Zombie Librarianship


What a great perspective on our profession. Sally Pewhairangi’s Blog post at finding heroes borrowed the concept from John Quiggin’s book Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us. The premise was highly fitting to the free market economic situation after the ‘crash’ in 2008, and it certainly is relevant to librarianship today. Many in our profession seem to be wandering aimlessly looking for some place to fit in – as opposed to coming alive and creating their future library state.

Librarians have held on to many old beliefs because we’ve always done it that way and no one has stepped forward to replace those ideas. Sally recognized that there are at least –


7 dead ideas that still walk among us
1. Social media is not worth worrying about.
2. Librarians know what is best for their customers.
3. Committees and working parties can create innovative services.
4. Blocked websites are something libraries have to put up with.
5. Organisational models based on the industrial age still work.
6. ‘Provide and pray’ is not a bad investment.
7. Google and Amazon are the bad guys.

She feels elaborating on those seven ideas is unnecessary, which may be an overestimation of her profession’s members, but concludes with her own “top five reasons for keeping the zombies in librarianship.”

1. You don’t have time.
You have 24 hours just like anyone else and you just can’t fit any more in. You’re already working 10-12 hour days, and you can’t delay one thing for this. Don’t worry, it’s the most common and obvious reason for zombie librarianship.
2. You don’t have the budget or resources.
Money (and resources) is tight (as always) and is already committed to other projects. It’ll have to wait until the next budget round, as will killing those zombies.
3. It’s not your job.
You don’t get paid to do this. You don’t care if it could fast-track your career. You’ve got a monthly report to write, the usual meetings to attend and Lorna’s morning tea to go to. The walking-dead.
4. You tried this before and it didn’t work.
The situation is exactly the same as it was 5 years ago when you attempted to get this off the ground. There’s no way it will work now.
5. The company isn’t in the gaming industry, we make consumer electronics.
Why would we want to invest in gaming, when consumer electronics is working well for us? This is a bit left-field isn’t it? Let’s stick with what we know works.

I’m going to go out on a short limb here and say that her suggestions are intended facetiously. Her final question for readers, and the whole profession is – “Will you fight with or against the zombies?”

She is absolutely right – it’s time to chose sides people! But, I think there should be more zombie librarianship ideas added to this list.
8. Librarianship still consists of only collecting, organizing, archiving, and disseminating information.
9. The library paradigm didn’t change when the Internet became available to everyone, so it hasn’t changed.
10. SLIS or ALA will tell us what to do to survive.
11. It requires a master’s degree to be a ‘real’ librarian.
12. ……..
13. ….

How about you? What other zombie librarianship ideas are still walking among us?

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Zombie Librarianship

  1. Sally

    Hi Steve,

    I’m so glad you enjoyed my post and I like your additional suggestions. Some other suggestions came up on Twitter using the hashtag #zombielibrarianship.

  2. Thanks for posting this Steve. I am sharing it with the library staff. I hope it spurs recruitment for the “Zombie Wars”!

  3. While an MLS is not necessarily required for a person to be a “real” librarian, it does get your brain thinking from just pulling books off a shelf to thinking about how that book might benefit a person and how to not waste their time pulling books that have little to do with their issues.

    • Thank you for this perspective. Does that come from an MLS course of study, or simply from a natural curiosity of “Why am I doing this?” and “How can I make this work better?” coupled with a customer service oriented mindset?

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