Zombie Librarianship: 7 Dead Ideas That Still Walk Among Us*

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“Ideas are long-lived. They often outlive their originators, and, even when they have proved themselves wrong and dangerous, they are very hard to kill.” Zombie Economics

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.
I think you will be familiar enough with these ideas for them to stand on their own without explanation (like zombies). And before us precious souls find a place to hide from the walking-dead, please consider my 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.

Will you fight with or against the zombies?

“My father has always had just one piece of advice about zombies and ammunition, one he’s drilled into my head enough times that it’s managed to stick: When you have one bullet left and there’s no visible way out of the shit you’re standing in, save it for yourself. It’s better than the alternative.”
― Mira GrantFeed

* The title of this post has been adapted from Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us.

A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 22 May 2012.


  1. Interestingly we just had fairly the same discussion at the German library conference. But we could nor wake up the zombies!

    1. Sally says:

      It looks like surviving the zombie apocalypse may require global coordination 🙂

  2. Great Post. I hope your sarcasm wasn’t lost on readers.

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