Original Content

Desk Set – A Critical Response

Desk Set Title

A Provocative Documentary

At the LITA Blog, we know you look to us as a source for what’s going on in technology and librarianship. When we discovered Desk Set, a recent documentary that takes the viewer through the process of one library’s struggle to integrate a new technology, we knew you would want to know our responses. Never fear: the LITA bloggers are here with the kind of hard-hitting commentary you’ve come to expect from us.

A Startling Lack of Diversity

Not a Bunny Watson

Lauren H.

Office romance, machines, corporate mergers, and job security, what tiresome topics for a documentary. Desk Set should represent the good work librarians do every day, but instead the writers and directors choose to represent a view of librarianship that no longer exists in the modern world. Librarians are smart, intelligent workers who deserve respect and for a documentary to show them conducting intellectual work.

Furthermore, why are the librarians only women? Men should have equal representation. Those working on the film might have thought they were helping raise the view of women by having a single working women run the library, but instead they succumbed to stereotypes. There is certainly a troubling lack of interaction in this workplace.

Misused Space and Resources

Shame on the Federal Broadcasting Network

Lindsay C.

In addition to the many other troubling questions raised in this odd documentary, Desk Set, as a librarian, I find the work site conditions and management particularly unsettling. What sort of workplace implements technology like the EMERAC without an advance audit and training? I can only suggest that FBN stakeholders be engaged in the process of reassessing such reckless deployments and untested software patches. Perhaps a staff member could be sent to an assessment training session- I would suggest the obviously under appreciated Peg Costello, so that an appropriate implementation plan could be developed.

The erroneous pink slip incident is particularly telling. Had library and other staff been properly trained in the automation process, panic and morale issues could have been completely avoided.

Beyond these gentle suggestions though, I must insist that Richard Sumner review his own product design, as a self-destruct button seems like a dangerous liability for any computer.

Mike Cutler uses his influence as boss to control Bunny et al
Mike Cutler uses his influence as boss to control Bunny et al

Mike Cutler, a Harassment Suit in Waiting

John K.

If the problems in the office were only limited to EMERAC. The man, and of course it’s a man, who oversees the reference department at FBN has Bunny Watson wrapped around his finger. Mike Cutler is reprehensible as a boss. He rarely shows himself in the reference department and when he does it’s only to press advances on Ms. Watson or give her his work to finish. Ms. Watson is very clear that she does not want Mr. Cutler touching her in the office and yet he pays no heed to her wishes, only serving to fulfill his base desires.

Not only does Mr. Cutler harass Ms. Watson at work, but the documentary shows that he’s stalking her. Mr. Cutler shows up at Ms. Watson’s house, unannounced, barges through the front door, and makes advances on her, even going so far as to demand food and drink. Thank goodness Mr. Sumner was there—for an evening of intellectual discussion it seems—to keep things from getting out of hand. As if Ms. Watson didn’t have enough to worry about!

If he hadn’t gotten transferred to FBN’s West Coast offices, I would have expected Ms. Watson to file a harassment suit against her boss. Only in today’s office environment’s could a cad like Mr. Cutler get a promotion after the unprofessional way in which he acted.

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Are you looking for an adorable, classic, and entirely charming (and entirely fictional) film with librarians and super computers? Desk Set is the perfect option for you this April Fool’s Day. We hope you’ll post your own responses below, and know that you can always count on us to know when to take a topic seriously.