So many people sent this on to me I had to respond. By now, diehard followers of bibliotek blogland have encountered this YouTube video, The Hackney Bunch. If not, click through to watch it. It’s only a minute long. The short video introduces the librarians at Barton College.
(At the end, the suggested video to watch is this one, the Band Book Tour Commercial, from the same library. It’s advertising a musical event, but seems to make fun of Banned Books Week as well, which is a plus.)
My first thought was, "Please, God, let the madness stop!" After all, YouTube videos are a favorite means these days for librarians to bombard us with idiocy, faux hipness, and cutesy kitsch. That’s where we get librarians subjecting us to execrable pop music about Hulu and toddlers allegedly demanding libraries introduce augmented reality. For sane and sensible librarians who have some shred of professional respect left, YouTube isn’t for the faint of heart.
But then I watched the video a couple of more times, and decided it wasn’t professionally offensive at all. In fact, I found it rather charming, and thus tried to suss out the difference between this and videos from oneohonions or demanding digital naives.
First, it’s aimed at the community of Barton College to introduce the library staff and not at librarians to inform them of how superior the librarians who made the video are. It’s not designed to lecture librarians about their digital or Hulu shortcomings in a pompous way. Librarians who preach to other librarians demonstrate a self-righteousness pleasantly missing from this video. This is the biggest distinction separating this relatively charming video from the pretentious schlock we sometimes get.
Second, it’s parody and not kitsch. Parody is humorous imitation, and the Hackney Bunch demonstrates that the librarians have a sense of humor. A sense of humor is one thing among many missing from the twopointopians, oneohonions, digital naives, and frustrated trendsetters (not to mention the Regressive Librarians Guild). Those librarians take themselves very seriously indeed, even if the rest of us don’t.
Not only is it parody, it’s very well done parody, down to the final introduction of the "weekend librarian." I don’t know if college students still watch "The Brady Bunch," but if they do they’ll probably chuckle at this video.
Kitsch has many meanings, but I’m using it in the sense of bad art. A sentence from the Wikipedia captures what I mean: "The term is generally reserved for unsubstantial and gaudy works that are calculated to have popular appeal and are considered pretentious and shallow rather than genuine artistic efforts." Unsubstantial, gaudy, pretentious, shallow – I’m pretty sure I can recall at least one librarian-generated YouTube video that meets those criteria.
Third, it’s short. Short isn’t always a term of praise, but something like this should be short. Six minutes of bad music video is enough to deaden the soul.
Finally, it’s not professionally insulting. When watching this, never once did I cringe and think, please don’t let anyone outside the profession see this and discover what shallow, pretentious self-promoters librarians can be. There was nothing stupid or shallow or professionally embarrassing about it.
There are probably some other distinctions to be made, and some of you might disagree with my assessment and think the Hackney Bunch is just as ridiculous as the productions of oneohonions or digital naives. I’d much rather see librarians focusing on amusing ways to introduce their library to patrons than pompous ways of introducing their ideologies to other librarians. I prefer "The Hackney Bunch" to the hackneyed bunch we usually see.