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The Librarian - A Review of a Reviewer

In half a page Neil Genzlinger managed to insult an entire profession multiple times.

In a review of The Librarian, by Larry Beinhart, Neil Genzlinger chooses to stray from the book to critique the profession of librarianship. Genzlinger is a critic for the New York Times. His review appeared in the Sunday, October 17, 2004, edition of The New York Times Book Review. After reading the opening paragraph I had to walk away to calm down. What could get this librarian so upset?

Exhibit one, the opening paragraph:

Poor librarians. Soon, no doubt, to go the way of blacksmiths and town criers, their chosen field made obsolete by Internet search engines and self-perpetuating electronic databases. But first, one last hurrah, in Larry Beinhart's raucous new novel, "The Librarian," in which a Dewey decimal doofus holds in his hands nothing less than the fate of the free world.

"Dewey decimal doofus"? How stupid could the character be to earn this description? After reading the remainder of the review, nothing supports the use of this description by the reviewer. In closing the review, Genzlinger presents Exhibit two:

Sometimes, it takes a librarian to see these Fog Facts. What a pity that soon the only place to find one will be at the Living History Museum, alongside the mule skinner and the wheelwright.

I am not certain what reality Mr. Genzlinger is living in, but it's certainly not one I'm familiar with. Genzlinger works for a company who recently advertised for a new webmaster. What was the preferred criteria? A Masters in Library Sciences.

The profession actually remains much the same as it has for years. Librarians around the world have stepped up to the task of teaching people how to use the myriad of electronic resources that are now available. The media has changed, the need has not. Google's Director of Technology, Craig Silverstein, has stated that the goal of the Internet's popular search engine is to seem as smart as a reference librarian. Hmmmm, obviously the reference librarian is no "doofus."

Perhaps Mr. Genzlinger had a bad experience with a librarian recently? More likely, he's never taken time to use the awesome resource that exists in the person of the local librarian.

What do you think? Comment at the Library Sciences Forum.

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