So my friend Clay (of reference desk fame) and I have just gotten out of our dance class, and we are talking about books. A woman overhears us and starts talking about a book she is reading on the subject of Jack the Ripper.
“What was that book?” she asks, “The one they made a movie out of?”
At this point I should pause and remind you that neither of us were in any way identifiable as librarians, nor were we at work, where we might have had a contractual obligation to answer this woman’s question. Yet answer it we did, with alacrity.
We pipe up, “Oh! you must mean the graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore,” and our cover is blown. We have been exposed as professional know-it-alls. Any chance we might have had to pose as members of another, sexier profession has been lost.
We couldn’t just say “huh” like normal people. Nope, had to jump in there with the full bibliographic citation.
This is how librarians talk when they think no one’s looking. The following excerpts are from actual email conversations:
Me: Good news! The ALA now has a Library Worker’s Day! ALA loves library assistants! What I like most about this day is how close the phrase ‘library worker’ is to ‘sex worker.’ “Hi, I’m Erica and I’m a library worker! I started out as a library dancer, but now I just do some phone reference and a few library tricks on the side.”
My Librarian Friend: Some day I will be Madam at a whole Library of Ill Repute. Really naughty boys will be sent to Technical Services!!!
Me: Good news! The ALA now has a Library Worker’s Day! ALA loves paraprofessionals!
My Other Librarian Friend: Show me the money.
Hey, big news! Why you should fall to your knees and worship a librarian is now online in a nice temporary format. In other news, this blog has been discovered by people at work, so now I have to be extra careful not to mention how frightening I find the break room.
Here’s an interesting factoid about libraries and the people who work in them: Many of us have absolutely no contact with patrons or customers or whatever you call them. Mmm hmm. It’s true. Most of the straight-up academic librarians around here can be found hidden in back rooms, far from the maddeningly crowded cybercafe, trying to wrap their poor heads around grant applications and articles on digital preservation. Which, among other things, means I get to wear Birkenstocks to work.
Oh that wacky American Library Association convention. Imagine, if you will, 50 billion librarians wandering around downtown Toronto. Yes, it looked like that.
I did a bit of shopping on Sunday afternoon, and had the honor of being informed by a salesgirl that a librarian had appeared on TLC’s A Makeover Story and had been brought to that very store. “See” she implied, “it’s not too late for you!”
On a similar “weird public image of librarianship” line, I had more trouble with the ALA vendors than usual. Since I’m no longer a student, I had to contend with eager sales representatives trying to sell me their wares. I found myself regularly explaining that SOME librarians don’t actually work with books, deal with the public, or care much about the latest installment in the Harry Potter series. Once I made the mistake of mentioning the words “digital preservation research” and was treated to a sales pitch for a music journal.
I did get a chance to see a copy of Revolting Librarians Redux this weekend, and I would like to encourage everyone to buy the heck out of it. Among other things, the book contains a poem that I hadn’t read since I submitted it. I was pleased to see that it didn’t suck quite as badly as I had feared.
News Flash: A woman just walked by my library office window practicing sign language to herself. People often walk by my office and don’t realize they are being observed. Unfortunately, this works both ways, and I’ve often been caught chewing my fingernails by a casual passerby.
The section of the library dedicated to books on librarianship is located outside my office door. I thumbed through a few of them this morning. I was curious what a book on librarianship looked like, since I never really saw that many at “library school”.
Most were from the 70s and 80s, and were dedicated to some pretty abstract stuff, but nestled among the monographs on school librarianship, I found the 1972 classic Revolting Librarians. I’m amazed by the number of librarians and libraryworkers who aren’t familiar with what is the most radical, most groundbreaking, and most hilarious book ever written on the subject of librarianship. Fortunately, it’s in the public domain (because librarians rule), and also fortunately, there’s a sequel due out this fall, edited by the indelible Katia Roberto and Jessamyn West.
I contributed a piece of doggerel whose rhyme scheme should make English majors wince worldwide. Hopefully my library will buy the thing so I can walk by it in the stacks every day and feel all smug.