Party in the Stacks

Cleaning out my mailbox, I came across a New York Times article forwarded to my from Lee S. several weeks ago about how librarians are hip now.

How did such a nerdy profession become cool — aside from the fact that a certain amount of nerdiness is now cool? Many young librarians and library professors said that the work is no longer just about books but also about organizing and connecting people with information, including music and movies.

Does that mean I have to categorize this post as related to books, music, and movies? Yes—but wait, there’s more!

Ms. Campbell added that she became a librarian because it “combined a geeky intellectualism” with information technology skills and social activism.

Jessamyn West, 38, an editor of “Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out” a book that promotes social responsibility in librarianship, and the librarian behind the Web site (its tagline is “putting the rarin’ back in librarian since 1999”) agreed that many new librarians are attracted to what they call the “Library 2.0” phenomenon. “It’s become a techie profession,” she said.

I haven’t really been thinking of librarians as part of the whole “new hip geek” phenomenon, but I guess that was just me being too narrow: After describing how librarians use social networking sites and instant messging programs, this article even goes on to explicitly draw connections between libraries and comic book cultures. I’ve long known about the success that libraries were having with comics—even beyond what I read on industry news sites, I once interviewed someone at the Philly Free Library who said they brought in comics creators for author events to lend the library some hipness.

Plus, nerdy/hip librarians and library-goers are a a large enough niche that they have their own presence represented in webcomics. This article mentions Unshelved, the online comic for hip librarians, and off the top of my head, I can also point out Questionable Content as a comic about modern indie rock/hipster culture featuring a protagonist who works at a college library with a tattooed lesbian (see also this t-shirt design).

I’m fascinated, too, by the whole “social activism” angle that comes up repeatedly in this article. When you think about it, though, if there’s any group that has as much claim to phrases like “the information wants to be free” as the open source and free culture proponents, it’s library advocates. I tend not to think of geek culture broadly speaking as widely characterized by overt political activism—just certain facets of it, like the copyright reform enthusiasts—but perhaps certain political sentiments are more widespread than I normally imagine.

2 thoughts on “Party in the Stacks

  1. ” just certain facets of it, like the” …what?

    Anyway, I’m reminded of the Wizard Rock phenomenon. The usual venue for those bands are libraries. The bands also tend to have a strong sense of social activism, frequently contributing to charity albums and/or events.

  2. Oops, screwed up a tag in there. Thanks for catching that! Thanks, too, for bringing up Wizard Rock’s activist streak. I hadn’t heard about that aspect of it before.

Comments are closed.