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  • Editors' Page
    Kathy Clarke, co-editor and Business Librarian

    Library Phobia 

    Library phobia is the syndrome whereby person entering a library becomes utterly disoriented and looses the facility to seek assistance.  Those afflicted, may be unable to formulate comprehensible questions, and thus receive crummy advice from librarians and library staff.  Sufferers who can actually formulate a question, may find themselves further confounded by answers from librarians and library staff that are doused with a good bit of library terminology.  In other words, user is confused, user canít quite get the question out, librarian trying to understand may or may not answer the question, user goes away further confused. Throw into this mix a rather confusing library building (Carrier), and you have a recipe for disaster.  We canít fix the building in this column, but we can work to alleviate the phobia.  

    I donít have official survey results to work from, but I imagine if you polled most folks who work in the library profession, you might find that many have suffered from library phobia.  In my own experience I donít think I ever asked a question of a librarian until way after I had become a librarian.  I was an insecure and inefficient library user as an undergraduate, and probably wasnít much better until the middle of my masterís degree in library science.  What the library degree did do, was take away the fear of finding out.  Once I knew (and became) a person who was trained to help, it became a lot easier to ask for help.

    Most library phobics will probably not become librarians or people who work in libraries.  With my admission, I hope to allow our users to skip that step.  Your questions may seem dumb to you, but trust me, weíve heard many crazy questions in our time, and youíve got the right to ask as many as you want.  You are not, disturbing the person whoís job it is, to answer your question, so you donít need to preface your question with an apology.  Donít leave the building, get off the phone, or stop sending email until you get the information you need.  If you donít understand, say that, and ask for clarification.  Library folk are a compassionate and understanding lot.  Not only do we get paid to understand and help you, we do this because we like it.  Ask around, you wonít find many who became librarians for the glamour or the money.  (When/if you do find some, Iíd love to meet them).  

    Now an update from the invitational from the last editorís column.  I had, two entries, both from Rebecca.  The question you will recall:  

    You are asked to think up a book that you would like to see published and submit a corresponding review.  

    The Secret Lives of Librarians.  Oryx Press, forthcoming.
    For anyone who has ever wondered what librarians do in their off hours.  Chapters cover examples of  wide ranging hobbies, such as gardening, singing opera at the Kennedy Center, and perfecting soufflť recipes. Includes bonus chapter on "what librarians really do at library conferences" with follow-up report to the controversial Will Manley survey!  

    Librarians at Home.  Phaidon, forthcoming
    Fascinating color photos by Annie Liebowitz of librarians in their home environments.  For anyone who has wanted a peek at how librarians organize their home libraries, this book demonstrates the height of perfection (handcrafted bookcases with glass doors, museum quality lighting) and the depths of the shocking (messy piles of periodicals, first editions being read in the bathtub). See the lifestyles of librarians at home to fully appreciate the lives of those who love books and those who love books too much.  An excellent companion piece to The Secret Lives of Librarians. 

    Rebecca wins the clock and my thanks to her dutiful support. 

    E-mail comments and questions to:
    clarkeke@jmu.edu

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