This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All

This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All

by Marilyn Johnson


$14.69 $14.99 Save 2% Current price is $14.69, Original price is $14.99. You Save 2%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, March 29

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061431616
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/25/2011
Series: P. S. Series
Pages: 282
Sales rank: 530,369
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Marilyn Johnson is the author of This Book Is Overdue!, about librarians and archivists in the digital age, and The Dead Beat, about the art of obituaries and obituary writers. The Dead Beat was chosen for the Borders Original Voice program and was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award. Marilyn lives in New York's Hudson Valley. Visit her at

Hillary Huber is a multiple Audie Award finalist, an AudioFile Earphones Award winner, and an AudioFile Best Voice. She has recorded close to three hundred titles, spanning many genres.


Briarcliff, New York

Place of Birth:

St. Louis, Missouri


B.A., University of Pennsylvania; M.A., University of New Hampshire

Table of Contents

1 The Frontier 1

2 Information Sickness 13

3 On the Ground 31

4 The Blog People 49

5 Big Brother and the Holdout Company 67

6 How to Change the World 87

7 To the Ramparts! 105

8 Follow That Tattooed Librarian 123

9 Wizards of Odd 133

10 Gotham City 171

11 What's Worth Saving? 213

12 The Best Day 245

Epilogue 253

Acknowledgments 263

Notes 267

Select Bibliography 277

What People are Saying About This

Pete Dexter

“To those who have imagined a dalliance with a librarian—and there are millions of us—Marilyn Johnson’s new book, chocked as it is full of strange, compelling stories, offers insight into the wildness behind the orderly facade of the humans who are at the controls of our information.”

Nora Rawlinson

“Johnson does for the library profession what Malcolm Gladwell did for the theory of memetics in The Tipping Point.”

From the Publisher

"This is one of those books, in the vein of Mary Roach's Stiff, that tackle a big topic by taking [listeners] on a chapter-by-chapter tour of eccentric characters and unlikely locations." —-The New York Times

Christopher Buckley

“Marilyn Johnsons’s marvelous book about the vital importance of librarians in the cyber age is the very opposite of a ‘Shhhhh!’ It’s a very loud ‘Hooray!’ ever so timely and altogether deserved. Move over, Google—make way for the indispensable and all-knowing lady behind the desk.”

Mary Roach

“Johnson has made her way to the secret underbelly of librarianship, and the result is both amazing and delightful. Savvy, brave, hip, brilliant, these are not your childhood librarians. And who better to tell their stories than the sly, wise Marilyn Johnson.”

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
ChattyPat More than 1 year ago
This book is, indeed, overdue! And thank goodness, Marilyn Johnson came out with it. In this current economy, our libraries are the best thing we've got going and anything that brings them to mind, encourages visits, urges investing time in checking them out and researching their history, is of utmost value. All that besides the fact that this is a fascinating read, well written, and I hated to see it end. Fact is, I have got to buy a copy for my first read from the library :>) Anyone who loves books, enjoys libraries...this is a must have book! Enjoy it...I sure did! And will again, many times.
marilynnewyorkMM More than 1 year ago
All who care about our libraries (and those who don't, but should) need to read this book. MJ has broadened my perspective of how libraries should and do function. Frankly, she brought me into the 21st centurey, something I probably needed. Now I go for all the classes on data bases, research, etc. that our nypl has to offer. I got this book at the library but look forward to buying the paperback edition when it comes out, for which the author has promised a much needed index, which, she said at her nypl talk, we can now get on her website of the same name. The chapters on "Wizards of Odd" and "Gotham City" are worth the price of the whole book. MJ enumerates about librarians and their avatars on their "Second Life" website, which I plan to visit soon. There was so much new material in that chapter, I had to read it in two sittings. And I was much impressed with the recording of her visit to the secretive Board of Trustees meeting at the NYPL in the "Gotham City" chapter. She's surely the only non-librarian-trustee who ever breached that security!! WOW!! It is true that her style is a bit breezy and superenthusaistic, so it might leave you a bit breathless, but so what?! I am so glad she wrote this book.
Jdemet More than 1 year ago
The radio gave way to television, which is giving way to the Internet--yet they're all still around. That's because they all still do the same thing, entertain and inform. A medium delivers the message. If you're interested in newspapers, magazines, books and have been caught on the Internet, then this book is something to consider. It's not a screed or a polemic, but a breezy account of the proof that the more things change the more they remain the same. We need help. And it's there. Ms. Johnson certainly strikes you as someone who cares deeply about all these things, but who also has the light touch to keep anyone from moaning into despair. She's surely one who would help even a shy boy scout usher the elderly across the street--and then have something nice for them to eat on the other side. There's more optimism in this book than someone playing with loaded dice. John DeMetropolis
FrancescaFB 6 months ago
CBJames on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I always wanted to be a librarian. I am an English teacher so it's not really that much of a stretch. I think it would be fun to sit behind a desk and recommend books to people, help them find some odd piece of information they need for a project of some sort. And, I would be paid to open boxes full of new books and put them on shelves. I love doing that.Books? That's so last century.This Book is Overdue is about librarians on the frontier, the new frontier. It opens nicely by juxtaposing a library on the old frontier, the town library in Deadwood, South Dakota once a part of America's wild west, with the town library in Deadwood, Second Life, a virtual library in a virtual part of the internet's wild west. Both libraries exist to provide a service, a means for people new in town to find all they need to know to adapt to their surroundings, to learn the town's history, to pick up information or a new skill that will help them better their lives. One offers tourists information on local historical sites, the other gives avatar's advice on how to dress as a proper saloon girl. Second Life's version of Deadwood offers players a chance to become a gunslinger or a prospector or a saloon singer for a small fee. One player, a retired electrical engineer and railroad buff, becomes an librarian in a frilly 19th century dress to become town librarian in the virtual Deadwood. There are hundreds of professional librarians offering their services and training other volunteers to become virtual librarians in virtual libraries all over Second Life. These librarians have seen the future, and they're going to catalogue it.Marilyn Johnson takes the reader on a tour of library science's cutting edge. Libraries that give away single use audio books, internet catalogues that can tell you exactly how many miles away the book you want is, libraries with Wii rooms, 24-hour information systems open nation wide, and street librarians who wander among demonstrators at protests with wireless laptops handing out the latest updates on everything from legislative actions to police blockades. If you want to know it, there's a librarian somewhere who wants to tell you. They're here to help.It's not always a pretty picture. Champions of the old systems will not get much sympathy from This Book is Overdue. The days of the card catalogue are long gone and the movement to computerized data bases and on-line library catalogues has not been easy for some. It can be difficult to get one's head around the idea that the new libraries may not actually have all that many books in them. In an age where anyone with even a second rate computer can access more information that can be found in all the books held in a typical town library, Librarians must adapt if they are to survive. The librarians Ms. Johnson interviews for This Book is Overdue intend on not just surviving, but on thriving. Witness the virtual librarians in Second Life.Though the general public doesn't often see it, librarians are front-line defenders of the Constitution in the United States. Freedom of speech, more precisely the freedom to read, has always been under some kind of assault in America. Ms. Johnson devotes a chapter of This Book is Overdue to the case of the Connecticut Four, three librarians and a tech specialist who were forced to sue the Federal Government in order to keep a patron's records private after the passage of the Patriot Act which intended to give the Department of Homeland Security the power to check anyone's library records without a warrant, without stating a reason why and without telling anyone about it. Maybe a patrons are looking up how to build a bomb. Or maybe they're looking up how to treat a form a cancer they have, or what to do if they suspect their child is gay, or how they can walk away from an abusive spouse, or how to press charges against someone who hurt them, or any number of other things they want kept private from family members, emp
justpeachy on LibraryThing 10 months ago
There is a common misconception that Google is making libraries obsolete. Marilyn Johnson sets out to squash that idea in this entertaining ode to libraries and librarians. So why are libraries still relevant in the Google age? Precisely because Google exists. People have more access to more information than ever before, and librarians are trained to help you find what you're looking for amongst all that data, and they will do this for free. Johnson writes about how librarians wear many different hats, acting as information professionals, teachers, community organizers, computer technicians, historians, confidantes, clerks, social workers, and storytellers. Johnson delves into the fascinating world of Second Life, and investigates special little places that most people don't know about, such as the American Kennel Club Library in New York. The most fascinating story is the one about librarians in Connecticut who challenged the law allowing the FBI to collect private patron information in total secrecy (unfortunately, the law still exists).
nomadreader on LibraryThing 10 months ago
What I didn't know, but perhaps should have inferred from the book's title (This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All) is the author, Marilyn Johnson, is not a librarian. The book isn't necessarily aimed at librarians, although I think there are things all librarians, readers and citizens could learn from this book. Ms. Johnson's first book is about obituaries, and she discovered librarians had absolutely fascinating obituaries and focused her next book on us. Awesome, yes? As I often confess, part of the allure of librarianship for me is being in academic environment but still able to enjoy life and have hobbies. I am not a slave to my job, although I love my job. I have work-life-love balance and intellectual stimulation from all three. I am lucky.Each chapter has a different topic. Some were more interesting to me than others, and although she explores many aspects of librarianship, especially in the modern and changing sense, it's not a comprehensive book (nor is it supposed to be.) It was so refreshing to have a non-librarian not only defend the profession but praise it. Sadly, when you tell people you're in graduate school in library and information studies, they often ask why. When I respond, "being a librarian requires a master's degree," people are often dumbfounded and shocked. The exception, usually, are the people who actually have a friend or family member who is a librarian. They exclaim with joy when you say you're a library student.If you like books, technology or organizational models at all (hello, book bloggers!), you will like this book. My one complaint? The book is mostly about public librarians. As an academic librarian, I was eager for Ms. Johnson to point out how our jobs are different. It wasn't the scope of her book, but I'd love to see a follow-up go in-depth into academic librarianship. It's a fun, informative, and fascinating read. As a librarian, it was delightful to see an outsider take an honest look at the profession. As a reader, it was a delight to read Ms. Johnson's beautiful, descriptive language.
CatheOlson on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Being a library advocate/activist as well as an elementary school library media tech, I had such high hopes for this book. I didn't even wait for my public library to get it in, I ordered it so I could get it right away. Unfortunately, I have to say this book did not measure up to my expectations. I loved what it was trying to do . . . show how important and relevant librarians have been and continue to be, but I found this book kind of . . . boring. It was mostly anecdotes of the author's experiences while researching this book. While some were interesting and I did learn some interesting things about librarians, I wanted more of a point and a focus to this book . . . not just a librarian rave but more about the importance of libraries in general--with points I could use in my letter writing campaigns to politicians and school boards on why libraries need to be funded and staffed adequately. So, while I'm glad someone had the idea to create a book like this, I just wish it would have been stronger.
francesanngray on LibraryThing 11 months ago
As an academic librarian, I was pleased to receive this book as gift. Johnson describes the many ways that librarians in general contribute to society and I enjoyed reading the chapter about the New York Public Library. I was disappointed by her writing style however, which I found to be cloying and condescending. I will not be recommending this book to my colleagues.
vasquirrel on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Really enjoyed this -- as a total library junkie. Great perspective on where libraries are heading and the services they'll be providing. Fascinating if for nothing else than the window into Second Life and the virtual libraries therein.
jepeters333 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Buried in info? Cross-eyed over technology? From the bottom of a pile of paper and discs, books, e-books, and scatter thumb drives comes a cry of hope. Make way for the librarians! They want to help. They're not selling a thing. And librarians know best how to beat a path through the googolplex sources of information available to us. Too much information about second life - not really interested. Also, not the best narrator I've heard.
jrtouchshriek on LibraryThing 11 months ago
It wasn't as nuts-and-bolts are I was hoping for, but it turned out to be a very exciting, very interesting read. I actually found it very light-hearted, and the enthusiasm with which Johnson showered the subject was highly infectious.I loved the anecdotal quality of Second Life but found it a little impractical- I'm unimaginative and didn't think that Second Life would do much for libraries beyond novelty or cornering a niche concern. My particular favourites were the ways in which librarians were taking place in social and political aspects. One thinks of librarians as academics (blame the stereotyping), but in this book librarians were challenging the FBI, patrolling the streets during protests, battling third world educational poverty, and all with the humour and silliness that is the lot of everyday people. Thoroughly enjoyed it. For anyone studying Information Management/ Librarianship qualification courses, this book might just be inspiring.
roses7184 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I think I was a little confused as to what This Book is Overdue! was really going to contain when I first picked it up. My expectation was that I would learn a little more about what librarians do for us, hear some funny stories, and maybe giggle a little bit. Instead I was ultimately a little lost, because there is a lot of very dense, albeit interesting, technical information in this book. I ultimately ended up skimming a lot of those parts. Too much information overload for one day I think.However as a source for a comprehensive view of the librarian world today, this is a great book. I did find a lot to love. The book covers everything from community librarians and their experiences with ever changing circulation systems, to research librarians and the way that the web has influenced them. The reader is introduced to influential librarians over the course of history as well. If you are a librarian fan, or perhaps a librarian yourself, I'm sure that you'll really find some of these chapters interesting. Actually, the chapter that caught my eye the most was all about cyber librarians. There are librarians on Second Life? Who knew!As a person who is not herself a librarian (although I'd love to be!) I found this book to be a little information heavy for my taste. It is one that I will definitely keep for later, and likely pass around, but at the moment it didn't speak to me as much as I would have liked it to. As I said before if you are a librarian, you might find more to love in this book. I do recommend you give it a read and find out for yourself!
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The book is interesting, but it wasn't quite I expected... I was hoping more for a day to day type book about how the modern library worked, instead got a book full of technology and blogs. It was interesting, and also quite informative, but I think the book focused too much on Second Life (which I believe, even in 2010 when the book was published, diminished from its peak a few years ago.)I think the author was going for a traditional vs new technology sort of book and that both have a place in libraries, but it misses the point by only briefly mentioning how a normal librarian uses technology to help the average person.The book is well researched, has lots of interesting people in it. The author knows her subject and how to write.
FMRox on LibraryThing 11 months ago
A non-fiction tome I was drawn due to mention another book I was reading. Johnson does a fine job or describing the wonders of the librarian in the digital age. I recommend that anyone read this book if they love the library or if they have never been to their public library. I already had a healthy respect for librarians and this only serves to enhance this. The only comment I had was I surprised she did not include a chapter on prison librarians.
chacogirl on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Inspiring and funny!,Johnson is right on with her commentary about the information world and how we need to care about the future of libraries. She is a wonderful writer and a champion cheerleader of anyone in the information field. I feel fortunate to have met her and will definately do more towards helping and advocating for this profession.
davidt8 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Perhaps more than we wanted to know about librarians, but very funny, and with great details about Second Life for librarians and about that magnificent building with the lions out front, the New York Public Library at 41st Street.
Liabee on LibraryThing 11 months ago
A glimpse into the world of library folk, futures, technology and politics, and books about librarians are so rarely readable that this one gets a gold star. It reinforces how integral to our collective wellbeing public libraries are, and follows the struggle to not only stay current, but to lead the way in information accessibility. Especially interesting: a discussion on saving material on the web and archiving internet content. Less interesting: Second Life.
jfoster_sf on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This was a fun read-I never realized before how MUCH librarians do! I plan on becoming a librarian one day so this book definitely taught me a lot about where libraries are going, and how much a good library can change the community. The writing style was also light and fun and easy to read.
sueo23 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This book is a lyrical tribute to hard-working librarians everywhere. It shatters the myths of bespectacled dowagers wearing twin sets and pearls and saying "shhhhhh!" once and for all. It shows librarians as they really are - consummate professionals at the bleeding edge of information technology, passionate about information and equal access to it. Marilyn Johnson's writing style is easy to read and she has a clear affection for the subjects of her book. As a librarian myself, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I am so glad I took the time to read this from cover to cover. If you want to find out what librarians REALLY do. Read this book!
gregory_gwen on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I found it inspiring! I'm going to review it for the May 2010 issue of Information Today.
LTFL_JMLS on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I found it inspiring! I'm going to review it for the May 2010 issue of Information Today.
droether on LibraryThing 11 months ago
With the question of the future of libraries on the line in the minds of some, Johnson¿s book is a timely work that sheds light on the wildly diverse world of librarianship. Some argue that the library is an antiquated institution that is not necessary in the world of the iPad, ebooks, and Google Books. However, Johnson illustrates the diverse ways that librarians and other information professionals serve the research needs of their users¿often in the most unexpected ways. From a unique program at St. John¿s University in which librarians teach students from around the world how to use technology to bring about social justice, to information professionals who serve users in the Internet world of Second Life, Johnson¿s well-researched vignettes prove that the field of librarianship is not a dying one. The book also provides an introduction to other parts of the field of library science, including archives and digital libraries, showing how these institutions too are morphing consistently to suit the needs of society. Perhaps this book should be sent to the politicians and corporate leaders who seek to close public libraries. At the same time, her research reveals new, innovative ways in which information users can be served by information professionals. Society is always changing, in one way or another, and information professionals must adapt to the needs of society. This is why information professionals exist, and without progress, information institutions will not achieve their ultimate goals. Every librarian and information professional should read this inspiring book so that we can learn, from the stories which Johnson so effectively illustrates, how to fulfill our users¿ informational needs, whatever they may be, in the most efficient way possible.¿I was under the librarians¿ protection. Civil servants and servants of civility, they had my back. They would be whatever they needed to be that day: information professionals, teachers, police, community organizers, computer technicians, historians, confidantes, clerks, social workers, storytellers, or, in this case, guardians of my peace.¿ (252)
bezoar44 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This book is a chatty celebration of librarians in the world today. At their best, the chapters have qualities of a good personal essay, and the author writes well throughout. But, the book has the tone of an expanded human-interest article from the newspaper -- the author gravitates towards characters, and delights in sharing anecdotes that are intended to give a feel for what the librarians she describes are really like as people. In the process, she touches on some really interesting policy issues and conflicts: how much access should law enforcement have to the information librarians keep about patrons? How should libraries relate to the market economy? What is worth saving for the future and what is not? But in every case, Johnson presents a one-sided and usually shallow perspective, because she isn't really engaging with the issues; she's portraying the texture of the personalities of the librarians (or IT people, or archivists) she meets. Based on the author's passing references in various chapters to reading books about library science, she must have done extensive research for this book, but very little of it shows up in the substance of her text. An uncomfortable aspect of the author's heavy focus on personalities is that, for color, she regularly repeats facts and views people shared with her in confidence, at least to judge by her own account of the conversations. Perhaps she's overstating to lend her book an air of pulling away the curtains -- but having read it, I certainly wouldn't speak off the record with this author. I've read other writers of the new non-fiction who handle this much better - you can read between the lines of the conversations they recount, but they never directly put their interlocutors in a compromised position.
SamSattler on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The ¿best of times, worst of times¿ cliché certainly applies to today¿s librarians and to the modern libraries in which they work. Patrons have learned to expect and to demand services from their libraries that were all but unheard of not more than a decade ago. Today, libraries are expected to give precious shelf space not only to books, magazines, and newspapers, but also to audio books, CDs, and DVDs. Much precious floor space is given over to computers so that patrons can (supposedly) do research and (even more supposedly) access what used to be called the library¿s card catalogue system.Old-school librarians must feel as if the rug has been pulled from beneath their feet. Freshly minted librarians will be better prepared, but even they are having to scramble to keep up with the freight train bearing down on them. Marilyn Johnson¿s This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All is probably aimed more at librarians themselves than it is at their customers, but heavy-duty library patrons should also take a look.Johnson focuses on the changing roll of the librarian ¿ and how librarians everywhere are directly involved in rewriting their job descriptions. Interestingly, despite the rapid fire changes that librarians are dealing with, what is perhaps their most important role is not really changing all that much: they are still the gatekeepers of the information being sought by library patrons. Librarians still, if they are good at what they do, know the best way to find the information being sought by their customers. They know not only how to find it fastest, but whether to trust what they find.This Book Is Overdue takes a look at librarians themselves, not just at their job duties. What Johnson has to say about them might surprise readers whose only impression of librarians comes from what they see at the library. Johnson, while she does seem to agree that librarians are a bit of a ¿type,¿ wants her readers to know that there are some real characters in the ranks. There is a chapter on librarians who hit the streets during protests, offering information, via smartphones, that will be useful to protesters and those being protested, alike. Another highlights the efforts of a small group of librarians who set a national precedent by protesting the intrusion of The Patriot Act into the privacy of their patrons.One of my favorite chapters is the one in which Johnson looks closely at the efforts of a group of professional and amateur librarians who have created working libraries within the popular Second Life software. What these men and women have accomplished is amazing ¿ especially since what they do in Second Life is every bit as time consuming and difficult as what they do in their day jobs. My other favorite is the chapter on librarians who blog ¿ I¿ve run across more than a few of these myself and have enjoyed both the irreverent ones and the more serious ones. Johnson¿s point is that the blogging world is where librarians can be themselves (even to the point of sometimes having to hide their true identities) and can have real fun with their fellow readers.This Book Is Overdue is for dedicated readers and the people we depend on to keep us supplied with the book-fix we need to make it through our week. It is not the easiest thing to read (I did find the author¿s style to be a little dry, at times) but it is well worth the effort.Rated at: 3.0