Our Singular Strengths: Meditations for Librarians

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Michael Gorman, one of librarianship's most accomplished and impassioned practitioners, is back. Drawing on his four decades of library experience, Gorman has written a thoughtful and humanizing book that not only reminds librarians why they chose their craft, but reinforces the importance of their work.

Our Singular Strengths is a compilation of 144 comforting and uplifting thoughts about library work presented in the popular meditations format: a quotation, a short essay, and a resolution. The book is designed to present a topic, thought, or story that encapsulates some aspect of libraries and learning as an aid to understanding and reassessment, and to simply provide comfort to beleaguered librarians. Gorman takes his passion for libraries and their importance to society and offers observations rooted in experience and reason that may provide insight into libraries, librarianship, and being a librarian in today's ever-changing world.

    1 Beginnings and Endings

    • Opening the door
    • Library furniture
    • Celebrating diversity
    • The Library Journal, 1915
    • First day at work
    • "The money is there for technology"
    • First books
    • The solace of knowledge
    • Your pornography, my erotica
    • Starved of content
    • Remote storage
    • Library of Congress cards: R.I.P.

    2 Values

    • Islands in the sea of eternity
    • Plain words
    • Intellectual freedom
    • Privacy and the Library
    • The public good
    • Bibliotherapy
    • The reference interview
    • The love of books
    • Small libraries are beautiful
    • Clash of values
    • The fear of words
    • "Non omnis moriar"

    3 Lives

    • Mister Jones
    • Teaching by helping
    • S. R. Ranganathan
    • Libraries in Literature
    • Hugh Craig Atkinson
    • Pity the poor administrator
    • Andrew Carnegie
    • What do you remember from library school?
    • Melvil Dewey
    • Lonely people
    • Miss Colwell
    • Retirement

    4 Laws

    • Ranganathan’s five laws
    • Ranganathan’s first law
    • Ranganathan’s second law
    • Ranganathan’s third law
    • Ranganathan’s fourth law
    • Ranganathan’s fifth law
    • Five new laws of librarianship
    • First new law
    • Second new law
    • Third new law
    • Fourth new law
    • Fifth new law

    5 Change, Problems, and Realities

    • Change makes you stupid
    • Outsourcing
    • Scholarly journals
    • Foreign languages
    • Modern library budgets
    • The Newbery Medal
    • Books into films
    • Burnout
    • Reference collections
    • Distant Learning
    • The problem patron
    • My ideal library

    6 Present and Future

    • Libraries and democracy
    • E-mail in libraries
    • The tax revolt
    • Copyright and electronic documents
    • The paper-full society
    • Downsizing
    • Different in kind
    • Virtual lives
    • People or kiosks?
    • Museums of failed technology?
    • Library or pipeline?
    • Night thoughts

    7 Librarians

    • The image of the librarian
    • Learning to be a librarian
    • Mysteries
    • The impossibility of classification
    • Political correctness?
    • ALA conferences
    • Problem colleagues
    • The library "great person"
    • The outsider syndrome
    • The war of AACR2
    • Women in libraries
    • A word for Ned Ludd

    8 Places

    • The library as a public place
    • National libraries
    • Cotleigh Road branch library
    • Beyond the museum
    • Ssshh!
    • Prisons
    • Home base
    • Libraries and the mall
    • California dreams
    • Art and decoration in the library
    • "The flowering of the imagination"
    • The love of libraries

    9 Reading and Writing

    • Electronic "books"
    • The gift of reading
    • The continuum of literacy
    • The ladder of learning
    • Back to basics?
    • Paperbacks
    • Library literature
    • Collecting Books
    • Jabberwocky
    • The library hand
    • Reading
    • Are libraries dangerous?

    10 The Wider World

    • The A.D.A.
    • The choice
    • Bookstores
    • Story time
    • Multiple identities
    • International book sharing
    • Unbooks?
    • Time machines
    • Reports, statistics, and all that jazz
    • Technology as religion
    • "Thin places"
    • 84, Charing Cross Road

    11. Practicalities

    • Bindings
    • Dress for success?
    • No food, no drink
    • Coral reefs
    • Circulation
    • Filing
    • Indexes and indexing
    • Interlibrary loan
    • "Indecency" online
    • Fifty-cent technology
    • Descriptive cataloguing in 131 words
    • Central libraries vs. branch libraries

    12 Eternal Promises

    • Sunrise
    • Library Time
    • Reminders of continuity
    • Where love begins
    • Occam’s management theory
    • What is "information"?
    • Universal bibliographic control
    • Illuminated manuscripts
    • The librarianship of love
    • Manuscripts
    • Singular strengths
    • Closing libraries


Michael Gorman

Michael Gorman, dean of libraries at California State University at Fresno, has worked in libraries for some four decades on two continents. He is coauthor with Walt Carwford of the best-selling Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness, and Reality (ALA Editions, 1995). A shaper of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, he has won numerous awards and honors, including the Melvil Dewey Medal.

A compilation of 144 comforting and uplifting thoughts about library work. What a delightful book this is! But the, one expects nothing less from Michael Gorman, who thinks deeply about our profession."

"...a 196-page pep talk... will help you remember why you became a librarian."
—Public Libraries

"...puts the librarian back at the heart of what we do."
—Library Review