Why I No Longer Read Library Journal

by Elizabeth on August 27, 2011 · 9 comments

in could be controversial, librarianship, libraries, random ranting

[Annoyed Librarian is an anonymous blog that is syndicated by Library Journal.  The writer is sarcastic and witty (mostly) and uses the space to poke fun at libraries and librarians as well offer up her (at least I think it’s a her) strong opinion on a range of issues in the profession.  If you haven’t yet, read this post as well as the comments, especially the one by Dean Pitschmann, then come back and we can talk. The following is my response to Annoyed Librarian’s insulting post about the state of Alabama and explains why I no longer read this blog or Library Journal.]

Dear Annoyed Librarian,

I hope you’re doing well and the weather in your area (wherever that might be) is treating you well.  This sweltering Alabama heat sure isn’t treating me well.  Temperatures in the upper 90s for weeks on end sure do get old.  So does the humidity.  But, of course, it beats panicking over hurricanes, earthquakes and snow-pocalypses.

I am writing to you to let you know that I will no longer be reading your blog or Library Journal.  I’m sure you don’t care; after all, I’m only a simple medical librarian in Alabama.  Clearly, I’m under-educated because all I learned in my tenure at The University of Alabama was that Forrest Gump played for The Bear and that George Wallace once stood in front of a building.

Before we get around to criticizing you, maybe you should know a little bit about me.  I was born and raised in Alabama.  I am solidly middle class, the daughter of an immigrant and a true Southern lady.  I was educated in one of the best public schools in the state and had the grades, test scores, and extra curriculars to go to college pretty much wherever I wanted.  But I chose The University of Alabama.  Was I brainwashed since I was raised to be an Alabama fan?  Of course not.  I wasn’t even going to Alabama until I discovered that The Capstone had everything I could ever want in a school, but at a much lower price and only 45 minutes away from home.  What was “everything” you ask?  Why an amazing history program, a great library, several nationally recognized academic programs, and a nice social scene.  Alabama had everything I asked for AND they offered me a scholarship.  Sounded great to me.  And it was.

But let’s not talk about me anymore.  Let’s talk about how incredibly offended I was by your article.  You clearly have never visited Alabama (or the South apparently).  No, Alabama doesn’t have a great reputation.  Why?  Because of people like you.  People who cannot get past our past.  People who conveniently forget the number of people who died in the race riots in Detroit or the persecution runaway slaves faced up north.  People who prefer to focus on George Wallace, fire hoses, and the KKK.  Did you know the state of Alabama is the home of Olympian Jesse Owens, Grammy winner Emmy Lou Harris, Helen Keller, George Washington Carver, and Pulitzer Prize winning authors Harper Lee and Rick Bragg?  What about legendary coach Paul Bryant, actress Sela Ward, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, and co-founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales?  They all graduated from The University of Alabama; that school you made a point to criticize.  They all got such a terrible education.  Wow, it must have been so awful for them to go so many places in life.

People don’t want to live in Alabama you say?  That may be true.  After all we do have these terribly hot summers that almost require a quick trip to the most beautiful beaches in the US.  And those pesky tornadoes that do nothing but enable communities to come together in the most amazing ways and show us that human nature has not lost its heart.  Towns that come to a complete stop to cheer on some kids they don’t know play sports, sitting on the porch, drinking ice tea and chatting with neighbors, and the sweetest peaches you will ever taste – yes, I can see how those are real drawbacks.  That must be why I made friends from states like Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California while I was in college.  All that harsh living; clearly, no one would ever move here.  People are so polite, it’s so offensive!

But, no, AL, I may have kept reading and tolerating your blog despite the countless insults that you threw at my state, but because of one little thing – so tiny it should have gone unnoticed.  You cited Wikipedia as  your source.  Right there, you lost all my respect (whatever you had to begin with).  Every good librarian, hell, every half-way decent student knows that Wikipedia is NOT a legitimate source of information.  I had a professor at the lowly University of Alabama fail a student on a writing assignment for citing Wikipedia.  Wow, even Alabama doesn’t recognize “the only encyclopedia anyone ever uses anymore” as reliable source.  Hmm.  Kind of casts a shadow on your whole post, doesn’t it?

I know your article wasn’t actually about Alabama or its apparent lack of desirability.  Your article was about a job posting that is non-tenure tracked and may only last a year or three.  Let me ask you a question, AL – when was the last time you applied for an entry-level job in a library?  It’s probably been a while.  You probably have no idea what it’s like to be up against 50 unemployed librarians with twice as much experience as you in an over-saturated job market, or to be so desperate to be doing something, anything related to your desired career goal that you’ll take a job as a part-time library assistant.  I’m sure you don’t what it’s like to still be discovering what you actually want to do in life or just trying to gain some experience.

Well, I do.  I’ve been there.  I took that job as part-time library assistant when my job prospects were bleak.  I got lucky that job turned into a full time job.  But this job posting is something that I would have applied for in a heartbeat, mostly because it ISN’T tenure-track.  As an entry-level librarian, I’m not worried about job protection.  I’m worried about publishing, joining committees, and trying to get some actual work done somewhere in between.  I’m worried about figuring out what I really want to do and still having time to enjoy myself.  I’m worried about being employed, plain and simple.

You’re wrong on so many levels with this piece.  I understand that your blog is meant to be offensive and sarcastic.  I have often appreciated your unique voice and opinions in the past.  But this time, you’ve gone too far.  You’ve insulted a major academic institution that has survived a civil war, a civil rights movement, and 180 years.  You’ve mocked a state that’s still reeling from losing 236 of its citizens.  You’ve assumed that every library job seeker out there wants what you have.  And you’ve ridiculed every educator that teaches about reliable and legitimate reference sources.

So you’ve lost a reader, Annoyed Librarian.  I doubt that you care, but others do.  And I hope they read this and recognize you for the insensitive person you are.


Blogger, medical librarian, and two-time graduate of The University of Alabama

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amber August 27, 2011 at 9:35 pm

mad props, E.

and roll tide.


2 Elizabeth August 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Thanks! and roll tide to you as well. 😉


3 Cate August 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I actually think Wikipedia is great. It has about the same rate of errors as a traditional encyclopedia, but it’s way better regarding cultural diversity.

That said, I’m amazed when people cite Wikipedia (or any encyclopedia, for that matter!) Use them to find your articles and sources, but don’t cite them!


4 Elizabeth August 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Yes, people using Wikipedia as a cited source of information is one of my biggest pet peeves. I think our (as in society’s) reliance and blind trust in it is really quite dangerous.


5 Shannon August 31, 2011 at 7:31 am

Brava! I don’t understand the allure of snark. Why would a national publication like LJ decide to use this tone as a marketing tool? Generating community with negative energy seems lazy and passé.

Your argument is in answer to all types of generalizations, which, again, are just plain LAZY.


6 Kim September 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Saw the link to this post on the LJ website. All I can say is AMEN and Roll Tide!

A fellow two time grad,


7 Elizabeth September 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Thanks for reading! And Roll Tide!!


8 Francine Fialkoff September 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I put up my editorial responding to some of the criticism of Annoyed’s post that appeared in your blog, on the Annoyed Librarian, and in emails and phone calls. It’s at http://www.libraryjournal.com on the homepage.


9 Elizabeth September 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Thanks Francine for your response and for mentioning my post. I hope we can start an honest discussion about stereotypes in and out of the library. And, also, about the real reason for the AL’s post – lack of tenure (desired or not) in academic libraries.



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