For starters This Book Is Overdue is a really fun book to read the author has great chapter titles including “To the Ramparts!”, “Wizards of Odd” and “Gotham City”. This sense of fun continues throughout the book and is particularly noticeable in some of Johnson’s interviews which are as fun and interesting as they are informative. For example in the chapter “Wizards of Odd” the author interviews several librarians about their library work in Second Life, these interviews take place within the game with Johnson’s avatar exploring places like Info Island, Eresos, The Land of Lincoln, and Deadwood. All of these land featured libraries full of links to online resources on a variety of topics suited to the lands where they are found. These resources include articles and books that are available for free online, actual scans of historical documents, and a variety of other resources carefully chosen and built into their respective libraries. Further actual librarians are ready to answer questions. These librarians are either real life librarians or volunteers who have been trained to help players in the game. These virtual librarians are not the only non-conventional librarians Johnson interviews in the book.
Part of what Johnson explores in her book is what do libraries save, why is some information and material viewed as more worth preserving than others. Further how is technology changing some of this process? A lot of the book focuses on technology “The Blog People” focuses on the popularity of blogs by librarians covering several popular blogs and bloggers (including a few mentions of our professor Michael Stephens) and how varied librarians blogs can be in subject manner. Johnson has an interesting view on the popularity of librarians blogging, “Unedited and unmonitored, blogs represented a kind of free expression that librarians traditionally supported and celebrated, but had rarely taken the opportunity to practice.” (Johnson, 2010, p. 50). This is interesting because several of Johnsons interviews are conducted using only online names as some bloggers and Second Life users fear professional backlash if their names are connected to their online personas.
Privacy is a major concern throughout the book but particularly in the chapter “Big Brother and the Holdout Community” where Johnson discusses the effect of the patriot act on libraries. This chapter gives a thorough examination of the ACLU’s court case and provides interviews detailing the effects of the gag order on the librarians involved in the case. With so much of the book being a celebration of the advances in technology and the communities these advances create it is interesting to see some of the issues that accompany these advances. This also comes up in “On the Ground” where Johnson tells the story of a library switching over to a new catalog. Not only do the librarians face several days without their catalog system limiting their service to the library patrons, once the new system is up and running they still face many problems both due to technological troubles, and user error but also user greed. The final lingering problem with the new system, hold lists randomly being deleted, turned out to be unscrupulous librarians deleting the lists to move themselves or their family higher. Ultimately this book for all its focus on technology is very human, whether its librarians messing up their own system to get the hottest new books, or the communities formed through blogging and second life libraries are ultimately shaped by the librarians and the communities they serve and Johnson really captures that in this book.
Johnson, M. (2010). This book is overdue!: How librarians and cybrarians can save us all. New York: Harper.