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This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All [Hardcover]

Marilyn Johnson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 2, 2010 0061431605 978-0061431609 1
Buried in information? Cross-eyed over technology? From the bottom of a pile of paper and discs, books, e-books, and scattered thumb drives comes a cry of hope: Make way for the librarians! They want to help. They're not selling a thing. And librarians know best how to beat a path through the googolplex sources of information available to us, writes Marilyn Johnson, whose previous book, The Dead Beat, breathed merry life into the obituary-writing profession.

This Book Is Overdue! is a romp through the ranks of information professionals and a revelation for readers burned out on the clichés and stereotyping of librarians. Blunt and obscenely funny bloggers spill their stories in this book, as do a tattooed, hard-partying children's librarian; a fresh-scrubbed Catholic couple who teach missionaries to use computers; a blue-haired radical who uses her smartphone to help guide street protestors; a plethora of voluptuous avatars and cybrarians; the quiet, law-abiding librarians gagged by the FBI; and a boxing archivist. These are just a few of the visionaries Johnson captures here—pragmatic idealists who fuse the tools of the digital age with their love for the written word and the enduring values of free speech, open access, and scout-badge-quality assistance to anyone in need.

Those who predicted the death of libraries forgot to consider that in the automated maze of contemporary life, none of us—neither the experts nor the hopelessly baffled—can get along without human help. And not just any help; we need librarians who won't charge us by the question or roll their eyes, no matter what we ask. Who are they? What do they know? And how quickly can they save us from being buried by the digital age?
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In an information age full of Google-powered searches, free-by-Bittorrent media downloads and Wiki-powered knowledge databases, the librarian may seem like an antiquated concept. Author and editor Johnson (The Dead Beat) is here to reverse that notion with a topical, witty study of the vital ways modern librarians uphold their traditional roles as educators, archivists, and curators of a community legacy. Illuminating the state of the modern librarian with humor and authority, Johnson showcases librarians working on the cutting edge of virtual reality simulations, guarding the Constitution and redefining information services-as well as working hard to serve and satisfy readers, making this volume a bit guilty of long-form reader flattery. Johnson also makes the important case for libraries-the brick-and-mortar kind-as an irreplaceable bridge crossing economic community divides. Johnson's wry report is a must-read for anyone who's used a library in the past quarter century.

From Bookmarks Magazine

As book lovers themselves, reviewers happily joined Johnson in librarian hero worship. They were consistently impressed by her enthusiasm for her subject and entertained by her anecdotes about the challenges librarians face on a daily basis. Opinions differed, however, over Johnson's idea that librarians will guide us to a new era of literacy online. No one doubted the valor of Johnson's "cybrarians," but some asked if she was sufficiently critical of the drawbacks of moving information online--from the decline in American attention spans to missing the smell of a good old-fashioned binding. Enjoy this book for its look at library culture, not for its prognostications.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061431605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061431609
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marilyn Johnson is the author of three books: Lives in Ruins, about contemporary archaeologists (coming in November from HarperCollins), This Book Is Overdue! about librarians and archivists in the digital age, and The Dead Beat, about the art of obituaries and obituary writers. The Dead Beat was chosen for the Borders Original Voice program and was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award. Johnson is a former editor at Esquire and Outside magazines, and a former staff writer for Life. She lives with her family in New York's Hudson Valley.
Visit her websites at http://www. and

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, quirky but actually pretty interesting February 6, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"This Book Is Overdue" isn't going to be for everyone (and I still haven't figured out how it got saddled with that baffling subtitle), but Marilyn Johnson has done a great job of putting human faces on a profession that is often either beloved or ridiculed. The stereotype of the prim, shushing matron notwithstanding, Johnson's almost obsessive exploration of the roles, subcultures and future of librarians and librarianship in an era of shrinking budgets, digital media, cyberculture and declining readership turns out to be pretty compelling, enshrining a number of librarians who have changed their field, and in some ways, even our world.

Frequently depicting librarians as a breed apart who are nonetheless indispensable to mere mortals in search of information, no matter how arcane, she has written a book that celebrates the eccentricity and sheer diversity within their profession--a profession that in some ways is changing at breakneck speed and in others is securely rooted in tradition. Her topics veer from the librarians who sued the government, post-"Patriot" Act, to keep their patrons' records out of the hands of government spies, to avid blogger librarians, to the librarian avatars of Second Life, to the changing face of the New York Public Library, to name just a few, carrying readers along for a decidedly unconventional but fascinating ride.

I found the chapters on Radical Reference--activist librarians who take to the streets, using smart phones to dispense information--and the Second Life librarians to be particularly interesting, mainly because they represent such a departure from the traditional roles we're all familiar with.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Librarians Rule! February 14, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Being a library advocate/activist as well as an elementary school library media tech, I had such high hopes for this book. I didn't even wait for my public library to get it in, I ordered it so I could get it right away. Unfortunately, I have to say this book did not measure up to my expectations. I loved what it was trying to do . . . show how important and relevant librarians have been and continue to be, but I found this book kind of . . . boring. It was mostly anecdotes of the author's experiences while researching this book. While some were interesting and I did learn some interesting things about librarians, I wanted more of a point and a focus to this book . . . not just a librarian rave but more about the importance of libraries in general--with points I could use in my letter writing campaigns to politicians and school boards on why libraries need to be funded and staffed adequately. So, while I'm glad someone had the idea to create a book like this, I just wish it would have been stronger.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Libraries and Librarians are as Vital as Oxygen February 4, 2010
I abandoned libraries long ago because I was convinced they were for senior citizens, for those on fixed incomes, for those who didn't have access to computer technology, and for book-loving kids whose schools had lost afer-school programs to budget cuts and personnel losses. Since I didn't fit into any of those categories I paid little attention to libraries. However, libraries came slightly back into my consciousness when the patriotism Act hit the headlines and we learned that librarians were not only defending "us", their reader/patrons, but defending our rights as well. This book is wonderfully reported yet far from encyclopedic. It is not limited to the crisis in libraries as it embraces many engaging voices and points of view (the author's not least among them). Just two examples: The Second Life chapter was riveting and comical (plus clearly explained an aspect of cyber world that's moving almost too fast to comprehend); and the stories of St. John's University's Rome campus, and what's happening there on behalf of literacy, social justice and international outreach, were so moving they deserve a book of their own (and maybe a movie). These people are FIERCE.
Andrew Carnegie, the "patron saint" and architect of the public library system would've bought this book (ideally, he would've bought many copies and then given them all away). He would've laughed, and winced, and been both alarmed and grateful. He would've been entertained, enlightened, and come away knowing more than he did when he started. In that, it perfectly fulfills a book's mission. Libraries and librarians are as vital as oxygen. In this time of great and sometimes scary transition (for books, for writers, for readers, and for the very concept of community), this is the book they (and we) deserve.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't Meet Expectations February 11, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I want to make sure people understand that my review is not a reflection of my opinion of librarians (I worked in a library for nearly five years). I gave the book two stars because it is poorly organized, and it did not focus on librarians the way I expected. I found the title to be misleading. I was looking forward to reading about librarians who have helped shaped the history of libraries, and secure their future in the world of technology. Instead the author sensationalized librarians by discussing topics like librarians who enjoy swearing or the way they dress. Overall, I thought this book was huge disservice to librarians. I was hoping the author would take the task of writing this book more seriously than she did.

I've often wondered what would happen to libraries in a world with instant online access, so I selected this book with high expectations. Marilyn Johnson begins with a brief historical example and an explanation of how librarians have helped libraries (and, especially, their patrons) adapt to this ever-changing online environment.

The first few chapters are full of stories from librarians illustrating their invaluable knowledge that a computer alone cannot provide. For example, librarians helping the unemployed create resumes (usually people who have never even heard of resumes), or making themselves available to answer questions 24/7 through web blogs.

The chapter, Big Brother and the Holdout Company, was extremely disturbing. I didn't know about the gag-order on the librarians during the Patriot Act debate, until I read this book. If you value your privacy, you will find this case very relevant...if you live in the States, that is.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A surprising book in that it covers quite a bit of ground
A surprising book in that it covers quite a bit of ground . Topics range from protecting civil liberties, copy write, freedom of the press, Second Life by Linden Labs, cyber... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Reg Nordman
2.0 out of 5 stars Information lacking
When I ordered this, I was totally unaware that it was a previous library copy.
I want to know something about the book rather than how great the seller is
or how fast... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sandra I.
1.0 out of 5 stars Great Subject, Bad Bad Writing
I really like libraries, so I hoped I would enjoy this book. What a disappointment. The writer uses a breathless, wondrous, cloying style that I found hard to read. Read more
Published 16 months ago by pr22210
5.0 out of 5 stars Daughter wanted this book and loves it!
My daughter is getting her degree in Library and Information Services and thinks this book is wonderful. I purchased it as a Christmas present for her.
Published 18 months ago by Patti Lehigh
5.0 out of 5 stars Lot of Fun; Unexpected Aspects of Librarianship Exposed
I haven't finished reading this, but so far, so fun.much. Different aspects of--and opportunities for--cybrarianship have been eye-opening. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Helen Athey
5.0 out of 5 stars fun read
I am a Masters of Library Science grad student & I absolutely loved this book. What a fun read for all.
Published 19 months ago by Mary Sanphilipo Ward
2.0 out of 5 stars twice tried, twice failed
I LOVE the library, and I really tried to like this book. I first received the print copy, read the first several chapters, and just found the book could not keep my interest. Read more
Published 20 months ago by David Evans
3.0 out of 5 stars Adventures of a library groupie
As a recent MLIS graduate and new library professional, I approached this book with the anticipation that I would read a book that would serve as a standard bearer for my... Read more
Published on January 2, 2012 by BOB
3.0 out of 5 stars Good information, poor style
It was a real struggle for me to get through this book, as the people I work with can attest. I'm a young librarian myself, and I'm still acclimating myself to the wide world of... Read more
Published on December 17, 2011 by Eddie Bismarck IV
4.0 out of 5 stars A big fan of libraries and their staff
No, I'm not a librarian but I am a fan! This book is fun and just the right amount of quirky. Bless these people who are the original information sages!
Published on August 27, 2011 by Lostin24
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