March 16, 2018

Barbara Fister’s Public Voice, Lego Librarians, and Midsummer Thoughts

Finding a Public Voice: Barbara Fister as a Case Study is at long last available from ALA Editions! The volume, edited by Danielle Theiss and Diane Kovacs, is a collection of essays by academic librarians that pays tribute to the thoughtful and fearless Barbara Fister. I made a humble contribution to the book in the form of a haiku and longer poem (so called) simply because I was asked and because I had to be part of any book that recognized Barbara Fister’s many contributions to our profession. Barbara—thank you for being you, and for sharing you with the rest of us via your writing.

Going from the sublime to the happily ridiculous, I must bring to your attention to a hilarious blog post that my friend and colleague Michael Hopper brought to my attention: “Image, Public Perception, and Lego Librarians” by Joe Hardenbrook at his Mr. Library Dude blog. Besides the wonderful images Mr. Hardenbrook has created, his captions are not-to-be-missed summaries of frighteningly familiar librarian personae. Can you find your Lego self there? I found mine at various stages of my career.

On a (somewhat) related note, years ago a colleague and I planned to deliver a paper entitled, “From Buns to Bytes: How Technology is Changing Librarians’ Image” at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association annual conference. Imagine our distress and embarrassment when, upon doing research for the paper, we discovered that despite the increasingly technological character of our work, our image had not altered much in the public’s perception (with the exception of comic book readers, who were cognizant of Batgirl’s morphing into computer and information whiz Oracle). [As if further proof were needed of the longevity of information on the web, I found the title of our 1998 paper with a quick Google search. It lasts forever once you put it out there.]

Since I took two days off in preparation for the whirlwind that is the beginning of our academic term, and since today seems to be one of the three truly beautiful days of the year we are allotted in the Northeast (this summer has been a trial—wanted to use a more vehement word but this is public—alternating between blast furnace heat and downpours), I sat in my backyard for a full hour, throwing a cloth frisbee into the wind for the three border collies presently in my care. The longer I threw that frisbee, the more they wanted me to throw it. I tried to convince them that today was a day of rest for us all, but they were having none of it. And so I threw. And threw. And threw. And oddly enough, it turned out to be quite restful for all of us, eventually: they are now all sacked out sprawled around the house, while I’m reflecting on the good deed of having exhausted three livewire border collies. If it were not a beautiful, restful summer day of vacation I might try to derive some inner meaning from this exercise (I mean, really! Throwing a frisbee into the wind? Imagine the potential library metaphors!) but I think there’s more literal frisbee throwing in my immediate future. It is late midsummer, after all. Take a break yourself if you get a chance; it’ll enhance your work, I promise.

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980s, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early '90s (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.

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  1. Barbara Fister says:

    Well, thank YOU for contributing. I still feel quite gobsmacked that Danielle and Diane wanted to do this and that so many contributors stepped up. It’s an extraordinary honor.

    Diane had a public voice before I did – she was instrumental in creating GovDocs-L and Dorothy-L at a time when I was just figuring out how this thing called “e-mail” worked!

    Love the story about your PCA paper. And may you have much more pleasant weather after such a trying summer.

    • Barbara, I was honored to be asked to contribute, and am so glad to see this book appear. It’s a great collaboration and a lovely chance to acknowledge what you’ve done for us all.

      And goodness gracious! I didn’t realize before this that Diane is a moving force for Dorothy-L! I’ve been following that for years; how did I miss Diane’s connection? (the flow of information speeds by at such a pace now…). Anyway, in looking again at the site I saw Diane’s memorial to Anne George, one of my favorite mystery writers — I’ve just finished re-reading Murder Runs in the Family, laughing my guts out. So your point about Diane’s contributions is well-taken, too: sounds like you and I are both big fans of Diane.

      Thanks for writing here, and for the wonderful writing you do in all your work.
      Best wishes,

  2. Thanks for proclaiming the exciting release of this book, Cheryl! I want to make one correction, however: this most excellent volume was published by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) not by ALA Editions.

    People can purchase this book in print or multiple e-formats here:

    Libraries can purchase this book through EBSCO.

    • Oops! Kathryn, thank you very much for correcting my mistake!

      And thank you, too, for making this book come about.

      Best wishes,