Monday, June 18, 2007

Welcome To The Dark Side

Let's get this out of the way upfront - I have a post up at Romancing The Blog today. Read all about why I can't stand it when people whine about "the good old days."

(Here's a hint: Take Off The Rose-Colored Glasses)

Sort of going hand in hand with that, I got a lovely e-mail today from a librarian who works for another library system in the area. She needed help. Why? I converted her. I had given my romance novel reader's advisory talk to some area librarians and she must have been inspired. She tried some, she liked some, and now she's hooked. She had a few questions, and luckily I had a few answers.

Librarians tend to be a snobby bunch. In some cases we can't help it. We spend a lot of time in school (I have two college degrees thankyouverymuch) and given the general snootiness that hangs over academia, anything remotely popular is treated with disdain and a sneer. It's not just romance. The only acceptable mystery is a British one (screw Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson) and science fiction? It has to be very heavy stuff or have some deep, metaphors buried in the text otherwise it's outta here!

This tends to rub off on librarians. I loved to read as a teenager, although my poison of choice was mystery. But while I was in college (for almost 6 years - and that was quick by most standards!), I think I might have read 5 books for pleasure, all Patricia Cornwell or Mary Higgins Clark novels. I was too busy. Too tired. Too poor. Plus, as most of you college graduates probably already know, there ain't a whole lot of "popular fiction" to be found in academic libraries. There just isn't. They have bigger fish to fry - namely paying ghastly amounts of money for their journals and periodicals.

I think after a while librarians tend to believe our own hype. That just because we suffered through a ridiculous amount of schooling (and have the student loans to prove it) that somehow we're above it all. That popular fiction doesn't have any merit. That we should be educating the public, whether they want to learn something or not.

Basically we lose our sense of humor and make it our life's goal to make everyone else lose theirs as well.

Some librarians get over this (Thank you baby Jesus, I did!), but some don't. I personally know some librarians (who have worked for too many years and just need to retire already!) who are past the point of changing their minds. They'll go to the graves sneering at romance, fantasy and science fiction while they happily lap up the latest P.D. James or reread Agatha Christie.

I know, I don't get it either.

Cripes, there is a lot of stuff I hate (ex. fiction written in the vein of Danielle Steel) but I never, ever sneer at library patrons (or librarians!) who enjoy this sort of thing. Maybe my momma just raised me right, who knows? As it is, as long as librarians spend too much time dying slowly in academia, there will always be "professionals" in my given field who feel this way. No matter how much I want to smack them for being wrong.

In the meantime, I'm stuck tilting at windmills and trying to change the world - one librarian at a time.


Jennie said...

Wendy, you're scaring me a little about library school. ;) Snobby academia-types drive me nutters.

I'm hoping I can keep my current opinion that while "serious" literature and scholarly non-fiction are obviously very important, my entertaining romance novels have a valuable place on the shelves of a public library too. :)

Rosie said...

I get now why you need the cape. It's to duck under and away from the tomatoes and rotten eggs thrown at you by the high brow types.

Keep up the good work!

Wendy said...

It shouldn't scare you :) Librarians are like normal folks - some of them get it, and some of them don't. But it was mildly shocking for me when I first heard a librarian say something snotty about the genre. Hello? You're a librarian! You want people to read, remember?

I know lots of librarians who love popular fiction (all genres), manga, comic books - lots of "stuff" that crusty academic types loathe. That's why the "few" who upset the apple cart annoy me so much.

Rosie: Luckily my cape is machine washable. Cuts down on dry cleaning bills.

Kerry said...

Wendy, I think I should thank you publically. Your blog payed a big part in turning me into a romance reader and also getting me to think about public librarianship. You and the Smart Bitches have been a great influence. I'm still a bit hesitant to admit thr romance reading in public, but I went to a prep school--it scars you that way.

Jennie, you'll figure out who the nutters are in library school are soon enough. There's some in every group--academic, public, special, school.

Jaynie said...

lol I never used to read romance back in the good ole days, so today's stuff is fine with me.

MyUtopia said...

lol, great post.

Tara said...

I’m with you. I'm an academic science librarian and feel like I spend a good portion of my time defending fiction, particularly romance, fantasy and sci-fi (my favs).

Alie said...

You're so right about our profession. Academic librarians tend to be the snobbiest and only admit to liking "acceptable" literature. Me? I like to go home and read a good romance ;)