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?!!!
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!
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!
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:
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! 😀
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. 😀
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.
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.