Monday, October 20, 2008

All Things Readerly

In another life, I was a librarian. "NO!" you say. How could it be? Well yes, this self-described nerd with glasses was a librarian. Not really in another life. It was this life, just a bunch of years ago. And I wasn't really a librarian, but a Librarian's assistant.I remember when I got the job, my mom told me that finally my wardrobe would be put to good use. She accused me of dressing like a librarian before I even got that job. I worked in the local history room of a public library. As far as jobs go, it was pretty damn cool. Libraries are wonderful "public trust" institutions that cater to the needs of the community. Even though I worked in the local history room, everyone had to do time at the main reference desk. I helped little kids with homework, divorcees with legal questions, new drivers with internet directions, anything you can think of asking someone, I probably got asked.

A public library is a place where you can go to hang out even if you aren't interested in books. Believe me, many people used it as a way to loiter without loitering. Homeless folks would come to find a seat or air conditioning or heat; whatever the case may be. Bizarre people come into the library and ask questions you would never have thought you'd have to deal with, such as, "Do you have any books about retarded girls? Like with pictures in them?" or "Why is this novel about Jesus in the "fiction" section? It's a TRUE STORY." I made purchases for the religion, history, philosophy, and self-help sections for the library. I bought a few Satanic books (you know, to give some balance to the section) and people would hide them above the super-tall shelves so that nobody would check them out and get all Satanic or whatever. I bought more copies of those books than any other! Their plan was to stop the spread of Satanism, and here I was tossing more cash at those Satanist authors.

While there I learned a lot about local history, genealogy, the amazing thing that is interlibrary loan (any book you want in the world can be yours!), and I also learned a lot about my neighborhood. I recommend it if you are looking for a job that keeps you intellectually stimulated, that makes you feel like you are doing an important service to your community, that is different every day. Really, contrary to popular belief, public libraries are not boring at all.

So today's post is about reading, libraries, and keeping endangered publications alive. Check out these links:

Anarchist Librarians is a blog/site about socially responsible libraries and librarians. They host book fairs, explore issues of book banning and government use of library records in "terrorist" searches. A great site that's been running a long time.

Radical Reference
is a site run by volunteer librarians committed to social justice. If you have a information needs, they provide research services like a reference desk would.

Free Books!

I am a devout keeper and re-reader and underliner of books, so I prefer to buy them and have them on a shelf. It's almost like a form of book worship. They are living things to me, almost. Changing over time. I will find sometimes that I totally disagree with my comments in the margins written years ago. I will find new passages to love that I overlooked before. But, some people don't hoard books like I do. Some read a novel and send it on its way to the Library donation or in a garage sale, or worse, just to a dark corner of a garage. If you want to be free from cumbersome (try moving with a ton of books...not much fun) books but still be a reader and save some cash, try You can swap books with people for just the price of postage. Post a list of books you are willing to send out, and look for a book you would like. You can even keep it if you want. There's this "credits" economy you got to keep track of in order to request more books, but as long as you are circulating books, you should be fine.

Free Audio Books!


LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.

Also, If you love Bitch Magazine like I do, please read (reprinted from their website):

"First the bad news: The print publishing industry as a whole is staring into a void. Across the board, newsstand magazine sales are in a slump, subscriber numbers are down, and paper and postal costs continue to rise. But it’s not magazines like US Weekly or Vogue that you’ll see disappearing from the newsstands—they have the parent companies and the resources to weather industry ill winds. It’s the small, independent magazines like Bitch that will disappear, because the odds are already stacked high against us.

Subscribe! Send subscriptions to friends! Buy a subscription for your academic department! Donate! This magazine makes me happy every month. Do it for feminism. For bitchery. For me.

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