Image, Public Perception, and Lego Librarians

I love seeing how the public and the media portray librarians. Whether it’s the shushing/conservative stereotype, “naughty librarian” stereotype, under-appreciated & over-worked public servant (this one is NSFW-but one of my faves!), dealing with inept patrons, or even ones that combine the brainy stereotype with sexiness – I eat it up. I wonder if accountants or architects feel the same way when they see their field portrayed?

Entering Pop Culture

So, how do we know when librarians have hit the big time? Lego has introduced a Lego Librarian – part of its minifigures series line. This line of minifigures is an eclectic group. Series #10, which the librarian belongs to, also includes a warrior woman, sad clown, and a paintball player among others. In fact, the librarian is the only viable career option in the set! How cool is that?

There are 150+ minifigures, only about 10 require a college degree, so the librarian is in rare company!

Here’s the Lego Librarian [screen capture from the Lego website]:

Screen shot 2013-07-06 at 11.35.20 PM

The official Lego Librarian, part of Minifigures Series 10.

OK, so it plays into several librarian stereotypes…but I would expect nothing less. The Lego character must be easily identifiable to the public: “Oh yeah, THAT is a librarian!” So, what do we have?…

  • Female? Check.
  • Glasses? Check.
  • Cardigan? Check.
  • Sensible hair? Check.
  • Book? Check.
  • Coffee cup that reads “Shhh!” Check.

Oranges and Peaches

The creators went to some lengths to add a bit of fun. There’s even an inside joke in regards to the “Oranges and Peaches” book. It’s a reference to the 1995 movie Party Girl starring Parker Posey as a library clerk. In the scene below, a patron asks for Darwin’s Origin of Species. The Parker character mistakes it for “Oranges and Peaches”:

A Biographical Story

The Lego Librarian comes with a brief bio. Again, it plays into some trite stereotypes, but it’s fun:

Books are just about the Librarian’s most favorite thing in the entire world. Reading them can take you on exciting adventures in far-off lands, introduce you to new friends and cultures, and let you discover poetry, classic literature, science fiction and much more. If only everybody loved to read as much as she does, the world would be a better place…and quieter, too! The Librarian feels that it’s extremely important to treat a book with the proper respect. You should always use a bookmark instead of folding down the corner of the page. Take good care of the dust jacket, and don’t scribble in the margins. And above all else, never – ever – return it to the library late!

It’s no surprise that the Lego Librarian is female. It should be. We’re a female-dominated profession. It makes sense. But I wanted to have some fun, so I decided to to see if I could make the librarian version of me – Mr. Library Dude. It was not hard.

I grabbed the Lego computer programmer minifigure. He’s wearing a sweater vest and glasses. Doesn’t that scream male librarian? I actually think I have that EXACT sweater vest! I added an iPhone (those who know me never see me without mine) and I invented the Mr. Library Dude Lego Librarian:

This is Mr. Library Dude.

This is Mr. Library Dude.

Lego Librarians on Parade

So besides the official Lego Librarian version and my knock-off, how might we portray other librarians in Lego form? Or what other ways are we perceived by peers or the public? I decided to take a stab at it and had a bit of fun. Maybe you even know a few of these. So here’s my satirical take. What would you add?

Note: Naturally, the LEGO images below are popular with children. Please be forewarned: there is a bit of cursing below.

Update: By popular request, I have added a children’s librarian. Look for the chicken suit!

“All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”  🙂

Introducing: Librarian Job Ad Drinking Bingo!

A little end-of-the-day humor for my job-hunting librarian friends: here’s Librarian Job Ad Drinking Bingo!

It’s easy to play: just scroll through the postings on the ALA JobList site. Every time you see one these items below: a buzzword, a litany of preferred advanced qualifications, or one of those bullet points that just makes you think “WTF!” – take a drink!

If you get five in a row, shout out “Bingo!” You’ll be sloshed in no time!  (…but as those ads say, my friends–please drink responsibly).

Click the image for a larger view.

Librarian Job Ad Drinking Bingo!

 

Image credit:
Shit Outta Luck” – a Creative Commons Flickr photo by user “C-Monster.”

Librarian Twitter Bingo

You ever think: wow those librarians are always tweeting about the same thing!

Well, now you can play a game: It’s called Librarian Twitter Bingo. Every time you see a librarian’s tweet about one of the topics below, cross it off. When you get a whole row, yell “BINGO!”

Librarian Twitter Bingo

PS–I myself could probably cross off at least 13 of these boxes with my own tweets, so please don’t feel like I’m picking on any librarian in particular. 🙂 – I love your tweets!

Full image on Flickr.
This is modeled after Hipster Bingo.

What They Didn’t Tell You About Being a Librarian

First off, I enjoy my job as a librarian. That hasn’t changed in the 10 years that I’ve been a librarian. So, please excuse some of my snarkiness below. It’s the Friday before Spring Break (but we all know that most librarians don’t get a Spring Break) and I needed a little fun! Here’s a list of 10 things they didn’t tell you about being a librarian. These have all happened to me, or at a library I have worked at:

  1. Asking a patron to stop licking the computer monitor when viewing images of French figure skater Surya Bonaly.
  2. You should probably memorize all of the books by their color because that’s what patrons will ask for. “Do you have that green book? You know…the big one!”
  3. How to get the following animals OUT of the library: bats, snakes, robins, frogs, and yes–a roadrunner.
  4. How to ID a peeping tom in the book stacks. And making him leave when the security officer doesn’t do his/her job.
  5. That someone ALWAYS wants to photocopy something the minute before closing.
  6. When a patron is asking for books on “poultry,” he may actually mean “poetry.”
  7. That senior citizens sometimes just call the library because they’re lonely. This makes me sad.
  8. You need to de-lice the library headphones.
  9. The Robert Mapplethorpe books always ends up in the men’s restroom and you will sometimes need plastic gloves to retrieve them.
  10. Are you allowed to keep the alcohol you find in the library? Kidding! Seriously, I’ve found everything from beer cans to Jack Daniels, and even vermouth! But I suspected the vermouth to be from a library co-worker (what college kid drinks vermouth?).

Have something to add to the list? Please share!

Love in the Stacks: Why Not?

The New York Times has a nice write-up about speed-dating nights held at public libraries. It includes an interview with a man who says he hasn’t stepped foot in a public library in years. It was also cute to read about the librarians that organize these events. They probably feel like high school teachers that chaperone the prom! The speed-dating participants were told to bring their favorite book:

Can Atlas Shrugged find love with the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test? Is attraction possible between a Jonathan Franzen reader and a die-hard Elizabeth Gilbert fan?

One of the libraries mentioned in the article is San Francisco Public Library. The San Francisco Chronicle has a good report of the event with a catchy headline: Singles Check One Another Out. The article talks up libraries “new” social aspects.

Now I know folks who say that this shouldn’t be part of a library’s mission, but the “community” is the library’s mission. If it’s something that can benefit the community, then why not?

It also reminds me of my favorite librarian/love anecdote. This is a true story:

A librarian is sitting at the reference desk. Behind her are large volumes of Chemical Abstracts (back when print was the only option!). In comes a chemistry professor. He walks up to the desk and asks her, “Do you have a background in chemistry?” Motioning behind her to the Chemical Abstracts, she says, “Why yes, I do!” The professor laughs. They started dating and ended up getting married.

Love in the stacks? This librarian approves.

Back to the Future: A Library/Technology Lesson from 1983

Heading up to my office, I noticed this little nugget hanging on the bulletin board by the staff elevator:

Microcomputers for Libraries

“Microcomputers are most certainly the key to the future.”

Wow! Now this is why I stay away from making technology predictions. The book is: Microcomputers: How Useful are They? Written by Jane Beaumont and Donald Krueger, it was published in 1983 by the Canadian Library Association. According to WorldCat, there are still 214 libraries that hold this book–well, make that 213. The reason it was spotlighted on our bulletin board is that it’s headed to the “withdraw” pile.

Inside, the preface is a bit chuckle-inducing:

In January 1981, I was discussing career prospects for information specialists with a colleague. He ominously discussed the impending demise of librarians who fail to recognize and respond to new technologies. “Microcomputers,” he emphasized, “are most certainly the key to the future.”

…I sensed my curiosity being whetted by his cogent contentions and my ears succumbing to his stentorian tones. No doubt I encountered feelings which are not unique, a vague professional malaise and a timid personal hesitation which might have indicated a desire for change restrained by fear of personally initiating it.

Despite the laughs, the premise still holds true today: libraries and librarians must adapt to new technologies. However, I think “adapting” to new technologies places us in a reactive mode when we need to be in an active mode. This point has been most exemplified with the recent decision by HarperCollins to restrict its e-book lending to only 26 check-outs before the license expires. The Twitterverse exploded on Friday with tweets (search Twitter for #hcod)  from angry librarians (completely justified, btw) responding to the new terms of service.

But how do we get from being reactive to active? The Librarian in Black blog is a good starting point. Check out posts on eBook User’s Bill of Rights and Library eBook Revolution, Begin. Short of getting a librarian appointed to corporate boards of publishing companies, what else can we do? Lobbying publishing companies, educating authors and e-book readers, partnering with the American Library Association, promoting changes in digital rights management and copyright law all come to mind. A boycott of HarperCollins now started, too. Beyond protests, I’d like to know from librarians as to what concrete steps can be taken. I’m not an expert in this, but would like to be a part of the solution. Let me know!

Childhood Library Memories

Due Date | Garrett Public Library | Garrett, Indiana

Due Date | Garrett Public Library | Garrett, Indiana

So was I destined to become a librarian from the beginning? One of my earliest childhood memories is of the library. In my small Indiana hometown (and you know it’s a small town when the library website’s top link is to an ‘obituary index’!), the Garrett Public Library sponsored a “Tuesday Toddlers” program: story time with the children’s librarian. I was always mesmerized by her awesome felt-board shows (do they still do those? Or doesn’t that keep toddlers’ attention anymore?). A few years back, my parents were preparing to move into a new house. I was helping to clean up in the attic. There I found a much used, grubby looking book, Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss. According to the due date card inside, I had checked it out in 1983. I hope becoming a librarian excuses me from the overdue fine. Or maybe becoming a librarian was my punishment? I kid! I kid!

In elementary school, the small Catholic school I attended had a library housed in a camper (true story!). Unfortunately, during a thunderstorm, it was struck by lightning. The resulting fire destroyed all of the books. However the teachers came up with an idea: to help build a new library collection, each student would donate a book on his/her birthday. It was fun to “check out” other students’ books. I also got a kick out of it years later when younger cousins who attended the same school would check out books I had “donated.”

Visiting with my Grandma Janice would usually involve a trip to her local public library. Her library, the beautiful Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, Indiana (here’s a pic I snapped on a visit last year), was exactly the type of library that I think most people picture in their minds: the old book smell, magazines, comfy chairs, wood paneling, large windows. My grandma was one of those people who always had something checked out from the library. I felt special when she would let me pick out a book and check it out with her library card. She spent a lot of time inside just browsing (usually looking for a book on the Kennedys). When the weather was nice, I would sit outside the entrance and read my books. Or sometimes I would go to the little park out back and read by the fountain.

Now lots of people can surely relay stories of “bad” childhood library experiences. I have only one. And it’s not that bad thinking back. When I was in 7th grade, I picked out a book at the public library and took it to the circulation desk. I was told that I couldn’t check it out because it was from the ‘adult’ section and you had to be at least 14. Really? As a 13-year old, I thought: “There’s nothing in that book that I haven’t seen on TV or heard my dad utter!”  The librarian told me I had to have my parents’ permission. So, I decided to show her! I only lived a block away, so I dragged my mom with me back over to the library. We marched up to the circulation desk. I told the librarian that I wanted to check out the book and I had my mom with me. “Are you going to let him check out that book?” the librarian snarled. My mom replied, “Well, I didn’t have my Wheel of Fortune interrupted for him not to…so check it out!” I got the book. And many more.

These libraries helped to educate me and entertain me. They set the stage for life-long learning. They are the public trust. Let’s keep ’em funded.

What are your childhood library memories?

Eckhart Public Library, Auburn, IN

My grandma’s library – Eckhart Public Library, Auburn, IN