Parthenon of banned books in Germany

I recently came across this story in my Facebook feed, an article entitled “‘Parthenon’ made of books built at site of Nazi book burning,” published in a German online news site.

Screenshot of modern 'Parthenon' sculpture article

Screenshot of modern ‘Parthenon’ sculpture article

Argentine artist Marta Minujin collected 100,000 copies of 170 different banned books — including Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Bible — and affixed them to a wire sculpture in the exact dimensions of the Parthenon. You can read online here the short list of banned book titles included in the sculpture. The books are wrapped in plastic bags, and the copies will be donated to the public after the temporary art piece is taken down. The sculpture is part of this year’s Documenta art show.

As the article states:

“The work by Argentine artist Marta Minujin is a plea against all forms of censorship.

Minujin, 74, a pop art icon in South America, has described it as “the most political” of her works.

In fact, the “Parthenon of Books” stands at the same site where, in 1933, Nazis set in flames books by Jewish or Marxist writers.”

There are more photos — including a closeup photo showing how the books were attached to the sculpture frames — in the article. You can also read online a bit more backstory about the artwork on the Documenta site and its public call for book donations for the sculpture. And there are lots more photos on this article in the Daily Mail and in this article on the RealClearLife website.

This sculpture, and its emphasis on censorship awareness and having been built on the site of Nazi book-burnings, immediately brought to mind my recent analysis and post on the film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I was reminded particularly of the opening scene of the film that culminates in a neighborhood book burning.

Fahrenheit 451. First scene,” uploaded by Pablo Fdez Alonso, Standard YouTube License

However, it’s interesting to note that one book that IS featured in the film was purposefully left out of the art work:  Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Captain Beatty holds this book up as he reveals the reasons behind the society’s book-burning:

We’ve all got to be alike. The only way to be happy is for everyone to be made equal. so, we must burn all the books, Montag. All the books.

Screenshot from 'Fahrenheit 451'

Screenshot from ‘Fahrenheit 451’

The “Parthenon of Books” sculpture will be up for only a short period. Let’s hope its influence and message can be felt for much longer.

Portrait of a real librarian adventurer

Portrait of a librarian, Bill Nikolai.

Portrait of a librarian, Bill Nikolai.

Last week, I promised a post about another adventurer librarian… this time, a real one! 😀

This week’s post shines the spotlight on Bill Nikolai, a librarian at Vancouver Community College (VCC) in Vancouver, British Columbia… who also happens to be an actor, a stand-in and a photo-double (those are two different jobs, as I have found out), as well as a paraglider, among other things. Wow!

A few years ago, Bill contacted me after he came across my post on Reel Librarians about our visit to the Vancouver and the (awesome) Vancouver Public Library, a post that included a behind-the-scenes look at a TV pilot that was shooting at the library one of the days we happened to visit. After a few emails back-and-forth, I asked Bill if we could do a librarian profile, and just three years later… here we are! And it’s sooooooo worth the wait, as Bill has had — and continues to have — an amazing life, both in AND outside the library.

By the way, here’s the quick backstory for the photo shown at right: This pic was a photo gag for an April Fool’s blog post about fitness in the VCC Library, and was also part of a “Men of IT” charity calendar at VCC.


From the film biz…


Prior to beginning his career as an academic librarian, Bill, in his own words, “dabbled in the film biz” after taking acting courses as an undergraduate.

MacGyver

He so much resembled actor Richard Dean Anderson that he ended up as his double for both MacGyver and Stargate SG-1. (Side note:  I *loved* MacGyver, y’all. LOVED. Watching MacGyver every week with my family remain some of my happiest memories of childhood. I grew up in the country backwoods of northeast Texas, with access to only one TV channel, ABC. Thank goodness MacGyver was on ABC!) So this bit of trivia about MacGyver had me geeking out and asking Bill questions like, “How glorious was Richard Dean Anderson’s feathered mullet up close?

And here are some awesome photos of some AWESOME mullets, courtesy of Bill himself:

Photodoubling Richard Dean Anderson for a low-flying helicopter scene in Season 4 of MacGyver, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai.

Photodoubling Richard Dean Anderson for a low-flying helicopter scene in Season 4 of MacGyver, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai.

Working as a stand-in for Richard Dean Anderson on MacGyver (complete with mullet!), photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Working as a stand-in for Richard Dean Anderson on MacGyver (complete with mullet!), photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Bill Nikolai and Richard Dean Anderson had a lot of fun on and off set, occasionally skiing together as well as playing a version of hockey on set with pucks made out of used camera tape, with doorways and table legs used as goals. Such an awesome visual — I’m sure there were a lot of double-takes (har har, pun intended) when they were together! ♥

Stargate

Bill also got an occasional line or two on Stargate SG-1 as the character Tech. Sergeant Vern Alberts, in addition to photo-doubling and standing in for Richard Dean Anderson.

In uniform as Airforce Tech Sergeant Vern Alberts on Stargate SG-1, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

In uniform as Airforce Tech Sergeant Vern Alberts on Stargate SG-1, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Photodoubling RDA in Stargate SG-1, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Photodoubling RDA in Stargate SG-1, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

More about the Stargate experience and his role as Vern Alberts:

“Stargate was an interesting gig in that mostly I worked as a stand-in, but I also often would do Richard’s off-camera lines for other actors if he wasn’t available on set for their singles (as opposed to two shots or other wide shots that included RDA). Sometimes the shot would catch a bit of “Richard’s” back (an “over-the-shoulder” shot); often that shoulder would be mine. I did a lot of the close-up hand doubling as well, both on MacGyver and Stargate. Lastly, occasionally, I would get a line or two as my own recurring character, an Airforce Tech Sergeant (my character finally became known as Vern Alberts), often with General Hammond (played by the late Don Davis) hovering over my shoulder in the Stargate control room. The name “Vern” was established in an episode called Window of Opportunity when Rick shouts “How’s the wife and kids, Vern?” as he is cycling past me in a hallway.  My real-life middle name is Vern (after my father, Werner); the “wife and kids line” was improvised, so just before delivering it, Rick asked me what I wanted my first name to be. Vern was a bit of an homage to my dad.”

Kibbitzing with Richard Dean Anderson, in 2006, underwater, on the set of Stargate Atlantis. Photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai.

Kibbitzing with Richard Dean Anderson, in 2006, underwater, on the set of Stargate Atlantis. Photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai.

Here’s the backstory of the photo above, courtesy of Bill:

“This episode involved a spacecraft crashing into the ocean and Colonel O’Neill (by then, a general, I believe) is forced to try to regain control of the craft as it sinks and fills up with water. I was there to potentially double RDA in some of the scenes. ( I have Advanced SCUBA training and am comfortable in confined spaces.) In the end, Rick did all his own action in this episode. This was just prior to the start of library school at UBC and coincidentally, this episode was largely shot on campus in the Marine Engineering facility, where the production had access to a large tank that could accommodate the submerged spacecraft.”

And OF COURSE y’all know that I looked Bill up on IMDb.com, right? Check out Bill Nikolai’s IMDb.com profile for yourself.

First Target

What was Bill’s favorite day on a set? It was for a 2000 TV movie called First Target (also, check out the film’s trailer here, which also features him!), and as Bill described it, “[A day] in which I got to kiss a very bad girl, then got drugged, kicked and drowned by her.” The “very bad girl” was a beautiful assassin, played by Ona Grauer, and it serves as the one time he also got to do a stunt. The TV movie also starred Daryl Hannah.

You can check out the scene in the video below:

First Target,” uploaded by Eduardo Pérez, Standard YouTube license


… to the library biz…


Bill earned his Master’s in Library Science at the i-School at the University of British Columbia in 2008 at the age of 51 and has been working full-time ever since at the Vancouver Community College Library, where he co-led the library instruction program and teaches information literacy classes. (As Bill and I are both librarians at community colleges, we have shared via email our common experiences about our love of teaching; our love of serving a diversity of students; and the myriad responsibilities, and usually smaller library staffs, that are a common reality for many community college librarians.) Before earning his MLS, Bill also had an academic career as an ESL instructor at different universities in Japan.

Check out Bill’s profile page, brief bio, and subject specialties here on the VCC LibGuides.

Bil Nikolai's profile page on the VCC LibGuides

Bil Nikolai’s profile page on the VCC LibGuides

And Bill in another photo for the “Men of IT” charity calendar at VCC. (I feel 100% positive that charity calendar sold out! Go VCC!)

"Ask a Librarian" indeed! Photo for "Men of IT" charity calendar for VCC, courtesy of Bill Nikolai

“Ask a Librarian” indeed! Photo for “Men of IT” charity calendar for VCC, courtesy of Bill Nikolai

That photo above TOTALLY FITS the description in the last lines of Bill’s personal bio on IMDB.com, right?!:

Bill subsequently returned to school and completed a second Master’s Degree. He now works as a mild-mannered college librarian in Vancouver.

Behold the “mild-mannered” librarian below, in a fun photo collage of him in 2006, before and after scary-looking monster makeup on the set of the failed TV pilot A.M.P.E.D. Of course, my favorite part is the photobombing of the classic library science textbook, Reference and Information Services: An Introduction. Bill had just started his library science program at UBC, and he brought along study material for the long hours spent in the makeup chair.

Fun fact:  I also had the SAME textbook in library school for my reference services course in library school!

Collage of two shots Bill Nikolai put together, taken on the set of TV pilot A.M.P.E.D.

Collage of two shots Bill Nikolai put together, taken on the set of TV pilot A.M.P.E.D.

Also, I think I might just have my next Halloween costume idea… 😀

With retirement from the library on the horizon, Bill has started to get back into the acting game, as he is still a member of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), which is Canada’s version of the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) in the United States. He recently had a non-speaking acting role on the TV series Supernatural (April 2017, Season 12, Episode 18, “The Memory Remains“). His character was named “Black Bill,” and his role was to “slit someone’s throat in a flashback sequence … very un-librarian-like!” 😀

Bill was also featured this month on the cover of a local senior’s magazine, Inspired Senior Living:

Bill Nikolai's cover and interview in Inspired Senior Living magazine, June 2017

Bill Nikolai’s cover and interview in Inspired Senior Living magazine, June 2017. Click screenshot to browse through the issue online.

The feature interview, entitled “Bill Nikolai: Flybrarian,” is a great read, with more pics of Bill and his wife, Linda. I really loved this quote in particular, which is toward the end of the article:

Quote from Bill Nikolai's feature interview in the June 2017 issue of 'Inspired Senior Living' magazine

Quote from Bill Nikolai’s feature interview in the June 2017 issue of ‘Inspired Senior Living’ magazine


… and up to the skies


Bill Nikolai, librarian and paraglider, showcases how he likes to combine his “thinking person’s pursuits” — literally! This was another gag shot for another charity calendar. In the photo below, Bill is “reading” Inside the Sky: A Meditation on Flight, by William Langewiesche.

Paragliding librarian, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Paragliding librarian, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

And last but not least, below are a couple of videos Bill has shared about his “paragliding obsession” mentioned in the article linked above.

The “Paragrinding” video below was shot in September 2013 and screened at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, as well as at the Legacy Film Festival on Aging in San Francisco. (Bill shot all the GoPro footage.)

ParaGrinding” by Bill Nikolai, via Vimeo

And here’s a link to a very recent paragliding video (3 minutes) that Bill also shot:

Grouse Spring” by Bill Nikolai, Standard YouTube license

Like I said, Bill’s story was worth the wait, right?! 😀


Thank you so much, Bill, for getting back in touch with me and your willingness to share so much of your fascinating personal and professional story and behind-the-scenes photos. I am so honored to feature you here on Reel Librarians. You go into the Reel Librarians hall of fame, for sure, as you have an insider’s view in both the library and cinematic worlds.

By the way, when I first asked Bill about doing a “guest post” or profile for Reel Librarians, his charming and modest response was that he wasn’t sure his story would be “much of great interest to the librarians out there.”

Well, I’m a fellow librarian, and I find Bill’s story extremely interesting — AND inspiring!

Anyone else feel inspired around here? Please leave a comment and share!

Revisiting the reel librarian hero in 1999’s ‘The Mummy’

As the new version of The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella as the title character, opened to scathing reviews this past week (it’s earned a 17% rating thus far on Rotten Tomatoes, yikes), I noticed a trend of reviewers referencing the 1999 version of the film, and several critics urging people to just go and rewatch the 1999 version of The Mummy instead of watching the new version. As the 1999 version also happens to star a reel librarian in a lead role (Rachel Weicz as Evelyn “Evie” Carnahan, a librarian and Egyptologist), I thought it a perfect opportunity to follow their advice!

Reel Librarians | My DVD copy of The Mummy (1999)

My DVD copy of The Mummy (1999)

Snippets from current reviews of the new version of The Mummy which reference the 1999 version:

  • But alas, The Mummy turns out to be a drab, nonsensical affair that squanders its potential for humor, atmosphere, and sweep — qualities that the much-maligned, Fraser-starring 1999 Mummy had in droves.” (from The Village Voice)
  • No one over the age of 10 ever confused them [Universal’s film archive of monsters] with good movies, but the “Mummy” franchise that kicked off in 1999 had a joyously sinister and farfetched eye-candy pizzazz.” (from Variety)
  • [I]f you want to watch a fun Mummy movie this weekend, the newest option isn’t your safest bet.” (from Rotten Tomatoes)

And finally, the review from Vox, which sums up its review of the new version with this takeaway:

The Mummy is playing nationwide. You would be better off watching the 1999 version, and I don’t even like that movie.

But I do!

I still find The Mummy (1999) a fun adventure film, tongue firmly in cheek, and winking at its own spectacle; I agree with IndieWire, which called it “enduringly delightful.” I must admit two biases up front:  (1) I have always been a fan of genre films that commit unabashedly to their genres, like the 1999 version does (not so much the sequels), and (2) I love films with meaty reel librarian roles. Because OF COURSE. Especially reel librarians who kick ass onscreen and win at camel races. 😉

Oh, and SPOILERS.

If you need a reminder of the plot, here’s a trailer for the 1999 version:

The Mummy Official Trailer #1 – Brendan Fraser Movie (1999) HD,” uploaded by Movieclips Trailer Vault, Standard YouTube license.

In this adventure, Egyptian priest Imhotep is accidentally brought back to life. Egyptology librarian Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), her brother (John Hannah), and an American soldier (Brendan Fraser) join forces to stop Imhotep.

Here’s a look at my original notes from when I first analyzed the film (and yes, I initially misspelled Rachel Weisz’s name in those notes, mea culpa):

Reel Librarians | Snapshot of my original notes for the 1999 version of 'The Mummy'

Snapshot of my original notes for the 1999 version of ‘The Mummy’

I could go in many different directions in analyzing this film, but I’m going to stay in the direction these early notes took me:  focusing on Evie’s reel librarian role and how that role evolved. Even in this one snapshot from my notes, you can see my scrawled notes describing her character and how Evie’s character evolves on screen:

  • “quiet at first but becomes forceful by end”
  • “wants to move up”

Liberated Librarian

Evie is one of the lead characters of the film, and her character arc fulfills the role of Liberated Librarians. Let’s check off the hallmarks of a Liberated Librarian that connect and describe Evie’s character and role in the film:

  • A naïve, inexperienced woman who discovers herself—and what she’s capable of—in face of an adventure/disaster
  • Her “liberation” is intertwined with the major plot — the discoveries of the “Book of the Dead” and the “Book of Amun-Ra” mirror her own self-discovery
  • Young in age
  • Clothing more conservative and buttoned-up at first
  • Undergoes a change of appearance, dressing more feminine and more exotic (and her hair comes down from its bun!)

The scene in which we meet Evie comes early in the film, after the introduction that sets up Imhotep’s backstory. The library scene takes place in the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo, Egypt, and Evie is on a tall ladder and shelving books. While trying to take a shortcut to shelve a wayward title, she accidentally topples all the bookcases in the library. (One of the lessons learned in this film? Don’t take shortcuts while shelving books!) Also, during the commentary of this scene on the DVD, director Stephen Sommers reveals that they got this scene in one take!

the mummy library scene,” uploaded by Hammerfall541, Standard YouTube license.


As director Sommers also states on the DVD commentary:

“We learn everything we need to know about Evie and her backstory without it seeming like lame exposition.”

From her light sparring with the museum director, as seen in the clip above, we also learn this crucial characteristic at the heart of this reel librarian character:  She stands up for herself when others directly challenge her. However else she changes, and her story arc evolves, this remains true. She also knows her own intelligence, and that her intelligence is an asset.

“I am proud of what I am. I am a librarian.”

One of the major ways that Evie’s character breaks from the Liberated Librarian character type is that unlike most Liberated Librarians, Evie is committed to and proud of her profession.

This is most apparent in the (in)famous scene around the campfire in which Evie is inebriated, as seen in the clip below. (I also highlighted this scene and quote in a previous Quotable Librarian post.)

“Look, I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure seeker, or a gun fighter… But I am proud of what I am. I… am a librarian!”

However much I love this rallying cry — “I am a librarian!” — I do think she undersells herself in this moment. She has already proven onscreen that she is indeed an explorer and an adventurer, and she shot a gun in a skirmish just minutes before this campfire scene. It is true, however, that it is her brother (played by the cheeky John Hannah) who is the treasure seeker.

The.Mummy.WMV,” uploaded by deanxavier, YouTube license.

The power of reading

Evie also underestimates the power of reading. And from a librarian, too — for shame! But it sets the rest of the movie in motion, and serves as another way to highlight how she evolves over the course of the film.

In another campfire scene, after she has discovered the “Book of the Dead,” she figures out how to open the book and starts to read from it.

“It’s just a book. No harm ever came from reading a book.”

Yeah… except by doing so, she conjures up the mummy. (Next time, maybe try reading silently first.) The other Egyptologist, played by veteran Australian actor Jonathan Hyde, knows the danger, but he is too late in shouting, “No! You must not read from the book!

In a word, “Oops.”

This is a cautionary tale enveloped within an adventure story. Reading = Power.

The Mummy: Imhotep Revived,” uploaded by rpetteson, Standard YouTube license.

Reel librarian hero

The hero in the story who got all the attention at the time was Brendan Fraser as American soldier Rick O’Connell. But the real hero in this story, in my opinion, is Evie.

Here’s evidence from the film to back that up:

  • Evie saves Rick from hanging in an Egyptian prison by negotiating his release — and setting the plot in motion to find Hamunaptra, the city of the dead
  • She saves Rick’s life again on the boat, by pulling him aside from a spray of bullets (this is a clever bit, as she sees the pattern of gunshots along the wall and anticipates that Rick is in the way — demonstrating that she’s not just book smart!)
  • She beats Rick at camel racing
  • She figures out the solution to reverse the curse is to find the Book of Amun-Ra AND figures out where the Book of Amun-Ra is buried
  • Evie sacrifices herself to Imhotep in order to save her friends
  • She helps her brother translate the Book of Amun-Ra while SHE HERSELF is fighting off a mummy — thinking in action!
  • She helps make Imhotep mortal so that Rick can finish him off

Evie is the one who (accidentally) conjured the curse, so following standard hero-story arcs, she therefore has to be the one to figure out how to solve it. And she does. She comes through stronger in the end, further highlighting her intelligence and resilience.

However, Evie is never called a hero in this story by others. Instead, there are a variety of phrases and terms, often unflattering, that other characters use to describe Evie, including:

  • “Compared to you, the other plagues were a joy”
  • “catastrophe”
  • “damsel in distress”
  • “broad”
  • “lady”
  • “not a total loss”
  • “old Mum”

SIGH.

But instead of dwelling on those less-than-flattering descriptions, let’s instead focus on appreciating Evie and the actress who first brought her to life in The Mummy (1999):

Tribute to Rachel Weisz in The Mummy (1999 version),” uploaded by King Achilles, Standard YouTube license.

Fun facts

I came across this fun fact that I came across while reading the film’s trivia on IMDb.com:

When King Tutankhamen’s tomb was found on November 4, 1922, the person in charge was George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon. Along with him was his daughter, Lady Evelyn Carnarvon. Rachel Weisz’s character is named Evelyn Carnahan. Originally, her character was meant to be Evelyn Carnarvon. She and her brother were to be the children of the “cursed” Lord Carnarvon. The only evidence of this left in the film is in the line where Evelyn tells O’Connell that her father was a “very, very famous explorer”. The Mummy novelization goes into a bit more detail on her back story.

Amazing! Here’s a picture of Lady Evelyn Carnarvon with her father at King Tut’s tomb in 1922:

At the entrance of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 (from left to right): Lady Evelyn Carnarvon and her father on the left.

At the entrance of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 (from left to right): Lady Evelyn Carnarvon and her father on the left.

You can see more pics and read more about the real-life inspiration for Evie’s character here on this site.

And one final fun fact:  the ancestral Carnarvon home is none other than Highclere Castle — which served as the locale for Downton Abbey in the TV series! The website for Highclere Castle even has a whole section dedicated to its Egyptian connection.


I thoroughly enjoyed this trip down Mummy memory lane and learning more along the way. Hope you did, too!

Next week, I will be back with a post about another adventurer librarian!

 

‘This is What a Librarian Looks Like’ follow-up

Last week, I shared the news and background story about being included in a book about librarians, This is What a Librarian Looks Like, by Kyle Cassidy. This week, I have follow-up news and photos!

Being featured in The Guardian

News first:  On May 29th, London newspaper The Guardian published a photo essay, “Tattoos and baseball caps: This is What a Librarian Looks Like — in pictures” of librarian fashion, highlighting a selection of photos from Kyle Cassidy’s book. And I was included in the photo essay!

Again, my reaction was:  WHUT?!

Screenshot from The Guardian's fashion section for the librarian fashion photo essay

Screenshot from The Guardian’s fashion section for the librarian fashion photo essay

Screenshot from The Guardian's librarian fashion photo essay

That’s me! Screenshot from The Guardian’s librarian fashion photo essay

I loved that my cheeky card catalog tee was featured in order to illustrate how librarians are “in on the joke” about our own stereotypes. And that’s what this Reel Librarians site is all about, too! 😉

It was also very sweet how many people shared the news about me being featured in The Guardian‘s photo essay, including family, friends, and even co-workers!

Never forget, then & now

I received my complimentary copy of the book the same day that my library received their own copy of the book they ordered. And I still have the same library card catalog tee (and denim jacket) that I wore in the portrait that Cassidy took three years ago… and thus, an idea was born. A library colleague took photos of me in our library, with my current (shorter) hairstyle, with the book and my portrait. Fun!

Reel Librarians | Librarian book and card catalog tee, then and now

And here I am shelving my library’s copy of the book on our bookshelves:

Reel Librarians | Shelving the book This Is What a Librarian Looks Like

How do you classify librarians?

Here’s a closeup of the call number for the book:  Z682 C37 2017

Reel Librarians | LC call number for This Is What a Librarian Looks Like book

Let’s break down that call number, shall we?

First things first:  This is a call number using the Library of Congress classification system.

Library card catalog tee closeup

Library card catalog tee closeup

And finally, one last funny thing that happened this past week. After a colleague shared the news on campus about me being featured in The Guardian and the This is What a Librarian Looks Like book, a fellow (non-librarian) instructor emailed me, wondering if the card catalog on the t-shirt was the Library of Congress or the Dewey Decimal system… and I loved that this instructor asked which which classification system the card catalog drawer was for! 😃

Here was my response:

Since the label reads “a-d” (i.e. letters), then it would most likely be the Library of Congress system, which combines letters and numbers together (with the letters coming first, organized by alphabetical order, and then by numbers. So A 100 would come before A 102, which would come before AF 100, and so on). Library of Congress includes both fiction and non-fiction, which is why it’s used for larger collections, like in college and university libraries.

The Dewey Decimal system is numbers only, 000’s through 900’s, and covers mostly non-fiction. That’s why most public libraries, which use the Dewey Decimal system, usually have separate classification systems for collections like fiction, usually alphabetized by authors’ last names, etc. So this card catalog drawer could also be for a special collection like fiction, representing authors’ last names, A-D.

It was super fun to geek out a bit — by request! — about library classification systems! 😃


Back to reel librarians next week… but I hope you enjoyed this additional sojourn into real librarians — and librarian style!

Have you read or gotten a copy of This is What a Librarian Looks Like? Please leave a comment and share.

New book ‘This is What a Librarian Looks Like’ — and I’m in it!

I have exciting news to share for my Reel Librarians readers! Last week, I got an email from a Hachette Books editor letting me know that I was in a new book entitled This is What a Librarian Looks Like, by photographer Kyle Cassidy, and that I could get a complimentary copy. My first reaction?

That’s so cool! And a free book!

Then my face fell in shock as I looked at the book cover image in the email… and realized that I was one of the librarians featured on the cover! WHUT?!!!

Email and book cover image for 'This is What a Librarian Looks Like'

Email and book cover image for ‘This is What a Librarian Looks Like’

I then forwarded the email on to my co-workers and shared it on Facebook. And since I was on a Reference Desk shift at my library, I then got back to work. 😉

My library ordered a copy of the book for our own collection, and over the next few days, I enjoyed sharing with co-workers how I came to be involved in the project. And now I can share this story with you!

'This is What a Librarian Looks Like' book

That’s me!

It was over three years ago when Kyle Cassidy published a photo essay on Slate.com called “This is What A Librarian Looks Like,” which quickly became one of their most popular photo essay posts ever. The post got a lot of buzz and prompted a lot of discussion and debate online — and in librarian circles. Cassidy had taken portraits of librarians for that piece at that year’s American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia, and then I read that the project was coming to the 2014 ALA Annual Conference, which was in Las Vegas that summer. I was going to ALA that year because I was finishing up as committee chair for the ALA International Relations Round Table, so I was going to be there anyway. I thought it would be a neat thing to participate in, and I printed out and completed the photo release form, which included a space to provide a personal comment.

My husband had gotten me a library card catalog-themed tee at a writer’s conference that spring, since I have a (growing) collection of librarian-themed tees, which I have previously featured here on this blog. I love wearing library- or librarian-themed clothing at librarian conferences — because OF COURSE — so I took the Unshelved “NEVER FORGET” library card catalog t-shirt along with me to wear at the ALA conference. I remember wearing the tee with a tan pencil skirt, metallic sandals, and a denim jacket.

Here’s a close-up of my Unshelved card catalog tee, which is still available in black!

Library card catalog tee closeup

I can picture the librarian photoshoot set-up in my  mind; the location was off to one side of a large escalator, kind of tucked into the side. There wasn’t a huge line (yet) when I arrived, but I do recall long lines later on. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes. I turned in my form and, when called, stepped up to the mark designated on the floor.

Then I smiled and opened my denim jacket to reveal my cheeky card catalog tee — and I remember the photographer, Kyle Cassidy, and an assistant beside him, kind of start in surprise. They laughed, which made me smile even bigger. Click, click, click. Cassidy then looked at his camera, said he wasn’t sure he got the tee, and then asked to take a few more photos. Click, click, click. Then it was done. I thanked them and then went about my conference. I do remember urging other librarians to check it out and participate. [You can also see a “behind the scenes” bit here on Cassidy’s website.]

And then, honestly, I kind of forgot about it. Until last week! 😀

I received my complimentary copy of the book a few days later:

My complimentary copy of the 'This is What a Librarian Looks Like' book

My complimentary copy of the ‘This is What a Librarian Looks Like’ book

And then imagine my surprise when I then realized a couple of things:

  • That the editors managed to update both my new job title and my new workplace — even though I was working at another library when I took the photo three years ago! I was VERY impressed by this attention to detail. Plus, I was thrilled to bring attention to my current college.
  • That an excerpt from the quote I had submitted on the photo release form was chosen as one of the blurbs on the back cover! 😀
My blurb on the 'This is What a Librarian Looks Like' back cover

My blurb on the ‘This is What a Librarian Looks Like’ back cover

I went through the book slowly, marveling at the wonderful portraits — and giddy that I even personally knew a few names and faces! It was like a librarians’ yearbook that I magically got to be a part of.

I also loved loved loved that my portrait is opposite Captain America! I assume that Young Lee and I were paired together because of our excellent taste in t-shirts. 😀

Librarian tees in 'This is What a Librarian Looks Like'

Librarian tees in ‘This is What a Librarian Looks Like’

I also looked through the indexes — because that is what librarians do, y’all! — and noted my fellow librarians from Washington and cheered librarians from other states I’ve worked in (Oregon, Wisconsin, and Texas).

I noted the breadth of diversity throughout the book, including diversity of ages, gender, ethnicities, locations, type of libraries, and types of library jobs. I geeked out at Neil Gaiman’s essay, because Neil Gaiman loves and appreciates librarians and has spoken at several ALA events and programs over the years.

And then I came to Kyle Cassidy’s afterword, and I teared up:

It’s been my honor to stand before so many of these people who are fighting daily to bring access and information to the public. Some of them I met for only a few minutes, but in the past two years I’ve looked at their faces and read their words over and over and I feel like I know them.

I’m one of those he met for only a few minutes, and I continue to be gobsmacked at the thought that he, and others, have looked at my portrait and my library card catalog tee and read my words multiple times these past three years. And now others can, too. Amazing.

And it’s amazing that I’m one of only a couple hundred librarians and library workers helping to represent thousands of us across the globe. As I recently tried to articulate to a friend on Facebook:

To *literally* help represent, visually and with words, my profession, in all its diversity and earnestness and commitment to ideals beyond ourselves… it’s a feeling I can’t really describe at the moment. A mixture of pride and humility.

'This is What a Librarian Looks Like' book

‘This is What a Librarian Looks Like’ book

You can also continue to help out this project in several ways:

  • Buy a copy of the book yourself!
  • Recommend that your local public library purchase a copy. (Look for a book or purchase recommendation form on your local library’s website — I can tell you from personal experience that we LOVE when users submit purchase recommendations!)
  • Donate to EveryLibrary, which is hosting a book release party and fundraiser at this summer’s ALA Annual Conference. EveryLibrary advocates for libraries and library funding across the country.

Thanks again to Kyle Cassidy for his visionary work and for everyone else who contributed to this project, who are mentioned in the book’s back matter.

I am so proud and humbled to be one of the names and faces in This is What a Librarian Looks Like. It is an honor to help represent my profession. And my work here analyzing portrayals of reel librarians would mean nothing without the acknowledgement and appreciation of real librarians.