Thursday, 13 October 2011

How libraries can lead to murder...

This week I am not just going to focus on what we talked about in 511 but also on a couple of other things that have caught my attention.  (If you are bloodthirsty then skip the next paragraph)

Prof. Lankes discussed the 'reference interview', which comes up in 605 (Reference and Information Literacy Services) a lot.  I still have reservations about calling it an 'interview' since that might scare folk off but I suppose enquirers don't actually know that we term it such.  The point of the discussion in class was that we must ask open ended questions in order that patrons/members/whatever they are can enter into an open conversation with us and not feel that they are cornered.  Seth Godin, by coincidence on Tuesday, blogged about opening or closing conversations and this fitted in beautifully with what we were discussing.  It is not as easy as one might think.  I have been a tad scathing of the 605 textbook since it provides advice for librarians such as not to turn their backs when enquirers approach (I kid you not).  I had been of the opinion that this was all a bit on the obvious side but, reflecting on Seth's post, I see that there is a subtle difference to being socially adept and being a good reference interviewer.  

This is why you should never turn your back at the reference desk
Now something else that caught my attention and shocked me this week was the story of Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell.  In the early 1960s, these two young men took it upon themselves to make a point in their local library (Essex Road, Islington, London).  Orton is quoted in 1967 as saying 'Libraries might as well not exist; they’ve got endless shelves for rubbish and hardly any space for good books.’  It was with this attitude that the two men stole, defaced and returned 72 books.  They also retained many dust jackets with which to decorate their flat.  Their defacement of the books was done with subversive humour and a gallery of their work can be seen here.  They were finally caught after an elaborate sting operation when 'undercover librarians' were found to be turning up no evidence.


Queen’s Favourite by diamond geezer, on Flickr
Storm Drift by diamond geezer, on Flickr
Some of the doctored covers
The Three Faces of Eve by diamond geezer, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  all by  diamond geezer 

The pair were jailed for 6 months each and fined.  It was during their time in jail that the Orton broke free from Halliwell and found his true writer's voice.  Halliwell, on the other hand, became depressed and suicidal.  Not long after they were released, Halliwell bludgeoned Orton to death before committing suicide.  


All rather shocking.  


The reason that it has come to my attention now is that Islington Council is putting 40 of the 72 defaced dust jackets on show to the public.  I don't really know what to make of this tragic tale.  There are better ways to let your library know that their stock is not to your liking but obviously there was a lot more going on with these two young men than we know.  I just felt that it was an extreme case for the discussion of community and how we can gauge what they really want from their libraries and librarians.  

1 comment:

  1. Erin, Yes, you will definitely discuss the reference interview A LOT in IST 605. It's integral to the profession; though I agree with you that some points are obvious. I recommend taking the class with Oakleaf if you can. The reference interview itself takes a while to perfect, I've done a couple mock interviews and one real time one.
    Also, the story of Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell is shocking!!

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