Friday, September 11, 2015
Letter to library journal
Dear Editor, Library Journal:
I have written an increasingly unsuccessful blog every day for two and a half years now. Originally it was mostly about working in a library, but now I like to focus primarily on how incredibly good the blog is. The only time I waiver in my firm belief that my short, daily essays are among the first cultural masterpieces of the 21st Century is when I go back and read them. Man, that can be sobering!
But who wants to wallow in disappointment like that? So I immediately start writing new ones to get the old feeling back. Fortunately it's easy to get the old feeling back.
The main difficulty of publishing on the Internet is that, for all its majestic power, its breadth, utility, ubiquity, and technological wonder, the Internet is just a highly glorified TV set. It is not mostly like a TV set in its basic content, nor in the nature of its amazing facility. No, it is most like a TV set in its almost magical ability to make everyone who looks upon it significantly more stupid. This is not, mostly, a misanthropic condemnation to express my own superiority. You and I both are not exempt. The second we head off to look at Reddit's front page, Facebook, the weather, or, alas, whatever your own magazine's presence is on the Internet, instantly and reliably we become less complex, less individual, less thoughtful, and less intelligent than we normally are. Picture someone on the Internet, through whatever device. Now add in their drooling ever so slightly and the picture is corrected.
The important thing here about this fact is that the Internet is not the ideal audience for me because I require a high level of reading comprehension, like James Joyce.
So naturally I have started to consider more the ancient venue of print. I'm not sure about magazines, but I thought they would be worth a look. And because I work in, and have written so copiously about, libraries I thought I would look into library magazines.
This is where you, as an editor of a library magazine, come into the picture. Just in case you were still wondering. Which you probably weren't.
But here's the difficult part. I believe in you, so I hope you don't take it too hard.
I have worked in a large, excellent (grading on a curve), busy, inner ring suburban library for 21 years. I have kept my eyes open. I have thought deeply about it. I have read up on it. I have even conducted my own mad scientist variety research into it. Yes, and I have written about it. Your magazine covers an astonishingly narrow slice of library reality, functionality, and, most of all perspective.
I understand that criticizing the magazine one is submitting work to is not a recipe for success. I also understand that submitting work entirely different than the sort of work that is actually in the publication I am submitting to is also not a recipe for success. But allow me to let you in on my secret power. I just discovered it recently:
I have no expectation you would ever publish my work in your magazine. I merely know that you should. So I have nothing to lose.
You may like being an editor. But it is hard for me to see that publishing the magazine you are publishing could be quite as fun as it could be, or as impassioned, or as ennobling. But that's all there for the taking.
Libraries are still wild, biological, mysterious, analog, and unreasonable. They are conservative on the outside, but at their terrifying core they radical and ungovernable, anarchist and socialist, atheist and inventing new gods on the fly.
But you know this.
Besides librarians, libraries are peopled with custodial staff, clerks, pages, shelvers, volunteers, interns, student workers, authors and performers. And speaking from that vast population of workers, contributors to library life, all wildly outnumbering the librarians, I would say that one of the first things those of us with restless, library adoring minds learn is that, aside from book reviews, there's nothing much for us in your magazine.
I'd like to crack that door a little. The fresh air will be good for you. Give me a regular column. Phrase it how you like; voice of the opposition, the alternative view, from the clerk's perspective, the other library of the future.
May I further suggest that you think to yourself: "This is the worst sales job I have ever experienced in all my tenure as editor. But if I only buy the things that are well sold, I will always be buying the pitch and never get the thing itself."
Shake, shake, shake.
Yours in library solidarity,