- Our Own Selves: More Meditations for Librarians
On the eve of his becoming president of the American Library Association the author has written another devotional book for the profession, a sequel to his popular Our Singular Strengths: Meditations for Librarians (ALA, 1998), which was reviewed in this journal in volume 34, number 3. The present volume adds more than 100 meditations to the 144 in the earlier volume. These are grouped under headings that are different from the first collection and refreshing to consider: "Reading and Books," "Places," "People," "Values," "Library Services," "Then and Now," "Technology," "Practicalities," "The Eightfold Path," and "This and That." Each of the meditations continues the format of the previous volume and consists of a brief quotation, drawn from a wide variety of prose and poetic sources, with citation; a paragraph or two of reflection on its relevance to librarianship; and a resolve that begins with "I will . . ." Although the present volume has more pages, it uses lighter-weight paper and is actually smaller in size.
To be sure, the quotations have an eclectic and idiosyncratic character, the reflections are largely personal and often didactic, the resolutions simplistic. Yet they make short pieces for vocational inspiration for librarians and their friends. Our profession can use some motivational writing that rises above the pep talks and hype of the technology vendors. This work will be useful as a token gift to library trustees and friends as well as a good handy gift for staff members. But anyone can profit from a daily or periodic dipping into the short pieces. After all, any book that begins with a quotation from Lawrence Clark Powell, followed by one by Samuel Johnson, shows immediate promise. The author's embrace of Buddhist ideals comes through most clearly in section 9, entitled "The Eightfold Path," which underscores several principles and concludes with the Golden Rule. Recurring line drawings by his daughter Emma Gorman reinforce the continuity of the work's format.
Michael Gorman is known for his staunch, energetic, and thoughtful defense of librarianship as a critical profession in human society, and his writing demonstrates his breadth of knowledge and depth of commitment. In a period when library directors and candidates for professional offices seem to write little more than grant proposals, technical manuals, or campaign rhetoric, Gorman's steady stream of writing and publications still stirs the blood of many readers, some with enthusiastic resonance and others with studied antipathy if not anger. The author strives to eschew what he calls the "religiosity[,] . . . smarminess[,] and pomposity" (xi) common in this genre, but his degree of success will doubtless be assessed by the eye of the beholder—or, in this case, the mind of the reader.
Following the positive reception of the earlier volume, this short book should fulfill the hope of the author that "these thoughts on the many facets of librarianship [will] establish the kind of connection between writer and reader [End Page 581] that encourages, amuses, and stimulates thought and reflection" (xi). This it will surely do. No one could ask for more.