‘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.

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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.

Thanking librarians in book acknowledgments

Please allow me to go off on yet another tangent… today’s post was inspired by the book I’m currently reading (The Mystery of Agatha Christie by Gwen Robyns, a biography published in 1978, just two years after Christie’s death). As I started the book, I glanced over the Acknowledgments page, and I happened to notice that the author actually thanked librarians — not just libraries, but the librarians themselves!

As you can see in the pic below, Robyns thanked:  Mr. John Pike of the Torquay Public Library, Mr. J. M. Evelyn (Michael Underwood), Mrs. Imogen Woollard, Miss Grace Rich of the City of Westminster Public Library, Miss Jennifer Emerton of the Wallingford County Branch Library, and Dr. Michael Rhodes of the Westfield College, University of London.

Reel Librarians | Librarian acknowledgments in 'The Mystery of Agatha Christie' by Gwen Robyns

And that got me thinking… how often are librarians thanked in book acknowledgments? It turns out that I’m not alone in this question!

In 2011, Margaret Heilbrun, a former Senior Editor for the Library Journal Book Review, wrote about “Best Acknowledgments of 2011,” looking through acknowledgments of Library Journal‘s Best Books of 2011.

Librarians‚ like all mortals‚ love to be on the receiving end of gratitude. When the occasional library, archives, or special collections researcher publishes the results of all that research and expresses thanks to the library in the book’s acknowledgments, and includes the names of the staff who helped, well, the staff in question are thrilled. Natch.

You know what? It doesn’t happen often.

Heilbrun goes on to highlight Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War, in which Foreman “personally names and thanks over 200 library, archives, and special collections staff members from around the world who helped her and her assistants with access to materials over the course of several years. Her acknowledgments are not only a tribute to all the women and men who enabled her work, but a tribute to her for the stamina and focus to keep track of them all systematically and name them with little fuss or muss.”

Heilbrun went on to bestow the “Amanda Foreman Award” twice more, in “Best Acknowledgments of 2012” and “Best Acknowledgments of 2013.” And Foreman herself, a Man Booker Prize Award winner, mentioned her namesake award with pride in the introductory paragraph of her 2013 “Prize-Writing” essay in The New York Times.

This post, “The Story Behind the Story: An Appreciation of Authors’ Acknowledgments,” runs through the history and complexities behind acknowledgments, noting that “There was a time when acknowledgements were brief and rare.” (Kind of like film credits, eh?, which seem to be getting longer and longer nowadays. People want credit!) Although that post doesn’t mention the practice of thanking librarians or other researchers, some commenters do!

Comment about thanking librarians in acknowledgments

Comment about thanking librarians in acknowledgments

This informative post, “Think Before You Thank: Writers & Acknowledgments,” by Kate Messner urges writers to double-check beforehand with those they want to personally acknowledge in print, to make sure they aren’t compromising those individuals. She specifically mentions librarians as examples:

A teacher or librarian who enjoys an author’s work might be delighted to see his or her name in the back of a book.  But what if that reader wants to be on a state or national awards committee and the author’s book shows up in the pile of titles to be discussed?  Suddenly, having that public thank you in the book is awkward at best and at worst, could create pressure for the person to resign from a great opportunity.

That is admittedly something I had never thought about before, but it does make sense to double-check beforehand.

But not everyone is so appreciative of librarians or libraries in their acknowledgments! This Mental Floss article highlights “7 Book Dedications that Basically Say ‘Screw You’,” including Alfie Kohn’s diss to Harvard University Libraries in his 1986 work, No Contest: The Case Against Competition.

And this satirical piece poking fun at the excesses of acknowledgments, “Acknowledgments Pages Say More Than Thanks,” has a section lampooning authors for thanking “Your Research Crew” but DOESN’T EVEN INCLUDE LIBRARIANS. Patrolmen, detectives, lawyers, forensic anthropologists, NASCAR drivers, river guides, Civil War reenactors, and circus clowns are mentioned in this section, but NOT LIBRARIANS. I know it’s satire, but ?!#!@?! Librarians ARE the Original Research Crew!

So to my fellow Research Crew members, are you intrigued enough now to start poring over the Acknowledgments pages of the books you’re reading? Have you always sought out mentions of librarians in Acknowledgments pages? Have you ever been personally thanked in any book Acknowledgments? If so, please share!

And may librarians continue to be thanked, on or off the Acknowledgments page. Even a simple smile and/or a “Thank You” in person/phone/email/chat will make our day. 😀

 

Reviewing ‘The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999’

In last week’s post, I mentioned and quoted from a book I have in my personal library, The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999, written by Ray Tevis and Brenda Tevis and published by McFarland in 2005. Although I have quoted from this book in several previous posts, and the book is included on my Resources page, I realized that I had not yet devoted an entire post to this book!

Reel Librarians | Front cover of 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Front cover of ‘The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999’

My husband picked up this book for me at a Popular Culture Association Conference years ago, knowing that I would find it useful. And I have! In prior posts, I have described this Tevis book as “invaluable” and “well-researched” and “a great source for information on reel librarians.” The authors also refer to librarians in cinema as “reel librarians,” as evidenced in their table of contents.

Reel Librarians | Table of contents of 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Table of contents of ‘The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999’

The Tevises, who are themselves librarians, organize the book by time period and highlight patterns throughout film history in regards to librarian portrayals onscreen. (Librarians have been in film since the silent screen days, with one of the first reel librarian film sightings in 1917, with A Wife on Trial.) The Tevises identify an early turning point for reel librarians — for better or for worse — with the 1923 film, Only 38; they continue to use that phrase, “only 38,” throughout the rest of the book. As they highlight:

Throughout the twentieth century, the majority of reel librarians, especially those in supporting roles, will be afflicted with this “only 38” characteristic. These reel librarians are portrayed as middle-aged or older, a stigmatization of librarians that begins the first time individuals, when as children, enter a library and encounter an adult librarian, an “only 38” person. (p. 13)

Reel Librarians | Page in 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Section in book about the film ‘Only 38’

In a 2012 post entitled “The Liberated Librarian (ladies, you’re up),” I connect the “only 38” stereotype with my own “Liberated Librarian” character type.

The Tevises also include a filmography of films included in the book and note common characteristics of reel librarians in those films, such as “B” for “Bun” and “E” for “Eyeglasses.”

Reel Librarians | Filmography in 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Filmography of movies that were included in the book

These details then are collected in tables in the Afterword, with percentages of reel librarians who wear eyeglasses, etc. I highlighted these tables in my “Visual characteristics of reel librarians” post, comparing characteristics of “reel” versus “real” librarians. Take a look at that past post — the comparisons might surprise you!

There is also a filmography of films NOT included in the film, along with the reasons why. For example, they did not choose to include science fiction/fantasy films, TV movies, short films, or prison films, among others. (I do choose to include these kinds of films in my own Master List and other related lists on this site.)

Reel Librarians | Filmography in 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Filmography of movies not included in the book

On the back cover, the write-up highlights a silent 1921 film that “set the precedent for two female librarian characters: a dowdy spinster wears glasses and a bun hairstyle, and an attractive woman is overworked and underpaid.” The (unnamed) film referred to on the back cover is 1921’s The Lost Romance.

Reel Librarians | Back cover of 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Back cover of ‘The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999’

Reel Librarians | Page in 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Section in book about the film ‘The Lost Romance’

So if you are interested in this research topic, then I would recommend checking out a copy of this book, as it is one of the most comprehensive collections and analyses of reel librarians I have come across in printed form. It is available, new or used, on Amazon.com, and according to WorldCat, it’s available in multiple formats in almost 400 libraries worldwide, if you’d like to request it from your local library via InterLibrary Loan (ILL).

I do refer to The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999 as a “reference book,” as it is not the kind of escapist book you read in bed the end of a long day. It doesn’t serve that purpose — not even for me! It has been referred to in one external review as “slow-moving” (libref); I would describe the pace as methodical, as the authors work through 80+ years of reel librarian portrayals and “employ a content analysis methodology to examine reel librarians” (Riggins).

I am grateful that Ray and Brenda Tevis spent years researching this topic — kindred spirits, I am sure! — and were able to capture that research in this book, which I will continue to find useful in my own exploration of reel librarian portrayals.

Works Cited:

Libref. “Librarians in Cinema.” Wells Reference Blog, Indiana University Libraries. 22 October 2015. Web. 14 June 2016.

Riggins, Adina L. “Review of the book ‘The image of librarians in cinema, 1917-1999.” NC Docks, The University of North Carolina, Greensboro. 2009. Web. 14 June 2016.

Tevis, Ray and Brenda Tevis. The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2005.

When a librarian reads ‘Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians’…

So what happens when a real librarian (yep, referring to myself) reads the book Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians? The real librarian (yep, still me)… laughs and enjoys the equal-opportunity humor, of course!

(I suppose that means I’m not an evil librarian myself? Or am I just double-bluffing… 😉 )

Reel Librarians  |  Title page of 'The Complete Alcatraz'

I had read a few reviews of Brandon Sanderson’s book when it first came out in 2007 — including a rave review and recommendation on NPR by Nancy Pearl, a legendary librarian in her own right (she of the Book Lust fame and model for the shushing librarian “action figure,” as seen here). Sanderson has since penned three additional titles in the series.

The first book, with its irresistible title, had been on the fringes of my radar, but I had never gotten around to reading it. Until recently, that is, when a work colleague at our library loaned me her copy of The Complete Alcatraz, an omnibus of the four titles (thus far) in the Alcatraz series. She thought I’d get a kick out of it — and she was right!

Reel Librarians  |  Book cover of 'The Complete Alcatraz'

The first title in the series, Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians, definitely starts out with a bang, with this opening line:

Reel Librarians  |  First page of 'Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians'

Turns out, this opening sentence was what inspired Sanderson to write the whole book! As he reveals on his personal website:

The book began, essentially, as a free-write based on what became the first line: “So, there I was, tied to an altar made from out-dated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians.”

So what’s the book all about? Alcatraz Smedry has grown up in Libraria — the United States, Canada, and England, countries controlled by librarians — often referred to as the Hushlands. (Ha!) On his 13th birthday, Alcatraz receives a mysterious package full of sand… and is quickly thrust into an adventure involving oculator lenses, self-driving cars, talking dinosaurs who also love reading, and of course, evil librarians.

It’s a fun, quick tale, overflowing with magic and adventure and snarky humor. The first-person narrator style took me some getting use to, and I can imagine future tales getting a bit formulaic in that Lemony Snicket kind of way. But overall, I quite enjoyed the book, and I liked the twist on so-called “flaws” turning out to be heroic talents (the power to “break things” is a powerful talent, for example, as is the talent for arriving late to things as well as the talent for tripping).

Side note:  I myself am a dropper — if only dropping things were a talent to be admired… 😉

Reel Librarians  |  Title page from 'The Complete Alcatraz'

Here are some choice bon mots about those evil librarians and their dastardly deeds:


He was accompanied by a large group of Librarians — not the skinny, robe-wearing kind but the bulky, overmuscled kind in the bow ties and sunglasses, as well as a couple of sword-wielding women wearing skirts, their hair in buns.


Bastille shuddered. “Papercuts,” she said. “The worst form of torture.”


I looked up at the dungeon guard, who had walked over to watch me. He wore the clothing one might have expected of a Librarian — an unfashionable knit vest pulled tight over a buttoned pink shirt, matched by a slightly darker pink bow tie. His glasses even had a bit of tape on them.


–“Somewhere in this room, the Master Librarians have placed one misfiled volume. The apprentices have to find it.”
–I eyed the nearly endless rows of tightly packed bookshelves. “That could take years!” I whispered.
–Sing nodded. “Some go insane from the pressure. They’re usually the ones who get promoted first.”


— “Why do the Librarians work so hard to keep everything quiet?” I asked. “Why go to all that trouble? What’s the point?”
— “Do you have to have a point if you’re an evil sect of Librarians?”


Of course, the Librarians in this story are “evil” because they are trying to control information. And while this story is firmly tongue-in-cheek (a cheek that stings from a strategically placed papercut, no doubt), there is something underlying that image of librarians “hoarding” or “controlling” information, resources, access, etc.

If you dare, I’ve written about that tension that exists between order and chaos within a librarian’s world in my “Between perfect order and perfect chaos” post, and I’ve also explored the “Librarian as nightmare” image. I’ve even delved into darker territory in my “Killer librarians” post… now there are some truly evil librarian portrayals!

Last, but not least, a shout-out of thanks goes to my colleague for lending me her copy of this fun series. I couldn’t resist sharing it on this blog — a side sojourn worthy of interest, surely, for the Reel Librarian reader.

Has anyone else read this series? If not, are you interested in reading about Alcatraz and his adventures fighting the Evil Librarians? What’s your own hidden “talent”? Please leave a comment and let me know!