Manifest Destiny

Reading through the reference stacks yields an interesting narrative. I wish those people who try to argue with me about the purity of the catalogue and how fundamental changes to it alter the inherent credibility of the librarian would try this; where there is some logic to the LC organization, it often borders on colonialist, racist, or just plain ignorant.

Where do you think would be the best place for a source called Dictionary of Medieval Europe? How about right between man-man catastrophes and world war II! They were the “dark” ages, after all. The American Dictionary of National Biography and the American Who’s Who are held in an entirely other range than the African American Who’s Who. The process of moving from “general” to “specific” feels like manifest destiny; we move inexorably from east to west, through the colonies and the eager little satelite nations, from most to least important to American interests.

Why they opted to pick up LC instead of Dewey I’ll never entirely understand. At least Dewey is a conceptual model, I don’t know what LC is really trying to do.

At the same time, another one of the reference librarians keeps telling us that browsing is bad. He says that the library is too big and the sources that are useful to the student are held in entirely other LC ranges, so browsing should happen via the catalogue, not in the stacks.

That made me really sad.

I enjoyed Joyce’s explanation of the budget, which I got to hear this morning. When we walked into the classroom Joyce lit up. Walter walked us over, and Joyce turned to him and said, “Isn’t it exciting to see the next generation of librarians?”

Walter said, “Hey, I was at her Harvard graduation!” Walter’s son is a Harvard grad, and he was there for a reunion the day I graduated. The speaker was Allan Greenspan, hard to forget that. Though, to be honest with you, I didn’t go hear him speak. I was busy graduating and being festive over at the Div school. So anyway, Walter was telling Joyce about all this. Being at Harvard the day I graduated, Allan Greenspan speaking, and so forth.

Joyce turned to me and said, “You went to Harvard?”

I just don’t know how to respond to that. I mean, yes, yes I did. I have the diploma on my wall, in case you want to check. But people are way more impressed by that than I think they really should be. So I said it was a master’s in theological studies, not, like, med school or something.

“People say they went to Harvard when they were just there for the day,” Joyce said.

The weirdest thing about that is that I was sure she knew that already. The fact that she was recommending me without knowing that I’m a Harvard grad is certainly nice. Because, come on, I’m mostly all hype, let’s be honest.

Anyway, the briefing was good. I’m not spilling any Western library budget secrets here, all the documents are public. Apparently they got most of their requests from the senate, and as usual no cuts to the acquisition budget, and increases for the operational budget. Of course Joyce had to stop and ask me if I had any comments. You know, in front of a room full of library staff. I didn’t have any comments, not even one.

Man, she must be the only person on this campus who has managed to actually embarass me so completely.

That doesn’t make me love her any less, of course. I just love her more.