Slobberingly-addictive radio program This American Life featured Michigan Libraries this weekend. I was painting the downstairs closet (braincell-killing homeowner goodness!) when I heard Ira Glass talking about librarians. I emitted a squee of pleasure, and cranked up the radio, leaving a bright white thumbprint on the volume knob.

Bill Harmer, the Teen Librarian of the Baldwin Public Library had the amazingly fucking brilliant idea to book a really good band, The High Strung (I went to college with vocalist Josh Malerman!) in libraries across Michigan in an effort to reverse the reputation of libraries as uptight, fussy places where No Fun Can Be Had.

Sadly, the segment showed how far we have to go on that front. Though Ira Glass lovingly described the concerts, many librarians and library workers came off sounding…well…like frumpy librarians. I winced when a woman addressed a group of 9-14 year olds with the globally-annoying “Hellooo boys and girls” and spoke to them in a sing-songy voice. I cringed when circulation workers plugged their ears at the icky rock music.

You could HEAR the sweater sets. Are we really that bad?

Still, it was a great idea, and it sounds like it was wildly successful. You should write to Bill Harmer and thank him for not being beaten down by the truncheon of public service and having such magnificent ideas.

For future reference, I’m thinking of putting together a handy conversion chart for librarians on How Not to Sound Uptight. Contributions are welcome. Here’s a start:

Instead of saying: “Hellooo boys and girls”
Say: “Hi you guys”
Lesson:
Pointing out the diminutive age of your audience is rude. Singsong voices reveal your own insecurity.

Instead of saying: “Teens”
Say: Teenagers. People. High school kids. Yutes. Jailbait. Anything but “Teens”.
Lesson: Saying “Teens” makes you sound like a nitwit. You might as well grip a pipe and denounce Communism. I’m just sayin’.