May 22, 2018

Steve Lawson & Josh Neff | Movers & Shakers 2010 – Change Agents

Library Journal March 15, 2010: Steve Lawson, Mover & Shaker

Carping Nerdboys

Josh Neff (pictured below) and Steve Lawson (pictured left) started the Library Society of the World (LSW), an online social network of like-minded librarians that has attracted a host of librarians affectionately disaffected from the more formal organizations of librarianship. Lawson credits Neff as the “guy who got everything going in 2007.” Neff was either disorganized or irreverent enough to serve as the first “sheriff” of the LSW.

On Twitter, Neff had said he wanted to start an alternative library organization and then launched the wiki that first brought people together under the name of the LSW; a later chat room on Meebo was the focal point of LSW conversation. Now FriendFeed is the LSW center of gravity.

Many people were inspired by the “implied vision” of a library “society” that was equal parts social and professional. Now hundreds of library folks are part of the group on FriendFeed and Library Journal March 15, 2010: Josh Neff, Mover & ShakerLinkedIn.

As part of what Lawson calls “a punk or dada approach to doing things,” the dada duo initiated the Shovers & Makers awards, a parody of LJ‘s Movers & Shakers. Lawson thinks awards like LJ‘s “are fine” but asserts that “everyone who shows up and works hard and tries to make their libraries better deserves an award.” With Neff’s help Lawson set up and launched in March 2009, a week after LJ announced the 2009 Movers & Shakers. The only rule was that candidates for the award had to give it to themselves. By May 15, some 144 people had written brief profiles naming themselves Shovers & Makers.

LSW has produced several crazy zines, including Codslap! ( and Librarian Bomb ( To whit: “Reference service and prostitution are not mutually exclusive…. [according to] a chart: Clientele is often unsavory [YES]; Dangers include stalkers and inappropriate requests [YES].”

“Both of us are very influenced by the punk and post-punk music/subculture scenes of the late 1970s and the 1980s, where zines figured prominently. That music and subculture are a big part of what’s behind our attitude with the Library Society of the World: anyone can join in and be a part of the experience, as long as they contribute positively and help with the DIY (do it yourself) activities.”

According to Lawson, the “defining characteristic” of their creation is that no one is “in charge.” “We just propose goofy ideas and see who goes along…,” they say. “The LSW is anarchic in the best possible way, and we hope it always stays that way.”

Jessamyn West once called Neff and Lawson “carping nerdboys,” and they wear the title proudly.


Steve Lawson, Colorado College, Colorado Springs and Josh Neff, Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission, KS

Steve Lawson

CURRENT POSITION Humanities Liaison Librarian

DEGREE MLIS, University of Texas, Austin, 2000


Josh Neff


DEGREE MLIS, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2005