Library Pop Culture

dx1007ex_91978.jpgContinuing the horror theme I began in the “Zombies + Libraries = Awesome!” post, I was browsing the “archivist” tag in today, and found that archivists are their own class in the Heroes of Horror, a supplement for D&D players who want to bring a bit of the horror genre into their gaming.

 I’m not super-familiar with D&D, but I found a couple of the tidbits of information about the “archivist class” especially fun:

This quote made me think immediately of the SAA Code of Ethics:

The most important characteristic for an archivist is a keen Intelligence. That intellect must also be tempered with a high degree of Wisdom, due to the fine line the archivist must walk in studying evil without being corrupted by it.

These next two quotes sound a heck of a lot more glamorous than my general daily activities during the small amount of professional experience I’ve had…but I don’t know that someone outside the profession would want to re-enact the creation of EAD finding aids just for fun:

The archivist’s class features all serve to further his overall purpose, which is to seek out mystical, divine lore from strange and forbidden sources, and to gain both understanding and mastery thereof.

  The archivist can use his dark knowledge to help his allies fight off the corrupting influence of other creatures.

This next quote I can see on a t-shirt…Archivists: Not as Stuffy As Wizards.

Something that also struck me was that, even in D&D, archives is viewed as a vocation, and one that won’t necessarily reward you with gratitude (or monetarily).

Generally speaking, you aren’t quite as stuffy as the average wizard, given your breadth of experience and high Wisdom score, but neither are you a chest-thumping champion of the gods. The secrets you uncover are their own reward, and your confidence in yourself and in the job you do is more rewarding than the empty gratitude of some group or hierarchy.

Here’s that vocation thing again:

It is often said that archivists are born, not made. Many who embrace this class do so out of a genuine thirst for learning, often accompanied by a reverence or admiration for divine power.

My favorite, saving the best for last:

 Many archivists are archivists for life; the more hidden lore they uncover, the more they feel they still have to learn.


Tim Gunn, the stylish voice of reason on Bravo’s Project Runway, is getting his own series on Bravo, “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style,” (based on his book of the same name).

However, the truly exciting part of reading the article announcing his new series was that, when asked about his distinctive speaking style and wit, Gunn, who describes himself as a “big nerd,” said,

My vocabulary comes from years of teaching…My mother was a librarian, and I grew up with tons of books, and they are a blessing and a curse.

I knew there was a reason I felt such a kinship with him. 🙂

There’s a lot of interesting talk in the comments on the Library Juice post about the NYT article. Lots about aesthetic expressions and how they do (or don’t) express a significant affiliation to a group or movement (political or otherwise), or whether subcultures/countercultures have been so co-opted by the consumer culture as to have lost much of their meaning…much of which is, frankly, over my head, but I’m fascinated nonetheless. Also, as you could probably guess, there seems to be a bit of a generation clash evident in some of the comments as well.

I’ve put one of the books mentioned, “Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture” by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter on my Amazon Wish List so that I don’t forget about it.

Anyway, my post about the NYT article was largely (as you could likely tell) just me whinging about how I don’t like that the information profession (and, really, when it gets down to it, those of my generation within the profession) has been lumped in with the hipper-than-thou. Where I whinge, however, the commenters at Library Juice are really getting into the nitty gritty of it.

 Lots of food for thought. Check it out.

Librarians 1.0, originally uploaded by agsaandjsmom.

I know I’ve written about how librarianship as a profession needs to (among other things) embrace and play with its kitschy, sort of retro public image to both make our profession more visible and show in the process that, hey, we do have a sense of humor about it. The Lee County Librarians, in the above picture, are doing just that, to hilarious effect.

To continue with this train of thought, I was surprised how ambivalent I felt when I saw the “A Hipper Crowd of Shushers” article in the New York Times today, especially when it did everything that I had stated I wanted:

  • Showed that librarianship, as a profession, is changing. Jessamyn West is even quoted as saying that it’s become a techie profession, and mentions that she checks Twitter, does IM reference, and, obviously (to the biblioblogosphere, anyway) blogs frequently.

  • Profiled young librarians who reference but don’t fit the aforementioned stereotype. They’re literate, social, (sometimes tattooed and pierced) politically active “hipster” types. 
  • These librarians are no teetotalers. Several of the people who were interviewed mentioned being informally recruited by librarians they met…in bars. The lead photo and many of the interviews were apparently done in a bar. A pretty far cry from the stereotypical vision of the “dry” (literally), anti-social spinster librarian.
  • There are “guybrarians.”  That nickname alone is enough for that particular point. 🙂

After marinating on this a little more, I hit on what really bugs me. This article was written  a lot more about the “hipness” of the superficial trappings of the profession than the profession itself. As one blogger put it, “The MLIS is the new barista.”

It smacked of the same attitude of people who listen to movies only long enough to parse out their favorite quotes and repeat them ad nauseum to their friends, or who listen to indie rock only long enough to figure out which bands are acceptably underground, solely for the purpose of buying that band’s t-shirt and impressing the emo hottie that they’ve been scoping all week at the bar.

Do I get a little kick out of the high-heels-and-pencil-skirt aspect of the public perception of librarians? Sure. Did I join the profession assuming that I would spend a lot of time mingling with well-shod, well-read hotties who were my age? Hell no. I assumed (and was largely proven right, in my case) that many people in MLIS programs are making a career change, and are closer to their mid 30s or 40s than mid 20s (my age). And, far from the impression that this article gives off, very few people outside of the profession that I’ve talked to have any idea what any actual librarian does on an actual daily basis (don’t even get me started on what people do and do not know about what archivists do), which is probably why I was initially so excited to see this article.

Well, this article does make it clear that not all librarians fit the stereotype of “frumpy, middle-aged ladies in bad shoes.” However, it also spends so little time on the actual mission of libraries and librarians that it makes library school look like the intelligentsia version of getting your “MRS Degree“…so that you can mingle with other socially aware, well-read people. Sure, that’s a great part of being a librarian or archivist, you often get to work with interested, interesting people. However, that is not, and should not, be your main motivating factor for entering library school or the profession.

Do you like to help people? Do you like to search for information in multiple ways and in multiple formats and customize and deliver it to your patrons? Yes? Good. If that is the case, I don’t care if you’re 25 or 75, cool or desperately unhip…you’re librarian material.

Illustrated LibrarianI love the Dewey Decimal System

Though I am way behind the times in blogging about it (Jessamyn West did on back in February, along with countless others, I’m sure) this was too cool and funny to not mention again. 

The Illustrated Librarian is a book that holds 12 temporary tattoos, which range from “I Heart the Dewey Decimal System” to “Read or Die.”

I’m inspired. I’m thinking that, instead of “Thug Life,” which is what I’d originally planned on,  I’ll get a tattoo that says “Literate 4 Life.” What do you guys think?

xkcd consistently has some of the funniest, most observant, geekiest comics out there, and for that, it has my undying love. It’s primarily filled with math, physics, and web-related humor, but there’s a good deal else in there as well. To that end, the most recent comic is entitled “Librarians,” and it is a rib-tickler.

I would’ve posted it in here, but unfortunately it is too long to be able to squeeze into the allotted amount of space and still be legible. So, as all those kids on Reading Rainbow used to say, “You don’t have to take my word for it!”

Go check it out!

In my library school Capstone (final) class, we talked a lot about recruiting the next generation of librarians…specifically how it was partially up to us as professionals to drum up the next generation.

I can’t think of a better way to start planting this seed early than with Sarah Utter’s “Future Librarian” onesie, not to mention her “Future Librarian” kids’ and adults’ tees, and her whole line of “Reading is Sexy” shirts (each picture is an active link to the item on, the very cool site where you can buy all these goodies):

 “Future Librarian” onesie“Future Librarian” adult brown “Reading is Sexy” adult mens’ tee“Reading is Sexy” girl cut

This is just a taste of her work; these shirts are offered in other colors (pink!) and sleeve lengths, the designs are on buttons, bumper stickers, and messenger bags…and she is by no means a one-note gal. Her “Knitting is Knotty” shirts are adorable and hilarious as well.

As if you actually needed one more reason to love this woman and her work, check out the nod to the changing nature of our profession that she gives in one of her t-shirt descriptions:

Although librarians have been traditionally associated with a collections of books, as seen by the etymology of the word “librarian,” modern librarians deal with information in many formats, including books, magazines, newspapers and audio recordings in various formats.

Love it! Buy early, buy often. 🙂

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