By November 6, 2010 0 Comments Read More →

This Discussion Is Overdue!

I have been leading book discussions for nigh on thirty years but I have never had the experience of having the author sitting next to me while I was.

The Wisconsin Library Association’s Readers Advisory Section selected This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson for this year’s annual one conference one book discussion.  I am the perennial favorite to lead these discussion (i.e. no one else will do them) and I have to admit I had some reservations.  I wondered if having the author there would inhibit discussion.  Worse, would it be totally embarrassing if one of the librarians got really critical of the work?  Would I have to throw myself in front of the author to protect her from her own words?

I think this might happen with works of fiction and some narrative nonfiction.  It is why I have always shied away from having the author present during a book discussion.  I am not shy about having the author do a presentation or be interviewed but those are very different animals. 

The author, Marilyn Johnson, was the keynote speaker for the conference.  She was a wonderful speaker to open the event, being witty not only about our profession but about herself as well.  After lunch we launched into the discussion with 22 librarians in the room.

It was fine.

The reason may be that the discussion focused more on the strengths and weaknesses of the librarian-readers rather than the book.  This might be true of all book discussions whose book is so directed at the essence of the participants as this book was to those at WLA.

The issue of whether each librarian was a digital immigrant or a digital native was fun.  Another topic of discussion was the slow migration of librarians to cybrarians and the future of print and reading.  We discussed whether librarians can still be seen as the gatekeepers of knowledge.  We talked about innovative ways that librarians are branching out their library’s services. 

One interesting revelation was the thought that this book is less for working librarians and more for everyone else.  As a journalist, Johnson did a lot of research about librarianship but she also presented it in a positive and supportive way.  The discussion group felt like her effort might best be rewarded by giving a copy of this book to all those people you know who have no clue what you do every day.

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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