Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I Can Has Hot Librarian?

This Sunday the NY Times filled us in on hipster librarians. And now, two days later, people are still emailing each other about it. Hmmm, well maybe I should make fun of it! Let's start from the beginning:
On a Sunday night last month at Daddy’s, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, more than a dozen people in their 20s and 30s gathered at a professional soiree, drinking frozen margaritas and nibbling store-bought cookies. With their thrift-store inspired clothes and abundant tattoos, they looked as if they could be filmmakers, Web designers, coffee shop purveyors or artists.
Hmmm, powerful opening. I smell hipster... handbook.
When talk turned to a dance party the group had recently given at a nearby restaurant, their profession became clearer.

“Did you try the special drinks?” Sarah Gentile, 29, asked Jennifer Yao, 31, referring to the colorfully named cocktails.

“I got the Joy of Sex,” Ms. Yao replied. “I thought for sure it was French Women Don’t Get Fat.”

Ms. Yao could be forgiven for being confused: the drink was numbered and the guests had to guess the name. “613.96 C,” said Ms. Yao, cryptically, then apologized: “Sorry if I talk in Dewey.”

No problem Ms. Yao, sorry I'm going to leave you now and go talk to the normal people over there. Oh, and the name of my drink is "Shut the f*ck up," I mean "Shush."
That would be the Dewey Decimal System. The groups’ members were librarians. Or, in some cases, guybrarians. “He hates being called that,” said Sarah Murphy
Oh, he hates being called a "guybrarian?" That's weird. What is he trying to act cool or something? From these first couple paragraphs, I'm thinking this must be a piece about how we think librarians are nerdy, but they're like incredibly way nerdier than we ever imagined.
Ms. Murphy was speaking of Jeff Buckley, a reference librarian at a law firm, who had a tattoo of the logo from the Federal Depository Library Program peeking out of his black T-shirt sleeve.
Oh my, a tattoo of the FDLP? (yeah I throw that acronym around like nothing, don't you?) What is this guy, some sort of Library Avenger or something?
Librarians? Aren’t they supposed to be bespectacled women with a love of classic books and a perpetual annoyance with talkative patrons — the ultimate humorless shushers?
Yes! or ... I don't know, maybe?! No?? Why are you asking me about librarians again? Aren't they people just like you and me? What are these silly questions? Is this the NY Times? I thought I was reading the NY Times. Can someone please point me to the NY Times.
Not any more. With so much of the job involving technology and with a focus now on finding and sharing information beyond just what is available in books, a new type of librarian is emerging — the kind that, according to the Web site Librarian Avengers, is “looking to put the ‘hep cat’ in cataloguing.”
Oh snap! That guy really is a Library Avenger. Uh-oh, I have late fees from 1986 (book: "Are You There God, It's Me TAN" also known as "Ketel 1-and-Cranberry"), ... and now I'm kind of scared.
When the cult film “Party Girl” appeared in 1995, with Parker Posey as a night life impresario who finds happiness in the stacks, the idea that a librarian could be cool was a joke.
Two cool librarians walk into a bar ... HA!

It's funny because it's true.
Now, there is a public librarian who writes dispatches for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a favored magazine of the young literati. “Unshelved,” a comic about librarians — yes, there is a comic about librarians — features a hipster librarian character.
A librarian who writes for McSweeney's? REALLY?!!!? What's next? Popcorn at movie theaters? Also, THERE'S A COMIC ABOUT LIBRARIANS?!!? You are seriously blowing my mind right now. That's, like, totally impossible to comprehend. What's next? A comic about a talking beagle who sleeps on his dog-house and occasionally flies in WWII planes?
And, in real life, there are an increasing number of librarians who are notable not just for their pink-streaked hair but also for their passion for pop culture, activism and technology.
Well duh. Anyone who streaks their hair pink is doing it because they're passionate. PINK: P is for pop culture, I is for actIvism, N is for techNology, and K is for Konichiwa bitches!!!
“We’re not the typical librarians anymore,” said Rick Block, an adjunct professor at the Long Island University Palmer School and at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science, both graduate schools for librarians, in New York City.

“When I was in library school in the early ’80s, the students weren’t as interesting,” Mr. Block said.

Tell Mr. Block he's a douche, and no one is signing up for his class at LIU this year.

Ok, enough of this setup and character profiling! Can someone tell us what these librarians do that make the job so interesting?

For that we tab Jessamyn West, 38, the editor behind a site with the tagline, "putting the rarin’ back in librarian since 1999":
In a typical day, Ms. West might send instant and e-mail messages to patrons, many of who do their research online rather than in the library. She might also check Twitter, MySpace and other social networking sites, post to her various blogs and keep current through MetaFilter and RSS feeds. Some librarians also create Wikis or podcasts.
You know, every day I wake up, turn on my computer and wonder "who am i?" Turns out, I'm a librarian! Wait a minute, you too?? Awesome! Good thing librarians -- along with blogs and online networking sites -- are cool then, huh. Also, Ms. West, there isn't a "rarin'" in "librarian." You should nix the tagline, the joke is too forced. It's the same reason Gawker nixed "putting the awe in Gawker" and Obama nixed "putting the Obama in hippobotamus" (hmm, hope that works out). You're either putting the "rarian" back, or you're doing nothing. That tricknology is not working on me!

Anybook, I don't know about this article. I feel like I'm looking at a big scoreboard that says Hipsters: 100, NY Times: 0. I don't see the story -- Hipsters have discovered an alternative to waiting tables? That's cool, most wait-staff I'm sure would take the $51K median salary over tips. But wait, you first need to scrounge up the money to get that most versatile of graduate degrees, the MLS! Sounds like a plan ... for hipsters with money and no real dreams!

Now if you were to take all these young hipster librarians and catch up with them in ten years, and see if they're still working in libraries, that might be interesting. That's the real heart of the librarian cliche; the older librarian coming to terms with their dead-end job. Williamsburg no longer welcomes them, so they hang out at home, alone, ordering book-drinks to themselves, "Are you there God, it's me TAN?" All night, every night. Now that's a story!

There was one other quote that could have led to something substantive:

"I wanted to do something different, something maybe more meaningful,” said Carrie Klein, 36, who used to be a publicist for a record label and for bands such as Radiohead and the Foo Fighters, but is now starting a new job in the library at Entertainment Weekly.

Now here's something to dig into. Who's more meaningless: a publicist or a librarian?

Let's ponder that in Williamsburg over a Complete Idiot's Guide to Being a Librarian and a shot of the Kama Sutra, shall we? Seriously, let's make it two shots of the Sutra, those librarian glasses always turn me on.

A Hipper Crowd of Shushers [NY Times]


  1. Anonymous7/10/2007

    Here in Atlanta Real Estate we find this information interesting.

  2. I dunno. First off, I know a couple of librarians pretty well... one extremely well, but none of them are "hipsters". Not by a long shot. Secondly, while attending Pratt I worked in the Financial Aid office, in the building that housed the SILS (Master of Libray Science) program. And I can assure you... NONE of them were "hipsters". Most of them were the most anti-social, badmannered cranky bunch of middle-aged women I'd ever met, and the rest were from "foreign" as the Jamaicans would say. And some of the foreign students were downright nuts. One of them, from Russia, was downright combative. He frequently accused the Financial Aid consultant of being anti-Semitic and/or anti-Russian. Another one was quite obviously discharged from the Navy with uh, some mental health issues. And so on. So I don't know who in the hell that Times reporter was talking to... but it twern't the SILS people I knew.

    An another thing; they had money. Grad students don't qualify for a lot of the student loans, and so the only aid they got would be wavers or grants. And they were paying some pretty cool cash for tuition...

  3. Is this going to diminish the cache of my sexy librarian outfit when I go out? I spent a lot of money on that taupe cardigan goddammit.

  4. Bk_red7/11/2007

    never checked this blog before, but i have to say this was funny. and i liked the taglines: newscast, nyc, WHITE PEOPLE. i am an elementary school teacher and live in williamsburg, land of the hipster. of course, we're not all hipsters - i like to think i'm far from it. i get so annoyed by their skinny, tight jeans (on the men), ugly haircuts and general, "i'm not really trying to be counter-culture" attitude when you know they really are. i have no issue with librarians, as i'm good friends with the one at my school, but hipsters are another story. maybe one day they'll all wake up and realize they're not as cool or unique as they think they are.

  5. I'm not a hipster, I'm black.

    And Info Pros (librarian is so old school) are fucking cool.

    Who do you think makes it possible for you to find gov documents and free translation software with the click of a mouse? It ain't Google - even though they help too.

    It's Info Pros, petitioning for the freedom of information and uploading tons of stuff online.

    You better recognize.

  6. TAN, you've outdone yourself again. after this post, i can only speak in tomes: ISBN 0152163875.

  7. Anonymous7/12/2007

    I know some hipster librarians. They chose to be librarians so they wouldn't have to work hard in life. They were guaranteed a life of slack. See slackers the movie. Librarians. All of them.

  8. Anonymous7/12/2007

    Something more meaningful.... like a librarian for... Entertainment Weekly!

  9. It's really like manna from heaven when papers realize they've been missing the boat on the most minor of cultural newnesses, and then throw together articles like this or "Facebook: What Does it All Mean?" or some such. So timely!

    That said, my girlfriend is currently getting her MILS at Pratt, and is about to go on a nine-state killing spree because she's been forwarded this article about 150 times in the last week. Who'd guess that an information studies student in New York would read the Times on her own?

  10. TAN, you are priceless!

  11. I love librarians, but I have to say, this might be the most brilliant thing I've ever read.

  12. the story was interesting to here to read. Something more meaningful.... like a librarian for... Entertainment Weekly!

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