is eroding at an alarming rate, and I point you only to the libraries of Philadelphia, which are hanging on by a thread. People cut it thinking, “Oh goodness, this is just a luxury.” It is not a luxury. We’re falling behind as a country in t he digital age. We need to be empowered, we need those computers, we need training in them and we need people to help us.

Radke: What’s an example of how I still need that human touch?

Johnson: What if you don’t know how to ask that question? What if you are asking the wrong question? What if the Google prompt that says, “Did you mean to say this?” doesn’t come up? If you go to search “bootyism,” you get a whole lot of responses on “bootys.”

Radke: Hahaha. I was thinking “Buddhism,” actually.

Johnson: Haha, yes, well you would make a good librarian.

Radke: Haha. So you’re a high school counselor Marilyn, and a student says, “I’m thinking of going into library sciences.” You say:

Johnson: Yes. Hahahaha. Well you know, every profession is hurting right now, and that’s another way librarians are being so extraordinarily helpful. More people getting job counseling and being hooked up with job services in the libraries these days. They are helping put this country back to work. They’re the ones who need stimulus money.

Radke: Marilyn Johnson’s new book is called “This Book Is Overdue.” Thank you.

Johnson: Thank you, Bill.

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