This Book is Overdue!
by Marilyn Johnson


Harper, 2019. ISBN 978-0-061-43160-9.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 05/17/2010

Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: Creative Life

The only people who will relish this book are bibliophiles, librarians, lovers of information, techies, and maybe a few others. I fit into a few of these categories as I am gray-haired inactive librarian who took her first computer course in Library Science (as it was then called) in 1965. Much of the library and information world has changed drastically since then and, as Johnson relates, is changing daily. Those of us who continue to value books with crisp pages rejoice that our neighborhood library continues to beckon us into its stacks. We delight in celebrations that honor the opening of new libraries such as the one in Darien, Connecticut, featured in the final chapter, which are patron friendly, yet full of new technology.

Many of the library changes are not visible to the general patron. Johnson's behind-the=scenes stories are full of humor, surprising information, and even some fantasy. "The walls of the library have grown porous now and in some cases are merely virtual... On every level, the field is bending and broadening, especially as it moves into cyberspace." Johnson and others say we are suffering from information sickness. There is so much information that we cannot find what we want. But a human librarian is there to guide us in asking the questions.

Nowadays, when we install programs on our new personal computers, we expect glitches. Consider the glitches that can occur when a whole library/ medical/law system is upgraded. After relating the Westchester County disaster (a library system handicapped for over three weeks while an improved system was installed), Johnson goes on to blogs, networking and venting on-line. There is a whole chapter about librarians and libraries on the virtual reality site, Second Life. Dancing with Abraham Lincoln?

A serious discussion covers the heroic librarians who resisted the government's prying into book-borrowing records of John Doe and others. And another about the venerable New York Public Library changing from scholarly reference to one that welcomes the common public. There is even more about archivists and what to save and whose work to save. Emails? Tweets?

My favorite is the description of the book cart competitions at American Library Association conferences because my own city's librarians won in 2008. (Check it out on YouTube.) Although I can think of several more appealing titles, This Book is Overdue! is well written, informative, hilarious at times. The new librarian is proactive, savvy, often sassy, and works for a pittance for the love of books and information in all its forms.


Marilyn Johnson specialized in writing obituaraies of celebrities who weren't quite dead for Life Magazine. Her prvious book, Dead Beat, was a Borders Original Voices selection. She lives with her husband, Rob Fleder and their family in the Hudson Valley in New York. Visit her website.

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