Putting my education to good use.

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Last week I had the pleasure of voting to throw away this sign at my library.  Let’s call it weeding.  Don’t worry, I weeded carefully, using the ever-trusty MUSTIE acronym that I vaguely remember hearing in my collection development class.

I like that’s it’s “a” library, not even “the” Library

So back to MUSTIE.  Let me spell it out for you: Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial, Irrelevant, and the less obvious Elsewhere.

Misleading?  Definitely.  Taking the sort of alarmist “everyone on the internet is a pedophile” approach, this sign assumes the absolute worst without any real acknowledgement of any other scenario.  Anything with the lines “NOT! We all want to save money but this isn’t the way.” as a full explanation of a complicated topic is highly suspect.  Plus, there is some fuzzy math – I’ll trust the Boing Boingers who estimate that at a cost of a billion dollars, digitizing half a million books comes out to about $2000/item.

Ugly?  Well, it’s not in Comic Sans, but it does make liberal use of clip art.  Was ours in terrible condition?  No.  Poster, you win this letter.

Superseded?  Oh hell yes.  Created from an article published in 2001 in ALA’s American Libraries (available here via cache), the original poster is dated.  Even the update is a little dated at this point: “Try reading an e-book reader for more than a half-hour. Headaches and eyestrain are the best results. Moreover, the cost of readers runs from $200 to $2,000, the cheaper ones being harder on the eyes. ”

Trivial?  I say yes.  The idea that the internet is here to ruin libraries is not really the general view of librarians.  In fact, you’ll find us alllll over the internet, often in places you don’t need or want us.  The overall idea of this poster is one that someone’s grandmother might muse about over brunch, along with other topics like “People are trying to steal your PIN at ATMs”, “When I type my email address into the bar at the top, I can’t get to my email”, and “No, why should I know my password?”.

Irrelevant?  Is addressing the interaction between libraries and the internet irrelevant?  Absolutely not.  Is most of the “information” contained in this poster highly irrelevant?  Absolutely.  If you want to compare and contrast libraries, why not highlight the revitalization of community space?  Or the free resources provided in person and online?

And the vague Elsewhere?  Is this information duplicated in our collection?  I really hope not.  Is it elsewhere in the world?  Yes, definitely, yes.  Whichever view you take, the idea that the internet is impacting the library is pretty well covered.

There you have it.  MSTIE at least, if not MUSTIE.  What kind of poster would I like to see replace it?  Something like 10 ways libraries matter in a digital age, published in response to the original poster, I suppose.  But with less clip art.


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