A Short and Inexact History
culminating in the publication of
Revolting Librarians Redux
Jessamyn "I have a Masters degree in Librarianship" West
who is currently
attending a wedding
Library of Alexandria
First, there was the Library of Alexandria
It contained a great repository of writings from all over the world and a lot of fat and happy librarians who got to wear long flowing comfortable robes and didn't even need so-called "casual" Fridays.
The Library of Alexandria had zero public access terminals and no photocopying machine. Life was good.
Library of Alexandria, Cause Celebre
It was burned to the ground, several times, by people who hate freedom.
This was the start of the great librarian scowl, and crappy work clothes.
And, since enemies of our enemies are our friends, we now love the freedom to read.
le Dewey Dui
Dewey was a great scowler.
He was an enemy of disorder. And he liked his words spelled simply. Always erudite, he wrote this letter to his alma mater on Library Journal
"Sum day, dear Amherst, may it be my happy lot tu pruv how great iz the love I bear yu. Proud, always, everywher to be counted among yur sonz, I am Very truly, Melvil Dui."
Father of modern librarianship indeed.
le Dewey Dui
A few things could make old Melvil smile, however...
- Marrying his deceased wife's secretary
- Creative accounting with the funds of the American Library Association, the
Spelling Reform Association, and the American Metric Bureau
- Establishing a country club that didn't admit Jews and resigning rather than change club policy
- Asking female applicants to Columbia's library school to provide "descriptions and photos of their physical attributes"
Melvil brought new meaning to the phrase "the personal is political" [and I'm kidding about the smiling, I've never seen a picture of the guy smiling]
Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan
Ranganathan is considered the father of library science ... in India. Just as Dewey thought that there was one God , and all the other religions got stuffed together in the 290s, we also think there is one "Father Of Library Science" and another "Father of Library Science, Indian"
Ranganathan proposed Five Laws of Library Science which brought the idea of user services to the forefront of library discourse
- Books are for use.
- Every reader his or her book.
- Every book its reader.
- Save the time of the reader.
- A Library is a growing organism.
Ranganathan had a rich professional life unblemished by scandal, quickie resignations, unseemly affairs, or harrassment allegations at ALA conferences. He never talked smack about library patrons and would always tell them what time it was, even when he was sitting right next to the clock.
Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan, Nice Guy
And as a result, no one outside of the library profession has ever heard of Ranganathan.
Other Nice or Not-So-Nice Guys
Various upstarts -- noticing the general disconnect between the Dewey method of efficiency at all costs versus personal, human interactions with the people who keep our libraries open -- caused all manner of rabble-rousing troubles over the years. ALA-SRRT was founded.
Sometimes the troublemakers got together and -- with the help of lefty sympathist publishers and printers -- got the word out.
[And if you're looking for real history, read Toni Samek's book]
Not coincidentally, the original Revolting Librarians
was published in 1972, the year Ranganathan died.
Editor Celeste West [no relation, though Jessamyn and Katherine are sisters] was featured topless.
Authors were listed not with their affiliations but with their sun signs
Revolting Librarians Redux
We both read Revolting Librarians in our otherwise straight-laced library schools and realized that there was a life beyond learning Dialog queries and memorizing SUDOCS numbers. We learned that we could use our library superpowers for good.
We met at a SRRT meeting sitting in the back of the room making fun of an ALA presidential candidate [no one you know] roughly eight years ago.
Katia got the epiphany to do a sequel to the book while in the shower, I talked my way into it at a later date. Neither of us are topless in the book.
Revolting Librarians Redux Redux
It's a cliche, but also mostly true to say the book pretty much wrote itself.
Except for being screamed at by the occasional "special" librarian, or having to leave messages after a writer's answering machine said "Send me a rainbow...!" it was incredibly easy to corral a bunch of disgruntled information professionals into doing something helpful and useful, for no real reward other than our undying gratitude and a free copy or two.
The only editorial compromise we had to make was to substitute the word "idiot" for the word "moron" in one place. Feel free to tell us we are sellouts, we can handle it.
They tell us the book has sold a thousand copies. Thanks for showing up, even though I couldn't
[the end, or is it the beginning?]