Sunday, July 08, 2007


The NYT article on "hipster" librarians certainly has lots of people talking. Some enjoyed the article, and others, not so much.

I read the article and thought it was typical; I agreed with some of it, and found some of it vaguely annoying. I wondered why, when you Google "cool" "+librarian" and my blog comes up at the top of the list, no one ever interviews me about what it means to be a cool librarian.

Seriously, though, the article did get me thinking about the fact that I have "branded" - for lack of a better word - myself as the Cool Librarian, and I wonder if people think I'm a jerk - or worse yet - "pathetic" - for doing so.

So, for those of you who have wondered about that, the explanation is quite simple - and sadly, rather boring: it's the handle I chose for myself when I became an obsessed geocacher (arguably one of the most "uncool" hobbies around). I was in the middle of grad school at the time (2003), and I was just dying to start my career as a librarian, and to be known as a librarian. And a cool one, at that.

I decided to become a librarian after working as the director of a non-profit adult literacy program, and my office just happened to be housed at a local library. And here's the "funny" part - the librarians at this particular library were all substantially older than me, couldn't clear a paper jam to save themselves ("Jessica, the printer thing is broken again!"), and had cardigans in every color - and I thought they were the coolest people around.

"Miss Mary," the children's librarian, would go home after work each night to a single cigarette and a glass of wine in her hot tub. "Linda" loved to dish the dirt on everyone, but was genuinely sweet to our several severely mentally-ill and often patience-trying patrons. "Charlotte," who didn't have an MLS but had worked in the library for years, could (and would) catalog my ass if asked to. And at 83, "Mildred" was nearly stone deaf, but came in to work with a smile on her face each and every day. These women weren't hip, wouldn't know tech if it bit them on the head, and were the reason I called URI and said, "I'd like some information on your MLIS program, please." Damn cool, all of them.

Yes I have tattoos. Yes I have a nose ring. Yes I'm a bit of a techie. And yes, I think that those things give me an aura of coolness - to some people. But I was all that (and a bag of chips) long before I became a librarian.

I feel like a COOL LIBRARIAN when a patron pays me a compliment on my job performance (or, hell, my shirt); when I track down that elusive bit of info; when I make a teen laugh - and not just at me; when I say, "YES! I think I can do that for you" when I'm not really sure that I know what "that" might entail; and when I speak my mind, no matter how unpopular my position, because I want my library to rock.

That's my story - and I'm sticking to it.


moonflowerdragon said...

I enjoyed hearing why you chose the monicker and how you began your librarianship path... thanks for sharing it.

Liz said...

Yes! Yes! Yes!

We are cool librarians when we do our jobs well! Not because we drink trendy cocktails! Yes!

The.Effing.Librarian said...

it's not cool to agree, but i is those outside looking in, it's something they can label and file with some product; to us on the inside, who do the work, we just want to do it well...