Friday, February 6, 2015

#37 / Marion The Librarian (Updated)

If you don't know The Music Man you won't understand my title. You can get acquainted or reacquainted right here, by clicking the link. 

If you haven't recently visited one of the library branches in the Santa Cruz City-County Library system you won't recognize the newest "librarian" now available to check you out. Her picture is on the right. 

As long as the world is populated with actual human beings, it might make sense to structure the "human" world that we create by allowing such human beings to play a real role in making the place work.

Librarians have always done that. Not so much, now, in the City and County Library system. 

To cite another example, visitors to a new city have almost always, in the past, had to converse with actual human beings to answer their questions and to direct them to the City Hall (or to the Library) or to some other point of interest or importance. 

Not so much now, since we have Siri. Or Cortana (the Microsoft equivalent). 

Just raising the question: is the world we are creating better (or worse) now that we are eliminating actual flesh and blood human beings from the positions that make it work?

You know, like the optometrist asks you in the annual exam I hope you get, to make sure your vision stays tip top: 

"Is this clearer? Or, this?"

Is a real human being better? Or is this digital substitute better? 

What do they say on Fox News?

Image Credit:
Personal Photo


  1. This particular machine is not replacing any human job. The city and county systems are still fully staffed. Instead, "The Library's automation system and daily Branch deliveries make all circulating materials accessible to all borrowers, no matter which Branch the borrower uses or where s/he lives." The absolutely is making the world a better place. To think otherwise, you'd have to be against easy access to books. Or ignorant of what the machine actually does.

  2. I've spoken to the librarians on several occasions about these infernal machines. The librarians miss the human contact and interaction that occurs, not just about checking out books but checking in on their neighbors and neighborhood.

    I can't imagine who ever thought this was a good idea.

    They're ugly, too!

  3. Argument from personal incredulity. RFID readers for checking out library books are a good idea because they save people's time. If a librarian is lonely at work it's because their library branch its self is disused.

  4. Checking out books is *not* an important part of a librarian's job! Librarians are there to help people find what they're looking for. Claiming that the RFID reading machines have anything to do with librarian's jobs is offensive to librarians and clueless of what they do and how a library works.

  5. Save people's time. Hmmmm.. I wasn't aware that I needed to save time. I consider the time it takes to talk to another human being as good time.

    There's far too much concern about "saving" time, "wasting" time, "spending" time. Despite what is oft thoughtlessly repeated, time is NOT money.

    I'm not even sure time exists. But that's another story...

    Machines are the antithesis of libraries.

  6. What is this, opposite day?

    Machines are the *best* libraries because they can store information in digital form. This allows for free copying/distribution and theoretically infinite preservation of information. These are the *only* two measures of the success of a library!

    It's like you're not hearing my argument. This machine in no way prevents you from speaking to a librarian for as long as you want (so long as the librarian doesn't ask you to leave).

    There is nothing special about the time you spend handing a book and library card to a librarian so they can stamp it or scan it or whatever. That transaction its self is not personal. It's for record keeping. If you're argument is you need impersonal transactions as an excuse to engage in conversation with people, then you've conceded your position entirely. Because that's just social anxiety, and has got nothing to do with the machines whatsoever.

  7. Non sequitur. For something new to be good, it needn't be necessary. It need only be an improvement on what came before.

    RFID readers in a library are an improvement on what came before because they are convenient. Therefore, they are a good thing, making the world a better place by helping provide easy access to books.


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