Thursday, September 6, 2018
Every library she can
I'm not shy about running down the Internet. Hell, I am tempted to create an entire blog devoted to it, and only being a person too full of sunshine and kittens prevents me from doing so.
I am full of kittens!
But someone has got to do it. Someone out on the Internet has to say firmly to the Internet: No you have done it almost entirely all wrong!
And no one is doing this Emperor has no clothes job. So I like to pitch in as often as possible.
However, one of my problems with running down the Internet is that my favorite arguments against the Internet involve what happens to this blog out here in Internetland. This can have the, well, appearance of being sour grapes.
So today I am going to complain using an entirely other person's blog!
So take that, Internet!
I once worked with the writer of said blog, Ellen, though mainly she was at another branch of our library system. She retired awhile ago. And for even a longer time than I have written this blog (and in blog years clerkmanifesto is now 72 years old!) she has pursued a project she calls "Every Library I Can". I doubt I recall it exactly correctly, but remembering earlier days of her blog it seemed like maybe she was trying to visit as many (mainly) public libraries as she could in our regional system in Minnesota, and write about them. I don't know if that ever was the goal, but it has long since drifted out anyway to include any library across the country, and in any other country for that matter. As it has turned out so far she now has well over 600 entries (with some return visits), featuring library visits mainly in the midwest, but also spreading out to include across country trips, mostly to the Northeast. It is also worth pointing out she has done a lot of this on public transportation. It is a prodigious effort in every way.
The posts, which you will easily see, are not the sort of salty critiques I would write, but gentle appreciations and descriptions. Older posts tended to have just a picture or two or three, but the blog has evolved to be much more like photo essays, which, even though I am a fanatical prose purist here, I have to admit is perfectly suited to the work she is doing.
This is a wonderful blog. It is gentle, thorough, interesting, noble, respectful, and full of appreciation. It is unglamorous and yet valuable and deepening work. The chances you have seen it (discounting the tenuous worker/personal/regional links between Ellen and I, which is almost like it turning out that Van Gogh and Gauguin are friends! ) are virtually nil. The Internet is coldly hostile to the non commercial, the freely given, the personal, the unpromoted, and the genuine. A google search merely based on subject will only turn up "Every Library I Can" under duress.
This will tell you almost everything you want to know about Google:
If you type in a reasonably specific search, like
"blog about a person who visits libraries"
The first result will be a wildly irrelevant post from The Sullivan Free Library's Blog that has been dead for so long someone needs to drive a stake through its heart. And if you click on that not terribly interesting post (like I did) you will only make it more likely it comes up top in searches for everyone else in the future.
You will have to go to the third page of results to get to the first relevant response, which I doubt you would even notice if you didn't know about it already. Yes, it's "Every Library I Can".
But would something like this bother the author, Ellen?
Why wouldn't it?
No matter what she's doing she is also writing for the public. And the public, in its way, bored and restless on the Internet, is looking for her too. But the Internet just wants you to keep moving. It just wants to get you to the Big tent ("Keep moving, nothing to see here, don't wander off, Pinterest up ahead, AMAZON, REDDIT, FACEBOOK, GUARDIAN ONLINE, keep moving, keep moving), and, because it's confusing and time consuming out in the dusty back tents of the Internet, we herd right along.
But not you! Look at you, you just read this whole back alley post. Somehow. And if you are a library fan, or interested, or just sitting on a surfeit of idle time, maybe you will pop on over to:
Every Library I Can
And you will see that it is pretty interesting to poke about in these visions of various public libraries, because they are wonderful posts and wonderful places. And if you at all like what you find there maybe say to this tireless explorer "Hi, thank you. I liked it", because, as a modestly obscure Internet writer, I can tell you that that always means more than you would think.