“That’s a Rap!”
Early Literacy Consultant; self-described International Hip Hop Library Superstar
New Hanover County Public Library, Wilmington, NC
MLS, North Carolina Central University, Durham, 2010
HALF A MILLION FANS
have watched Dewey Decimal Rap on YouTube
Photo ©Brett Cottrell
You’re watching a theater full of screaming kids shouting rap lyrics about the Dewey Decimal System and waving library cards in the air, like lighters at a rock concert. No, it’s not a Saturday Night Live spoof, it’s a school performance by Scooter Hayes, aka Melvil Dewey, “International Library Hip Hop Superstar.” Decked out in a high-octane hoodie, sunglasses, and grandma wig, Hayes/Dewey has been getting kids jazzed about libraries since his library-themed “Dewey Decimal Rap” hit YouTube in 2009. It has gotten over half a million views, and, since then, Hayes also has released a 15-track library-themed rap album, Deweylicious ($9.99 on iTunes).
Melvil Dewey’s rappin’ alter ego was born when Hayes uploaded “Dewey Decimal Rap” in lieu of a grad school paper on library classification. (The Huffington Post voted that video and another Hayes created among the funniest library videos ever.) He has performed live 50 times since he began touring last year. “I have to screen calls because fans are constantly calling me up,” he says. But fandom has tangible service impacts: prior to his visits, schools often issue library cards to every student, and librarians use his videos as a teaching tool.
Hayes brings creative drive—and results—to his job as an early literacy consultant at the New Hanover County Public Library (NHCPL). Last year, he initiated Storytelling Extravaganza, a festival for children showcasing local performers and businesses, with each act linked to a children’s book.
A whopping 600 people attended, the largest event ever at NHCPL. Working through the library’s Early Literacy Outreach Department, Hayes also brings library services to at-risk kids at local child-care centers. Between September 2010 and June 2011, Hayes performed at 331 story times and distributed books to nearly 4000 children. He also organized 30 community events, reaching a total of 3,736 people.
He motivates his colleagues as well. “Within days of Melvil Dewey going viral, I was bombarded with ideas from staff members about creating YouTube videos to highlight library services,” says NHCPL director Harry Tuchmayer. “Many helped us tell our story in the midst of a very difficult budget year, when the commissioners tied the fate of library service to the success or failure of a quarter-cent sales tax referendum.” The referendum passed, averting cutbacks that would have closed branches and laid off one-third of Tuchmayer’s workforce.
“I’d like to think our newfound use of YouTube had something to do with it,” he says. Hayes/Dewey might find it more appropriate to say, “That’s a rap.”