Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reader's Diary #1112- Jeanette C. Smith: The Laughing Librarian


As a teacher, I've often said that I don't like reading about teaching in my spare time. Not that I always want escapism (often books feature worlds and situations I'd definitely not want to escape to!) but I also don't want to feel like I'm working. But now that I'm working on my masters in library and information science, I don't feel that way at all. If it's about libraries, I say bring it on.

I won't, however, review or discuss my textbooks here. I also won't say my blog posts are unprofessional (they're not), but I certainly don't spend the time analyzing and writing about my reading for this blog that I would for my courses. I'm pretty sure no one is coming to this blog to read lengthy posts (they're barely coming for the short ones) and while I hope I've offered something of substance over the years, something provocative here or there, for the most part I try to keep the posts light and conversational.

The Laughing Librarian, by Jeanette C. Smith, feels like a textbook. I'm not sure that's what Debbie was going for when she got this one for me for Christmas and it's certainly not what I was hoping for when I first unwrapped it. Then, Smith can hardly be blamed for that. The book is not subtitled A Collection of American Library Humor. It's called A History of American Library Humor. So, while there are a few examples here or there—of comics, jokes, and so on— the book can be dry at times. Even those examples don't always help; descriptions of a cartoon is nothing on par with reading the actual cartoon.

As a textbook, it doesn't always work either. From an organizational side of things, I wish there had been more consistency. Tracing how, for instance, library humour has changed throughout the years in the face of new technologies, new library practices, and so on, could have provided a nice (albeit obvious) path to follow. While Smith addresses these changes, chapter headings that range from "Librarian Types and Stereotypes" to "MAD Magazine" to "For SEX, See the Librarian," the book felt disjointed and lacking an arc. Clearly some of those loose threads had potential to be quite interesting. I was super-happy to have a chapter devoted to MAD Magazine, but again, I wish there had been more actual clippings rather than Smith's descriptions.

Check out what this blog does with library references from the Simpsons (sadly missed by Smith). I guess I wanted something more like that. I would have settled for Humour is Important rather than Humour, but only if it had been done well.

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