Monday, July 09, 2007

Take the "Hip" Librarians, Please

According to the NYT (so you know it must be true) some new librarians are hip, you know, now that they don't have anything to do with books and reading, and they're all about tattoos and social activism. Yuck. If I were a librarian, I'd be insulted by this article. Why are librarians so desperate to be described by such adolescent terms of praise as "hip" and "cool"? I find that sad. Maybe next the Times can write an article about how librarians are "neato" and "da bomb." What a silly and puerile culture we inhabit.

The Times profiled a group of young (naturally) librarians who live in Brooklyn and form some sort of drinking group called "Desk Set," where they come up with hideous sounding cocktails and name them with Dewey Decimal numbers. Obviously public librarians and obviously unappreciative of the classic martini. "With their thrift-store inspired clothes and abundant tattoos, they looked as if they could be filmmakers, Web designers, coffee shop purveyors or artists." In other words, they look like losers. If they wanted to look like winners, they wouldn't shop at the Salvation Army and they'd live in Manhattan.

The article is of course built on stupid stereotypes: "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?" Has this ever been true? Even the old librarians I know wear contacts, and I doubt many of them have ever read a classic book, unless you consider Agatha Christie a classic. My stereotype of a librarian is a helpful, overweight, middle-aged white woman, exactly what most of these "hip" librarians will eventually be, despite the occasional presence of a "guybrarian." (Apparently the label librarian is actually a feminine noun, instead of librarianship just being a feminized profession. Perhaps we should adopt the term librarianess and let the guys be called librarians occasionally.) What idiot prepped the Times writer on this stuff? Methinks it might have been a self-righteous member of the "Desk Set," but maybe I'm too cynical.

“I think we’re getting more progressive and hipper," says one librarian. Or perhaps they're just getting shallower and more annoying. I think it's an open call. They're certainly not getting more critical, intelligent, or thoughtful, especially about libraries.

And what attracts the annoying "hipsters": "the job is stable, intellectually stimulating and can have reasonable hours — perfect for creative types who want to pursue their passions outside of work and don’t want to finance their pursuits by waiting tables." That's right, because the job is the functional equivalent of waiting tables while you go off to do the interesting things you really want to do, like be a "creative type." Yuck.

And then we get the politicos. According to one young librarian, "librarianship is a haven for left-wing social engagement, which is particularly appealing to the young librarians she knows." Still no mention of librarianship. We get the "creative types" who prefer being a librarian to waiting tables (probably because waiting tables is more difficult and generally pays less), and we get the social "activists" who also have no useful job skills and probably think everyone should be supported by the government just like they are. Regardless, I'm sure these "hip" souls will find a home with the regressive librarians, where they can sit around and talk about how hip and caring they all are instead of doing some useful library work.

Anyway, these attractive traits all get combined in one librarian, who "spun records and talked about how his interest in social activism, film and music led him to library school." Yuck. Library school - the place you can go to get an easy degree to get an easy job that will more or less support you while you go off and be "creative" and annoy people. Librarianship (or at least public librarianship based on this article) - welfare for "creative types" and "activists" and the mediocre. I thought that was just the public education system, but obviously public librarianship serves the same purpose, if this article is to be believed.

But I guess that's only to be expected. It's not like the job is difficult. It's not like it inspires passion for most people, at least not the kind of passion people show for their tedious "creative" work or "activism." Going to library school is something you do when you don't have any marketable skills and you're not good enough at what you really like to do to make a living at it. It doesn't have anything to do with meeting people's information needs or helping to educate democratic citizens or collecting the scholarly record. No, it's about shopping at the Salvation Army and drinking insipid cocktails and getting stupid tattoos. The ALA should use this article as recruitment literature to draw yet more "hip" and "untalented" "creative types" into the profession.

I for one am glad so many librarians have been beneficiaries of the "Americans with No Abilities Act." If it weren't for the ridiculous MLS and the undemanding, taxpayer-supported library jobs these "hipsters" obviously have, how would these poor people ever support themselves while they went around being "creative" and stuff? They might actually be expected to contribute something to librarianship. Or, God forbid, they might have to go out and work for the Man or some terrible thing like that, and we know they'd be so unhappy. The Man isn't hip, He doesn't shop at the Salvation Army, and He expects results. Yuck.


Anonymous said...

Sublime. More than I hoped for from the now legendary AL.

Thanks. This mini-essay really made my Sunday.

contrarian said...

Welcome back AL. Your long absence during ALA was depressing.

“I think we’re getting more progressive and hipper," says one librarian.

God help us.

Anonymous said...

I am a public librarian in Brooklyn. Most of the people profiled in the NY Times article do not work in the NYC public libraries. I've met some of them. The majority of them are special or corporate librarians who do not wish to work for the public libraries.Some are library students who I am sure will not graduate to work in public libraries.

I do spend time doing outreach to underserved communities to promote the services of my agency because my agency has some great programs that I'd like people to attend. They get helped by my agency and my agency's statistics increase. A win-win situation for all.I am reading more books on marketing to get pointers on how to further promote my agency.

I also spend time making sure the local addicts don't take over the restrooms, confiscate handballs, and tell children to be less noisy.I give library cards to illegal immigrants. I clean up vomit in elevators. I deal with major understaffing on all levels.

I have to admit that I've gotten more conservative over the years. I suppose that I should be giving the addicts the phone numbers of substance abuse centers.What I actually do is leave them alone unless they become really loud or create a mess. I try to build a relationship with the kids and teens in my building but I don't give them daily anti-gang speeches. As a kid, I would have tuned that sort of thing out and I don't think these kids are any different.

What I have found very ironic in my past 10 years in the profession is that every article about librarians focuses on the physical appearance of the librarian. When people write articles about physicians, physicists, lawyers,archaeologists, etc, no one ever talks about what the subject of the article is wearing or how s/he looks. They only do this when they write about librarians. Frankly, I find this very sexist of the journalists, and I am absolutely amazed that it has not changed in a decade.

What I would love to see is the NY Times do a real series about life as a public librarian and focus on all three systems in NYC. Articles like this are no use to the profession because life in a public library is very different from what students are told in library school. It would be nice if there was less culture shock when the students actually come to work. Depending on the neighborhood in which you are placed, you have to deal with violence in the building and on the street, crumbling buildings, and much socioeconomic tension.
They don't prepare you for this in library school.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:15
Does library school ever prepare you for the real world? As for the article, it's a total BS article. Who really cares what these people do in their off hours?

Does the article actually discuss what these people do,i.e dealing with patrons, violence, vandalism, as nauseum? No it doesn't. Although the article may make an attractive recruiting ad for ALA.

And while I don't work in a public library, my wife has and my sis-in-law does. If half of the stories they can tell ever became public, who would want to become a librarian, much less a public librarian. So glad I work in a corporate library.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ 5:19 PM

Indeed, and thanks for your comments. I finished my MLS and became a librarian at Queens Borough Public Library. Good God! You bet library school didn't prepare me for life as an actual public librarian. The SEALS or the SAS would've provided more appropriate training.

I've left publics now, and thank all that is wise that I did.

Amy J. Kearns, MLIS said...

The comments from all the "anonymous" ones are really great and I really appreciate and relate to them. Having worked for two years now in an urban public library I can tell you all of what they are saying is true and then some!

Anonymous said...

Amy J.
The wife and Sis-in-law had experiences in rural libraries, not urban ones, so I can only imagine what occurs in some of the urban libraries.

My favorite story is the one of the transvestite hooker who used the library as a base of operations. One of the Johns was found dead at one parking lot, with the car found... at the library. It had an arrest warrent out.

Anonymous said...

"Going to library school is something you do when you don't have any marketable skills and you're not good enough at what you really like to do to make a living at it."

Wait, I thought that was called Teacher's College?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:08,
Why do you think so many teachers are trying to get into library jobs?

Anonymous said...


I'm getting so many emails with the article that I'm tempted to send the emails back with this post.

Hell, why not? *sends them off*

Anonymous said...

i just threw up a little in my mouth. no wonder people think we're a joke.

cherie said...

this article annoyed me a little because it made librarianship seem shallow and trendy and hip.

i actually live in brooklyn, in greenpoint to be more precise (which is the neighborhood they've profiled, and which has undergone a depressing change in the past few years--i moved to the hood in 2000). when i show my boyfriend this article (whose father grew up in greenpoint), he'll say, "great, hipsters are becoming librarians."

i study gender in my librarian position, and i am constantly sick of women in the media being examined for their physical appearance. male politicans do not get their suits written about; hillary clinton does. male fortune 500 ceos do not get written about in terms of if they look tired or peppy or are sporting a new hairstyle; the 2.6% of fortune 500 ceos who are women do. i think librarians' personal appearances are being written about because, duh, it is a female-dominated profession and it can't possibly be serious, so let's write about what they look like. ugh.

clara bow said...

Thanks for articulating many of the annoying things about this article. (I don't agree with your little super-right-wing asides, but whatever). I am a librarian, I live in Brooklyn, I like the Desk Set, I go to some of their parties, and this article annoyed the HELL out of me.

Anonymous said...

You guys need to lighten up. Why get so exercised over a puff piece on YOUNG librarians? Admittedly, having a sugary mixed drink shows vulgar taste compared to the martini, but such is the folly of youth. I think it is great that they are attracted to the profession.

Obviously, this article was written for a broad audience, and as anon 5:19 has so delightfully pointed out, if you aren't a juvenile delinquent or homeless you probable haven't stepped foot in a library recently. Most Americans don't go to the library, probably to avoid the homeless and delinquents, so of course they don't know what librarians are like. Thus the antiquated stereotypes.

But, as this article has shown, the stereotypes haven't prevented people from a variety of different stripes form joining the profession. There is room for the nerdy, martini drinking, jazz lovin', bookworm types like myself. And the hip-hop listenin, sugary drink lovin, tattoo getting types like those kids portrayed in the article.


Anonymous said...

I live in Greenpoint (as it was inexpensive when I moved in and paraprofessional library work does not support so well) as well and have been bombarded by friends and colleagues with this article. I am happy to hear it is irritatingly annoying to so many. I am young, about to finish up library school and pride myself on not being a hipster even though I wear glasses. and while I am always excited to meet young librarians, those I know do it because they want to be librarians. I am continuously irritated as well by the term guybrarian and focus on appearance as well as the neglect of any attention to the academic librarian which I shall be. I barely know the Dewey Decimal system! It is all LC to me.
There are a lot of young librarians out there doing amazing things and it surely deserves many an article but until someone actually focuses on the work we do, we will continue to be relegated to materialistic commentary. Maybe when I graduate and am in my cushy steady job I can spend my "creative time" turning around the perpetuation of the new stereotype (and get myself out of hipsterland).

Dances With Books said...

Glad you had a take on it AL. As I saw someplace else, it seems these "librarians are now hip" articles are becoming as cliched as the old Marian images. So, in order to be hip, let me see if I got it straight: I should go out, get some tattoos, drink some hideous swills labeled with Dewey numbers, and buy my clothes at Goodwill? (No Salvation Army stores nearby).

As you wrote so well, "it doesn't have anything to do with meeting people's information needs or helping to educate democratic citizens or collecting the scholarly record." I am an instruction librarian. Meeting information needs and educating citizens is what I do, but apparently that is not hip or cool. Oh, and by the way, forget books. Have video games and enough computers so the masses can troll MySpace to their hearts' content. At the end of the day though, you know that some will read posts like yours, AL, and they will say, "oh, AL and her ilk just don't get it." The ever popular label of the hipster to those who question. You keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Criticizing Williamsburg hipsters = shooting fish in a barrel. To quote Vice magazine quoting Jello Biafra (which, admittedly, is fighting fire with fire): "Not since the Nazis have so many people been convinced to look exactly the same."

We already know this profession is chockablock with morons. We look to you to provide us with hope - hope that intelligence and professionalism have a place in libraries.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous @ 1203 p.m.
about making fun of hipsters: they do it so well themselves. I am resentful of this article as a 'guybrarian' (such cool lingo), and one of my colleagues suggested it was ALA recruitment (since the NY Times seems to work with them). The article also mentions opportunities in the library field, guess that was supposed to be the tip off.

AL said...

Definitely recruitment fodder. Look! You can make $50,000/year doing an easy job that'll let you be "creative." And you don't have to work with those "graying" old shushers, because now there are hip people with tattoos! I bet this'll be mentioned favorably in the American Libraries Direct this week.

Anonymous said...

Ye gods! I'm grateful I found this blog. I was actually considering library school until I wised up.

I too, am a "creative type" who wandered into library work looking for something that would accommodate my schedule (I'm a musician) and have some small degree of intellectual stimulation. Well, the schedule aspect is great, and I have no problem scheduling around gigs (and not like I need to be fully alert to do any sort of library work, anyway). But as for the intellectual stimulation I've found it completely lacking.

I guess I was naive. As a frequent library user and avid reader I projected my own reasons for going to the library or wanting to work in a library (intellectual stimulation, self improvement) onto the "profession." After working in a public library for a few months, it seems the only reason people go there is that they are homeless and want to get out of the weather, or to check their myspace since they can't afford their own computers. As for the reasons to work there, well, it looks like "easy city/state job with benefits" is the primary reason any of my co-workers are there. There are a few (VERY few) who are actually well read and enjoy discussing the many books on our shelves. The majority, however, seem like they'd be just as happy stocking widgets as books. Luckily for them, the books are being phased out in favor of more computers and dvds.

You might have gathered that I have quickly become exasperated with the library world.

Anyway, I'm glad I actually worked in a library before I shelled out for library school. I just hope having "public library" on my resume for a year or so won't make me unemployable in the real world...

the library girl said...

I had several tattoos before I applied to library school. I also played in a band, shopped at thirft stores and enjoy my local micro-brewed beers, which are often labeled hipster.

My motivation to apply to library school was not based on my previous and current lifestyle, but rather my interest in community development (a buzz phrase that now makes me gag a little evertime I use it)and research. This article was sent to me by a colleague, who also recommended I start a similar group where I currently reside. (No, thanks, and gross.)

Upon reading the article, I shook my head and wondered similarly to other commenters why the physical appearance of librarians was a major point of discussion. Since entering library school I have grown weary of the sexual comments made to me by men when I tell them what I am currently studying. Recently, I even slapped a guy, who was both verbally and physically inappropriate with me. Now I just tell people I go to school and study "stuff" because I have grown to hate explaining my interests.

However, the stereotypes and fluff pieces of hipster-trendiness credo is icing on my "library school and profession cake". I have been working in an academic library while attending school, and I am so jaded by the crappy attitudes, the lack of innovation and constant Facebook surfing and navel gazing.

I intend to finish my degree, but am very concerned I will not want to work in any kind of library upon completion of my program. Sadly, I have little to no respect for the profession and any librarians I currently work under. What bleak amount of optimism remains is nudging me toward pursuing my PhD, but that means I would have to teach in an academic system that I find out dated, impractical and unrealistic.

Librarianship has issues that reach far beyond stereotypes, but I don't see a mob ready to rush the ALA, which predicates this systemic sickness. And, with that said, I don't think a torch carrying mob would do much good anyway. I'm just going to sit back, finish school, and hope for research position somehwere in this great big world.

AL said...

I too was a bit offended by the focus on looks. At first I chalked it up to the sexual fetish most ordinary people have for librarians. It's understandable, of course, if a little twisted. But the main reasons why articles talk about librarians and how they look, but don't talk about the looks of doctors, lawyers, or even teachers, is that librarians are, in the eyes of the public, more similar to celebrities and movie stars than we are to mundane professions. Thus, it's perfectly natural that people are interested in our looks, just as they're interested in how Brad Pitt looks.

Or maybe it's just sexism.

Anonymous said...

In addition to much of what has been said, what bugs me about the article and that hipster-positive view so embraced by libraries is how it runs counter to the library world's already narrow view of diversity. Unless you dress a certain way, entertain yourself like everyone else, have particular political views, and--oh, can't forget--have tattoos you are not welcomed. I went to a library school overrun with hipsters, and while some of them were nice and a few actually hip I found their negative attitude to those not EXACTLY like them to be really frustrating.

The library profession might be able to create a better image and even some better public funding if we didn't dress like a cult. There is no need for the public to create a stereotype (not that people even notice librarians nowadays)--we demand to be addressed as a stereotype.

Ross said...

It seems there isn't a stereotype imagined that won't antagonize a librarian somewhere.

What a difference not being hip in the slightest makes. My issues with the article didn't seem to turn on whether I was or wasn't hip, should or shouldn't wish myself so, ... My first take when I saw the headline, long before I got the gumption to read the article, was that this crowd did a much better job at p.r. that my generation of librarians could even imagine. My peer and colleague Rick Block was on the money when describing the sorry lot that was our '80s library school alumnae and alumni. So frankly, however much you might despise the frivolousness of this Gen Y crowd (the Times got that wrong, btw), all power to them for loving what they're doing and letting the world know about it. I expect that once the novelty wears off they will still be just the sort of folks we'll be proud to have taking the reins from us. And besides, like any profession, there will still be a drop-off as the execrable salaries offered turn some of them toward more lucrative (if, to my mind, less rewarding) occupations. And if they do, it won't always be because they weren't suited to the profession.

I agree with the commenter who suggested this particular rant was shooting fish in a barrel. Unfortunately, it's also turning the gun on ourselves. But then, like I said, it's either one stereotype or another.

-- Not Anonymous

Anonymous said...

What is with librarians having to constantly "overcome" the old-woman-with-a-bun-shushing-people stereotype? If people think about libraries at all these days, it's as a place for bums to take a bath in the sink, which is a far more damaging PR image than the trad one that librarians are constantly trying overcompensate for.

Jim Elliott said...

Are "cool" and "hip" still cool and hip to use? I thought them outdated and passé by now.

Anonymous said...

The NY Sun wrote about Desk Set first, on July 5th:

Maybe we all need now is publicists....NOT!

Bunny Watson said...

Excuse my language, but why the hell are twenty and thirty-year olds still worried about being "hip" and "cool" anyway? Isn't that something for acne-ridden adolescents to be concerned about? I don't give a flying f*** what patrons, New York Times readers, the government, or the neighbor next door think of librarians, or me as a librarian. It's irrelevant.

Anonymous said...


Librarians who are "cool" get hired.

In my experience the social skills of librarians tend to be at about the level of teenagers.

When hiring they play the game where they exclude their peers from their cliques just for the fun of showing off how powerful they are.

I guess they never got the chance to sit with the cool kids in high school so they are passing through that stage of social development as adults.

Anonymous said...

anon 3:53
You said it. Our problem isn't being seen as stuffy, it's being seen as nothing successful people have a stake in, except as charity to be given to the less fortunate (and written off at tax time). You want to improve the library's image, remind people why they like libraries in the first place... and that is neither as a "haven for left wing policy" nor as an extra homeless shelter.

AL said...

The best justification for a public library that I know of is the one on the Boston Public Library: "The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty."

Intelligence, diligence, and dedication necessary. Hipness not required.

Anonymous said...

Look, anonymous 10:39 AM, there are alot of librarians who are NOT young who are doing amazing things. Why not focus on what librarians of all kinds do - not just their age or appearance.

I wouldn't call myself a "traditional" librarian nor am I a hipster. I know many other librarians who give a damn about their job and their patrons but will never be in the media because they aren't photogenic. There is more diversity of all kinds out there than people want to admit - it's just that we only see the decorative ones in the recruiting articles. ALA is getting starting to show age discrimination towards people under 35 or so and I think that needs to be stopped.

I don't give a damn about how people dress. I just want to work with someone, regardless of age, ethnicity, or race who has a work ethic, is polite to patrons, is willing to admit that s/he isn't always right, and is willing to learn something.If they want to drink like a fish or participate in orgies in their off time, that is fine with me as long as they do a competent job at work.

Anonymous 5:19 PM

Anonymous said...

Golly gosh, once again the press discovers that librarians (I'm one and I'm male) aren't stereotypes. And gosh golly, haven't I seen that in the '60s? Or was it the '70s? (Did you know that in 1976 libraries used more modems than the airlines? 'S true -- think OCLC.) Maybe it was the '80s....

Been there, remember when the discussion was whether miniskirts gave the profession a hip look. Libraries will survive, but I'm not sure of these guys.

Let's check on them again in 20 years.....

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand why everyone is getting so worked up about this article. Yes, librarians are faced with fighting a stereotype based completely on image, but take a look around -- this is what society does.

While I admit that I take offense to the traditional stereotype of the antiquated librarian, this article wasn't meant to create more hostility. If anything, I am pleased that this article presents a different view of librarianship. Certainly no reader assumes this is the new "stereotype", but it does give a fresh outlook on who might work at a library. Getting the public interested in seeing librarians in a more objective lighting can only be positive for libraries.

If the article had focused more on the importance of the work librarians do, it certainly would have been better. But it is a news story, what can you expect? On any note, I applaud this story for the positive notes it did mention.

Anonymous said...

The best justification for a public library that I know of is the one on the Boston Public Library: "The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty."

That's definitely the sum of it, that and knowing that part of education is going beyond getting the text and curriculum books and the "hot topics," and making sure that people can steep themselves in the collected wisdom of the ages and understand... Oops, I'm getting all philosophical.

It's great to see libraries that go beyond mere usefulness and are also fun and fresh, but they have to have the basics down pat first.

Pete said...

There is nothing to 'get'. Libraries and librarians are about providing access to the products of human imagination and research, and helping develop the skills to use them. They therefore contribute to an informed citizenry. Evrything else is pretty 'nice' but it's not what we're for.

And as for being 'hip', as has been said who cares? Really? I'm not in this job for validation.

What 'we' (who we) do in our off time is of zero relevance, unless you're a journo- and who becomes journos now?

Anonymous said...

This? Was hysterical! I actually was not really offended by this article in any way...but I see where most of you folks are coming from.

I am one year out of library school, and closing in on one year of work in the public library system.

For me? Any librarian press is good press. It shows that someone, somewhere, actually gives a crap about his profession. If they don't have it totally right? So what! At least there is something being said. At least it's something that will open up a dialogue about the profession. Having spent the majority of my time justifying this career to friends and family-I am greatful for that. I myself got into the profession as a way to work with children and foster literacy and information awareness-without the burden of being bound by a school curriculum. I get to do that everyday...on top of plunging toilets, getting sexually harrassed by crazy people, and smelling very odd things all the time.
And guess what? I too, am a "creative type". I too felt that having a job that didn't force me to "climb the corporate ladder"to succeed would allow me to foster my other interests. I don't think this means that librarianship is equivalent to waiting tables. I also don't think this means I have no other marketable skills. It wasn't a last resort, or a "since I can't do anything else, I guess I'll be a librarian" choice. It's the last great generalist profession-hence why those of us with 15 different interests/passions/creative drives are attracted to it. It's not boring. It's not mundane, you get to use your brain (at least I do!)and, I get to be creative on a regular basis by designing innovative programs for kids.

Anonymous said...

Reading the NY Sun account of their Hip party I was suprised that they needed pins to indicate that they were librarians as real librarians are discovered wherever they go.

In many towns, in the UK or abroad, I have been asked for information or directions, an experience common to many real librarians I know. As we all dress differently we must have that Enquiry Desk face of reassurance, helpfulness, reassurance and intelligence

Anonymous said...

Heretical Librarian points to another article from the BBC which, "...According to the Beeb, UK librarians are the polar opposite of the happy young hipsters taking over the field here in the US."

janitorx said...

As a librarian, I didn't find this article offensive. Sure, it was trite, but I have a different reason for categorizing it as such. I think this desire for Gen X/Y-ers to be hip is part of a larger cultural zeitgiest that has very little to do with librarianship. These librarians profiled in the articles aspire to be grups.

Bunny Watson said...


Thanks for your comment. I just spent 15 minutes on a fascinating read in NY Mag about "grups." I had no idea there was a new name for "Peter Pan syndrome."

anon7 said...

Since it was in the Sunday *STYLES* section--a fact which seems to have been lost to most readers--the article completely failed to mention that one of Desk Set's community projects is collecting books to distribute in prisons.

And coming from someone who has wasted many blog-inches on her penchant for alcoholic beverages, the shot about Desk Set's drinking habits was completely out of line.

AL said...

"And coming from someone who has wasted many blog-inches on her penchant for alcoholic beverages, the shot about Desk Set's drinking habits was completely out of line."

It's not THAT they were drinking, it's WHAT they were drinking that was so offensive. The "special drinks," the "colorfully made cocktails."

brantles said...

Your post is just as shallow as the NYT piece. Other than a disdain for the Brooklyn hipster culture, you offer no real critique of the article or of the people profiled. Of course the article is shallow. It is a puff piece that people read because it turns a commonly held belief on its head. You rail about how these hipster librarians never speak of or perform real librarianship yet you do not define librarianship as you see it. The article was not intended as an investigation of librarianship, and I highly doubt that such an investigation would have made it to print. Other than the profiled librarian's interest in left leaning social activism, which you obviously do not connect with librarianship, your post is at the very least denigrating to your own profession. I don't uinderstand how you can say that librarians do not contribute to society, and your position that only people working for the corporate "man" are contributing members of society is just plain weird. If librarianship does not lend itself to social activism, why then does ALA have committees on intellectual freedom, policy monitoring, diversity, and the status of women in librarianship as well as supporting groups such as the Social Responsibilities Round Table, The GLBT Round Table, and the Black Caucus of ALA? It seems to me that your post is incendiary where it should be ironic. If you want to rail against the writer and the article, do so but leave the hipsters out of it. They'll grow and change (hopefully) to a point where the trappings of rock shows and tattoos are no longer required to support their identities.
P.S. who cares where they buy their clothes?

AL said...

Thanks for reading!

anon7 said...

Face it, AL. You've jumped the shark.

Anonymous said...

Actually AL, you're right on the mark, as always. You fail to define librarianship in your piece because there is no such definition. All library work is is quasi glorified clerical work, hence the low salaries and poor public image. How come this negative perception of librarians doesn't sink in with librarians? Why can't they understand that the poor perception is spot on? All this stuff about a "profession" is made up, as so many things in modern society are, to give "American's with no Abilities" something to do that doesn't involve hard labor or an environment where lack of intellectual skills can cause real damage. This NYT hipster article is just another manifistation of low skilled people trying to make something out of very little, or nothing at all.

Keep on AL.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy this blog because I feel your critiques of librarianship as a profession are spot-on. However, your political views are a puzzlement to me. Yes, I agree that it is indeed silly for the ALA to feel self-congratulatory over condemning some genocide or other a world away while ignoring issues actually pertinent to libraries. However...

A if you agree with a quote like "The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty" then how can you support any sort of conservative anything? The conservatives, neo-cons, Republicans, whatever you want to call them, are only interested in securing their (ie: wealthy) interests over that of any other Americans. Hence the sorry state of our nation's education and library system.

Public education and libraries are, at their heart, rather socialist institutions. Socialism is anathema to the modern conservative, whose position is: "If you want to read something - buy it!" If you can't afford to do so, you are considered a "loser" (as you uncharitably term the hipsters featured in this admittedly pithy article). Hence the eroding support for libraries in this increasingly conservative nation.

I wholeheartedly agree that an educated citizenry is essential for our democracy to continue. Libraries have largely abandoned this educational role in favor of increasing circulation numbers (via gradually replacing their collections with mass-market literature and movies), and dumbing-down the nature of library jobs to the point where only dullards need apply. For this libraries and librarians should indeed be criticized. But your conservative-leaning political views blind you to the fact that this is exactly what the powers-that-be want for our society.

Perhaps part of your dissatisfaction with the library profession lies with the inherent disconnect between your political views and chosen profession? I detect no small degree of envy in your writing, and get the impression that your dissatisfaction with libraries is partially due to the fact that wealthy stockbrokers, lawyers, etc. look down on your chosen "profession." Perhaps you would be happier "working for the man" and producing "results" as well?

Anonymous said...

When I saw this awful story in the Times I was hoping AL would comment.

Thank you. Thank you so very much for having "place" where I can feel sane in my loathing of the "new, hip, young" librarian-(librarian 2.0).

I appreciate it more than you will ever know.

AL said...

Interesting comment, so I'll respond. I think you have very limited visions of socialism and conservatism, whatever those are. Except for my obvious preference for freedom (including free markets) over socialism (public ownership of everything), and my disdain for people who want to use libraries and in particular the ALA to further their own political goals that have nothing to do with librarianship, what "conservative" position have I ever in fact taken?

I think you're reading your own political biases into things that I write, and assume because I support one thing (free markets), I support other things. I may or I may not, but that's not the point.

Have I ever on this blog taken a position on the Republican Party, the current President, or the War in Iraq, for example? Where have I ever said that public libraries shouldn't exist?

The opposite of "socialist" or "communist" isn't "conservative." JFK, for example, certainly wasn't a socialist or communist, but he wasn't a conservative. He was a liberal. Liberals like freedom, including the freedom to trade.

I don't agree that public libraries are "socialist" institutions in any meaningful sense. There's nothing inherent in liberalism (or conservatism for that matter) opposed to public institutions that serve the common good. Public libraries and public schools aren't socialistic unless they monopolies.

Brent said...

Well, our education is the most funded of any country, and yet the results are not great. So money is not the issue. It's the teacher's union opposition to reforming the system. But public library's need more funding and support at the local level. Though, the current monies could better spent.

But the story at hand, I thought the story reinforces stereotypes of hipsters' superficialness equal that to teeny-boppers. They are both the same, except one has supposed brains and the other supposed looks. It also shows why Americans hate urban New Yorkers.

The librarian references in the article I really ignored. Every profession has pricks.

I loved the arrogant quote of this guy in the article, "When I was in library school in the early ’80s, the students weren’t as interesting,” Mr. Block said.

Yachira said...

brantles says, "If librarianship does not lend itself to social activism, why then does ALA have committees on intellectual freedom, policy monitoring, diversity, and the status of women in librarianship as well as supporting groups such as the Social Responsibilities Round Table, The GLBT Round Table, and the Black Caucus of ALA?"

You make a huge and erroneous assumption, brantles. You assume that because the ALA does some given thing, that it then must have relevance to librarianship (and come from librarianship). In other words, you assert that the ALA has something to do with librarianship.

Well, no it doesn't. It's a national organization which, like the NEA and others, has been hijacked by political operatives, and turned into their own socio-political romper-room (I wonder how many workaday librarians used to sit around pining about the lack of a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning rountable before one sprung into existence?)

Perhaps I'm being too extreme, for the ALA does put out some nice Read posters and other trinkets. Oh, and it gives public librarians a reason to request a taxpayer-funded holiday once or twice a year...but that's about it my friend. That's about it...

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should change the name of this blog to “Hey You Kids, Get Off of My Lawn!” The amount of glee that you and some of your commentors take in tearing down your colleagues, and make no mistake, these are your colleagues, astounds me. I’ll agree that the Times article was a puff piece, but the amount of vitriol that it has engendered here is both amusing and disturbing. A piece that presents socially-engaged, technologically savvy and well-read individuals might, you know, help present the profession in a more positive light. Thank God you’re here to keep that from happening. And really, you can’t see a political bias in your little tirade about these slackers collecting a government check and generally being a drain on society (never mind the fact that many of the interviewees worked in the private sector)? Perhaps you should use your unparalleled research skills to look up the word ‘disingenuous’.

AL said...

Thanks for reading! Please let me know when the hipsters do some more creative stuff! Or get some more tattoos!

Anonymous said...

Well, our education is the most funded of any country, and yet the results are not great. So money is not the issue. It's the teacher's union opposition to reforming the system.

Yes, our "socialist" public school system is failing. But our "free-market" health care system is the most expensive in the world, and not encumbered by troublesome unions, so the U.S. must rank #1 in health care, right? It's not like we'd end up down there with Slovenia and Costa Rica!

Oh, wait...

The "free market" has hardly proven to be a better solution for American citizens in most respects. Visiting other, European (and rather more "socialistic") countries will reveal a better educated, healthier general population whose average citizen enjoys a quality of life far above that of the average American.

"Free market" policies provide the very best to those who can afford it. I'm sure if money is no obstacle, here in the U.S. you can have the best education, health care, and whatever else of anywhere in the world. This leaves a substantial portion of the population out in the cold, however.

Luckily, they are likely so poor, tied to their jobs (even if they consider themselves middle class) and in debt that they will never have the chance to travel abroad and see this with their own eyes. Hence politicians will still wave the flag and tout the U.S. as "the best country in the world!"

Libraries could play a small role in educating our population in this and many other respects, if they weren't currently focused on making sure we have multiple copies of "Joe Dirt" available for checkout.

Jeremy said...

"Thanks for reading! Please let me know when the hipsters do some more creative stuff! Or get some more tattoos!"

Well-reasoned, thorough and hard-hitting rebuttal. I would also have accepted "Neener, neener, neener".

AL said...

Poor baby, I'm sorry you came here expecting "well-reasoned, thorough and hard-hitting rebuttal" when there isn't anything worth rebutting. Perhaps you should go visit one of the clever and intelligent blogs instead of this poor one. Or perhaps you can write your own blog and give us all the benefit of your no doubt extensive wisdom.

Oh, and thanks for reading!

Jeremy said...

I wasn't going to post anything beyond "apology accepted" but then I saw this:

"Remember, Regressives and totalitarians of all stripes don't have any good arguments and they don't like criticism. They have no interest in dissent or debate. They just want obedience and submission. Intellectual freedom means the freedom to think like them."

You really are quite quotable.

Jim Elliott said...

I can't figure out if I like or am insulted by the term "guybrarian" (It's supposed to be hyphenated, by the way).

Gotta mull that one over a bit.

By the way, I found a cafepress site that sells 'guy-brarian' t-shirts and aprons and such.,guybrarian,gaybrarian,librarian.3583678

As well as a blog guybrarian dot com.

Still, it sounds a bit -- -- insulting.

Privateer6 said...

Since socialism/communism, free market economies, education and health care have transgressed into this asinine conversation about the social lives of New York librarians, I feel that I have to make a few remarks.

First off the article is a puff piece exemplifies my contemporaries as narcissistic fools who are trying to boost their self worth by stating they are activists who use the library profession as a means of supporting themselves. Sorry if you are really passionate about something you will find a way to get involved into the field beside in your spare time. Alot of these organizations do have a cadre of paid employees who dedicate themselves and they live their passion 24/7. How do I know this, I was one of the professionals who got paid to organize activities, recruit people, etc. I got phone calls from 6AM in the morning up to 1AM at night. And it was a livable wage. Unfortunately I became disillusioned and left the movement as a "professional" although I still volunteer.

Those interviewed in the article appear to me as if they don't have the passion nor are they willing to sacrifice their social lives to a cause. Trust me the closest thing I came to one of their debaucheries was when I went back home to New Orleans for a friend's wedding. Otherwise I was on call 24/7 and I better be sober.

As for education, yep been there, done that, & have the grade books to prove I taught, both at the high school and college level. The social theories espoused by Dewey et al, and enacted today, which do have some basis in socialism, are the reason why our schools are failing. First and foremost is the lack of discipline. Teachers cannot enforce severe punishments for the severe problem cases because it "violates their civil rights." What about the rights of the rest of the class to receive a quality education? In NC one idea that has been done to improve education AND IS SUCCEEDING, is charter schools. These are publicly funded shcool that meet state requirements but are autonomous from local school boards. They can hire whomever they want for teachers, building buildings, perform janitorial work, etc. The performance rates of these schools are much superior to public school in SAT, ACT, and End Of Grade (EOG) Tests. yet the local school systems and local chapter of the NEA opposes increasing the number of charter schools allowed by law in the state. I sorry the problem is not the lack of funding.

More later.

Privateer6 said...

Ok I'm Back.

Back on education. Because we don't have discipline in the public schools today, we have a generation of people who expect to be rewarded for just showing up to class. I've taught COLLEGE students who expected to pass my courses because they just attended class. Forget about participating in the discussions, forget about taking tests, and forget about turning in a paper. No joke I had one failing student come up to me after class and tell me "You can't fail me, my job is paying for me to take this class" with an attitude instead of asking for help. And these students would fail my exams after reviewed the questions in class for them, telling them exactly what I was looking for. PLUS I gave them Bonus Points, for questions I reviewed with them in class but didn't use in the main portion of the exam. They took no responsibility for their actions, and I left teaching because of it. The old saying is true, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink.

In reference to free market economies, I'll be very brief. If they don't work then A) why is the US Economy the strongest it's ever been, despite being in a war and coming out of a recession only 5 years ago, and B) why isn't the standard of living higher in Communist countries, i.e. Cuba, Vietnam, and China?

Finally health care since I am a medical librarian and am part of the health care profession now. Yes there are problems, some of it stems from the insurance companies and HMOs, but alot of it comes from the government. Also at my hospital alot of it has to do with illegal aliens, but that is another topic for another day.

Believe it or not we have semi-socialized medicine in this country in the form of Medicare/Medicaid programs. Since I work in a military town, alot of our patients are part of the military's TRICARE program, also run by the government. Approximately 70-80% of the hospital's income comes from the government, the other 20-30% comes from individuals (2-5%) and insurance.

Now here where a hospital's expenses go to, and why you pay $5 a pill. Approximately 10-15% of the hospital's expenses goes to "charity work," basically those who come in, use the hospital, and never pay their bill. Another 5% is written of because Medicare (the biggest offender and government run)believes that the treatment or procedures that are performed aren't necessary and will not pay. it then takes a team of lawyers and accountants to deal with the problem and get it fixed. These people are not on retainer, but are actual hospital staff that get paid salaries, benefits, etc. Then you have normal operating costs: utilities, food, salaries and compensation,equipment, recruitment, training, insurance ad nauseum. Trust me it aint cheap, one database we use is over $22000.

I won't bore you with further details, but when you have people who won't pay their bills, and insurance companies, especially the government run ones, refusing to pay for treatments or negotiating lower costs that cover a percentage of the procedure, that is what is driving up the cost of health care.
More later

Privateer6 said...

I'm Back
Oh and let's not forget the cost of insurance against malpractice lawsuits. It's gotten so ridiculous that it's sometimes easier to settle out for court than win your case. I believe in Arkansas there was a case recently in which the doctor refused to settle and went to court. Although she won the case, her insurance rates increased, and her legal bills exceeded the insurance.

While the health care system has challenges, it is a far site better than socialized medicine practiced elsewhere. Long waits for simple procedures, some done on an outpatient basis her int he US, takes months to get done or are not approved until too late. In Canada the problem is so bad, that in one Canadian Supreme Court Case, the justices declared that
"Access to a waiting list is not access to health care..." "The health care system is under serious strain and is, as will be discussed below, facing a crisis of sustainability. There is little hope that it can survive in its current form..." and "''The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health-care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote."

Lastly if you wan t to see the results of government health care first hand, look at the VA hospital system and the problems they are having. Also look at those public hospitals, like Charity in New Orleans pre-Katrina, and the problem they had before closing, or are currently have.

Trust me universal health care is a pipedream.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the term 'guybrarian' is funny or insulting. I do think it's dumb as hell, and anyone who uses the word seriously will earn my eternal mocking and derision.

Anonymous said...

"Trust me universal health care is a pipedream."

Then why is the US the only industrialized nation without it? I don't want to take over AL's blog with a totally off-topic discussion, but...

"While the health care system has challenges, it is a far site better than socialized medicine practiced elsewhere."

This quote is total B.S. I have traveled in just about every country in the EU, lived there for awhile (not as a tourist but among whatever the cliched "Joe Sixpack" term would be for a Dutch or German citizen). The Europeans (and Australians, I might add...can't speak for the Brits as I wasn't there long enough to get a feel) take their health care and social services for granted to such a degree that they cannot even comprehend the way most Americans are forced to live in regards to health care. Where health care is concerned the US is more like Brazil, with it's huge gap between the wealthy and the poor, than any country in Western Europe.

"In reference to free market economies, I'll be very brief. If they don't work then A) why is the US Economy the strongest it's ever been, despite being in a war and coming out of a recession only 5 years ago, and B) why isn't the standard of living higher in Communist countries, i.e. Cuba, Vietnam, and China?"

A fallacious statement. Did I mention any Communist countries? I was talking about western Europe. If the US system works so well, why is the standard of health care for the average German/Dutch/Belgian/Swiss/Danish/Swedish/insert another country here/citizen so much better than in the US?

I had a friend in Australia who lost a kidney to cancer. He happened to be unemployed at the time he was diagnosed. The treatments were expensive (WELL over six figures) but he was treated and is now a productive member of society again. Had he been in the US he would either a.) be dead, or b.) under a mountain of debt which he could never hope to overcome. The US system is superior to this how, exactly?

P.S. Yes, I do agree that lawyers and malpractice insurance are a huge part of the problem...I don't know the details of how other countries deal with these issues but I do know that for the average citizen their system(s) work remarkably well.

Anonymous said...

Final word on the hip young librarians.

Do you have the word "tossers" in use in the United States?

AL said...

This has gotten way off track, which always seems to happen when I make fun of socialists. But there's some confusion. First, just because a public good is funded by the government doesn't mean it's "socialist." There were certainly publicly funded goods before socialism. Second, the US health care system, whatever it is (and I'll be glad to admit it's a mess and perhaps even an unfair mess), is not a government-free free market. You could only think that if you ignore the existence of Medicare and Medicaid as well as the mass of government regulation and tax policy for the past 50 years that have helped shape the mess we have now.

Anonymous said...

It also shows why Americans hate urban New Yorkers.

This is the best line I've read all week. It's also true.

I can't believe nobody has commented on the guy with the tattoo of the Federal Depository Library symbol on his arm.

What. A. Moron.

I wonder how much that will cost to have removed when he's 40?

-- Archie

WDL said...

where is the article on chubby, middle aged white women?

i too received the article from several people. I think they sent it to me because "I am not typical", (per AL standards of being chubby, middle aged , white and a woman.)

I am not like my co-workers, who are nice people, just have a different style of librarianship.

This is one segment of the market. Who cares if there are some young, Salvation Army styled librarians out there.

No one would have been content with a middle aged, white, chubby woman article either.

There really is no satisfying this crowd of people. Everyone wants the profession to be about them - not the whole. Its sad, and I think that is why so many of these "anonymous" posters complain about their jobs. Because it isn't focused on their specific needs.

I personally think its great that some of these people get out of the house and hang out with like minded people. Its better than living out life posting anonymous comments on blogs.

AL, I do laugh when I read this stuff. The entire profession bothers you. What I'm ready for is what delights you.

It seems a paycheque makes you happy. But whatelse?

I keep coming back for more, I think its car accident curiosity - but always hope you are happy about something, and each time I'm disapppointed.

Carry On!


AL said...

Ahh, WDL, you're bound to be disappointed. There's the AL, and then there's the writer of the AL. The AL doesn't talk about nice things or things that make her happy. The AL snipes, complains, criticizes, satirizes, and generally brings to the surface tensions inherent in librarianship. If the AL turned out to be happy and well adjusted, what would be the point? Besides, I blogged a bit about what makes me happy on the now more or less defunct Relaxin' blog: martinis and music. That's about as personal as I'm willing to get.

Anonymous said...

These comments have gotten completely off-topic. However, I have to comment. Obviously, Privateer6 has never been without health insurance or known anyone who has been rejected by insurance companies based on some minor pre-existing condition. Imagine what it feels like to hope that you aren't diagnosed with cancer or in a serious car accident in fear that you will lose everything you own. Yes, socialized medicine isn't without its problems; however, the American healthcare system is completely about the profit of insurance companies.

MissCurledEarsCat said...

At 66 I feel as though I am the oldest blogger. AL must be in the young and hip category. For those who down government librarians I say shame on you. I retired from being a Civil Service librarian for the Army after 33 years. I could not live on my retirement pay and am now a part time public librarian for a City in Texas. I agree with what most of the bloggers said about public librarians. I am depressed because the attitude today is give them what they want - DVDs and internet access. Young librarians today do not know what it means to be a "real" librarian. I do not recommend my chosen profession to anyone today.

AL said...

"AL must be in the young and hip category." It's just possible I could blend in, but I would drink any of those Dewey drinks!

Anonymous said...

I love this part of your post:

"My stereotype of a librarian is a helpful, overweight, middle-aged white woman, exactly what most of these "hip" librarians will eventually be"

because that exactly what I see MOSTLY when I go to a public library and what I mostly saw during the ALA this summer.

But as many others have pointed out already, the whole discussion surrounding librarians' appearance has become such an obsession in the profession!

I say, let librarians look like what they choose to look like. As long as they contribute to the profession when they talk about being librarians. Being young and looking cool will do not much to the advancement of the professiona, unless some it comes with intelingent and busy minds.

Degolar said...

Nothing particular to add, just a general observation. This post about the so-called "superficial" topic of librarians' appearance has received more comments than almost all of the more "substantial" issue posts. I've found few things get librarians as worked up as talking about their image.

Anonymous said...

Reading that leaves me feeling like I need a shower.

Perhaps Annoyed Librarian might benefit from a social club that serves prune cocktails?

Anonymous said...

I see: better to have no young librarians familiar with digital information media than to have ones with tatoos.

AL said...

"Reading that leaves me feeling like I need a shower."

You could probably use one anyway.

"Perhaps Annoyed Librarian might benefit from a social club that serves prune cocktails?"

The Annoyed Librarian might benefit from people saving their sad jokes for their own blogs.

AL said...

"I see: better to have no young librarians familiar with digital information media than to have ones with tatoos."

It that's what you got out of this post, then no, actually, you don't see.

Anonymous said...

Privateer6 claims that they've taught at the college level, yet they are blissfully unaware that "alot" is not even a word.

Kudos to the anonymous poster who began with "Maybe you should change the name of this blog to 'Hey You Kids, Get Off of My Lawn!'" Spot on. And absit invidia.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, here's another example of why I have a problem with them-there liberry teachers. In library school, not so very long ago, one professor actually wrote "Here, here!" on the whiteboard (not an isolated incident, either). She is a student favorite and regularly wins teaching awards. For being nice.

Anonymous said...

Dear AL,

The point is taken about the mixed drinks.

However, why are you ripping the young librarians a new one rather than the author of the article? I'm guessing that she didn't actually do any research but just happened to get invited to one of those parties.

And besides, if the people in question do their jobs with dedication and professionalism (the article does not include performance evaluations), who cares how they dress, who they drink with, and what they do afterhours?

Yes, hipsters can be annoying, but that doesn't imply anything about their work ethic.

AL said...

Probably the most insightful criticism of this piece yet.

Ian said...

every 6 months or so, some fucking cretin writes an article about how librarians aren't middle aged ladies with their hair in buns any more, and how they have *gasp* social lives!

They've been doing this for about twenty fucking years. They're soul-cousins of the fucking cretins who write an article every six months about how *gasp* comics aren't just for kids any more!

WDL said...


i would hope the advice from you would be "you don't want to work with me" rather than "you shouldn't enter the profession."

its the cranky pants people i hate working with, young or old. i'm a fine young librarian - promoted to management after only 10 months with my library.

being goal oriented & a good librarian has nothing to do with age. do the profession a favor and share information, not opinions.

AL - you know i adore you no matter what. and that, i know, makes you happy.


AL said...

I don't know, WDL. I think you might be two-timing me:

"right on! i read her blog all the time, but feel like "why?"..but then I do it again.

like eating hot peppers. i know i shouldn't but do it over and over.

your blog rocks. glad i found you through her comments!


WDL said...

*sigh* I confess. I cheat on you all the time. I feel so dirty.

But I come back every time. Like a very well dressed puppy. or an alcoholic husband. or a boomerang. And while I don't normally compare myself to Australian weaponry - the poor analogy was all I could come up with.

I admit right up front, it is car accident curiosity. You've snagged me with your firm opinions, and unwavering stance on the profession. It reminds me of me, and G-d knows, I love myself. Ergo, I adore you.

I just need to know that there are other people in my field with real lives (read "not consumed by the job) who say what they want, in a well written way.

As I am a Jew, I can not repent - but I can increase your credit rating.


Anonymous said...

Good - publicity for the profession outside of the usual articles found once a year in your hometown paper, a la "they do good things for children".

Fashion comments in an article about young librarians, in a very fashion-conscious city - So What?

You need to pull the burr out of your saddle and retire already.

AL said...

You just couldn't help reading and commenting, though, could you?

Anonymous said...

Al, Maria Falgoust from the article here: you said you want to hear about what the "hipsters" have done? I have worked very hard throwing four benefits for non- profits in New Orleans, getting people together to "adopt" a family in New Orleans for Christmas, organizing the Desk Set's dance party that benefited Books through Bars (we got over 130 books!), volunteering painting a public school in New Orleans, organizing a bake sale for a local animal shelter, volunteering at a homeless shelter, and more. I feel like you are judging us by our looks and by the article. The drinks we chose were not nasty sugary drinks. We picked drinks that the authors Nabakov and Fitzgerald were known to like. Big deal. Do you think if I wear a pretty dress that I am shallow? That seems harsh to me. I love being a librarian. I like to help people. I enjoy learning and like to think that I will be continually learning new things on the job.

Yes, there are a lot of public librarians in the Desk Set-from BPL, NYPL, and Queens.

I would never call myself a hipster but I am sure other folks would call me that because I fit the stereotype. Who cares? I am sick of people talking about how they hate hipsters. What a waste of time!

Why do people have to be such haters?

Anonymous said...

Hey AL,

For someone who doesn't like the NYT article, and though yes, the NYT article is shallow, and yes it is kind of a puff piece, it still tries to portray librarianship in a good light. What is surprising is that you use your dislike for the article as a springboard to criticize young librarians.

I can agree with your resentment about the NYT implying that books and reading are becoming obsolete and trying to belittle librarianship as being an "easy job" and an MLIS being an "easy degree" to get. It does a lot of baiting, pitting younger librarians against older librarians. However, I don't know if you have resentment towards young librarians or what not, but you as much as you show that you dislike the article, you actually _believe_ that young librarians ARE the way the NYT article portrays them to be. Your resentment really comes out like these ""With their thrift-store inspired clothes and abundant tattoos, they looked as if they could be filmmakers, Web designers, coffee shop purveyors or artists." In other words, they look like losers. If they wanted to look like winners, they wouldn't shop at the Salvation Army and they'd live in Manhattan."

To me, shopping at Salvation Army, going to punk rock and as I got older to what the public would call "hipster" shows, going on protest marches, working at "Food Not Bombs" was a natural progression to library work. I got clothes for cheap at Salvation Army that looked good to me, going to "hipster" shows were inexpensive. Going to library to borrow books for free is cheap, and being a librarian and participating in librarianship is an extension of making information AND culture available to the public.

Of course we're going to get older and our interests will change, but what I don't get is your resentment towards young librarians having fun and having their own interests outside of work. Because someone likes to be a DJ, likes to paint, or play in a band outside of their job, doesn't do a disservice to them being a librarian. The NYT article may insinuate that, but that's not what these young librarians are saying themselves. For someone who dislikes the article so much, you really make a shift towards using this to dismiss younger librarians as frivolous and not "real" librarians.

What is "real" librarianship to you? As much as I love doing programs and doing social work which I believe is part of librarianship. Reader's advisory, cataloguing, booklists, reference work? I do that too. I love that part of librarianship. Though I look to the future of librarianship I can say these younger librarians look to "real" librarianship as well.

I'm calling you out not on your critique of the NYT article, but your your critique of young librarians.

AL said...

90 comments and thousands of readers so far of this post alone, baby, that's what it's all about. And so many earnest people! I love it. I don't normally explain the
point of the AL, but since this post has brought so many new readers in, I'll lay it out for you. The blog is called Annoyed Librarian. It's not called Life Affirming Librarian, or Hopeful Librarian, or Considerate Librarian, or Serious and Thoughtful Librarian. What do you really expect? The Annoyed Librarian rants; it's just what she does. Sometimes she's funny, sometimes she's just nasty, but it's a rant. I would no more talk about what I consider "real librarianship" to be than I would talk about anything else serious.

And if the poor hipsters were offended, that's just tough. If you don't like it that I'm making fun of young librarians, that's just tough. I also make fun of communists, patchouli, and library jobs that suck. That's why people come here, and believe it or not I write to please my readers. Even the readers who disagree with me seem to find some reason to come back, sometimes just to see what outrageous thing the AL's going to say next. Readers as rubberneckers. So all the earnest people out there reading the AL and waiting for the thoughtful serious stuff are going to have a long wait.

But thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I hate that type of article, the pathetic 'librarians are cool' angle drives me crazy. I wish they had printed my letter in reply, which basically said "I don't shush, I say 'shut the fuck up'. Does that make me hip?"

j- said...

*The Europeans take their health care and social services for granted to such a degree that they cannot even comprehend the way most Americans are forced to live in regards to health care. *

A vast percentage of Europeans can't imagine life without "the dole", either. Shall we extend such programs here in the US?

*Maria Falgoust from the article here: you said you want to hear about what the "hipsters" have done? I have worked very hard throwing four benefits for non- profits in New Orleans,*

New Orleans, another result of wonderful leftist city/state planning. They need all the help they can get from progressive activists. It's your lot who caused the problem in the first place.

*organizing the Desk Set's dance party that benefited Books through Bars (we got over 130 books!),*

Prison library? Hope you bought 130 copies of "How to draw the nude female form".

*I feel like you are judging us by our looks and by the article.*

Blame that on the NYT, who felt obligated to concentrate on the minute & idiotic details. Thanks to your lot and this article, now people will assume I'm some leftist kook with a Che Guevara tattoo who DJs in my spare time when I'm not out handing out free needles in shoot-up park.

Anonymous said...

Actully some men get their attire written about as much as women. They are movie stars. I never understand why the interviews of film actors always include a detailed description of what they are wearing. But hey, maybe that means librarians are also stunning and fascinating to the public?

Anonymous said...

I am planning to go to Library School but I do have a question that greatly concerns me regarding health benefits once working as a librarian in the NYC Public Libraries or schools.
If you have a pre-existing condition (i.e. Lymphoma (cancer)) and need yearly catscans, transfusions during winter months et al) will you be turned down for health coverage or have to pay a higher premium? Will you be able to be covered by the EMPIRE PLAN or some other plan or HMO? I would greatly appreciate a reply from someone in the know.
If there is no Sick-ISM involved and there is no turning down of health coverage for a person with a pre-existing condition--then the next question is-which health care plan would be the BEST Health Care Coverage Plan for someone who needs all these exams and possible future treatments?
I am quite interested in becoming a librarian but the health care to me is equally important because of my pre-existing condition. Is it COMPLETE coverage?
Thanking you in advance!

Alicia said...

I loved that NYT article. I am glad to know that the image of librarians is changing for the better.

Anonymous said...

Those who can't, teach, those who cant't teach become librarians.

Alice said...

I found this new york times article incredibly annoying because of the way it generalizes all these said "hipsters". Personally, I shop almost exclusively at the salvation army and have done so for the past 10 years. I also live in brooklyn. Terribly sorry if this makes me a "loser". I simply don't see the point in buying new clothing when there is already so much crap out there...why bother contributing to the cycle. You have stated why hipsters are annoying, but you have not stated why they are incapable of being good librarians or why you perceive them to be unintelligent. I think it's actually a good thing that some consider it "trendy" to have an interest in librarianship, books, and activism in general. I don't find activism to be particularly shallow, and while the desk set's cocktails may be a little cheesy in nature, the motivations behind their organization . They promote knowledge and raise money for charity...where is the harm in that? Your viewpoint against tattoos seems extremely conservative. I personally don't find tattoos attractive, but they are simply a part of personal style and really are no indication of a person's intelligence or ability to be a reliable library worker.

While I do find hipsters annoying, to simply dismiss young people based on their appearance would be doing them a disservice. There is an element of intelligence in this new wave of librarians that you seem to be overlooking.

tara said...

Dear Annoyed Librarian,

I found your post to be so extraordinarily disheartening it makes me want to quit library school. I would love to believe that most "older" librarians are not this judgmental and dismissive of young people purely based on how they dress and their penchant for activism.

"With their thrift-store inspired clothes and abundant tattoos, they looked as if they could be filmmakers, Web designers, coffee shop purveyors or artists." In other words, they look like losers. If they wanted to look like winners, they wouldn't shop at the Salvation Army and they'd live in Manhattan."

Yes young people look like this...I look like this. I cannot afford to live in Manhattan, or to shop in most new clothing stores. I'm sorry, but who the hell are you, Carrie Bradshaw? I really hope your categorization of a "winner" was supposed to be tongue and cheek because your statement came off as a totally classist, small minded conservative. Why is ALA letting you get away with characterizing the whole borough of Brooklyn as "losers". How is that okay?

If you haven't noticed, Manhattan is becoming an island for the rich. I know almost no fellow young people who can afford to live in Manhattan these days...and I'm sorry, but this does not make them losers. Your statement is incredibly misguided and callous.
Call us "hip" all you least we are not incredibly out of touch with reality.

This is why I hated the NYT was shallow and made sweeping generalizations about young librarians. No one wants to be a parody of this type of would hope that you could see through the superfluous nature of this article. Instead, you chose to take this little puff piece so seriously that you wrote a whole essay on what you consider to be wrong with the younger generation of librarians. Take the time to actually talk to some young people...maybe you will be pleasantly surprised.

DrewDrew said...

As a creative writer--I'm getting an MFA...and I teach... not that that qualifies my work in any way... but I'm serious--I acknowledge that teaching positions are slim for the degree I'm receiving. I've always been interested in the [free] availability of information and the preservation of important scholarly and literary works. I want to become a librarian as a potentially different (and fulfilling) option for being a poet. That doesn't mean I rule out the possibility of teaching in the future, but that for the time being, I feel the librarian or "guybrarian" route would be an interesting and likely enjoyable path to try first in my journey.