Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Our Pop Culture Moment…How Exciting

Oh my, NPR has noticed libraries! Woo hoo!

Or rather one of their bloggers speculates that libraries might become the next big pop culture wave after…cupcakes. I didn’t realize cupcakes were a big pop culture wave, except among librarians, and even then only if they’re slathered in chocolate.

Actually, the headline talks about libraries as part of a pop culture wave.  The post itself opines that, after Old Spicey guy and other things, libraries could “suddenly becomes the thing everyone wants to do happy-fuzzy pop-culture stories about.”

To which I can only respond, haven’t we had enough of those? We know about librarians’ tattoos and videogame playing and whatnot. Can’t we just stop there?

The reasons given are odd. Libraries get in fights, for example. “Everybody likes a scrapper,” we’re told. It seems to me this means that if librarians were children, they’d be drugged or given time-outs.

Or Librarians know stuff. Well, sort of. They know about how to organize stuff produced by people who actually know stuff. Does that count?

Libraries, we’re told, are also “green and local.” “You can pretty easily position a library as environmentally friendly (your accumulation of books and magazines you are not reading is fewer trees for the rest of us, you know), not to mention economical (obvious) and part of your local culture.” Hmm. I’m not sure libraries would be more environmentally friendly than any other place. Trees are a renewable resource, after all, and most people don’t have especially large libraries.

Now that computers are taking over from books, libraries are probably getting less green. Junked computers create an awful lot of waste.

I think the “economical (obvious)” is related to the next point: “Libraries will give you things for free. Hi, have you noticed how much hardcover books cost? Not a Netflix person? They will hand you things for free. That’s not an especially hard concept to sell.” As libraries have been discovering, it is an especially hard concept to sell to legislators creating state budgets, because as we know libraries cost money (obvious), even if the money is worth it.

Then there’s a bit on how since libraries let in the public, there will be drama. Apparently, the NPR blogger agrees with American Libraries that public libraries are the only libraries around. The drama, it seems, could provide the “drama” for a sitcom. I agree that a public library could provide a great background for a sitcom, and already has in Australia, but if there was an American show about libraries, it would probably have lots of hairbuns and shushing jokes.

We librarians are told to prepare for our pop culture moment. Presumably that means only the public librarians, since the general public’s unfamiliarity with academic or special libraries means that those of us not fortunate enough to work in public libraries wouldn’t have our pop culture moment. We can forget about a sitcom, too, since jokes about information literacy or SDI probably wouldn’t go over well.

Somehow I think public librarians are safe as well, but in case they get their shot, I recommend laying off the cupcakes. Their big chance could lead to a reality television show, and they should be as fit as possible if they want to create a “situation.”



  1. Real Librarian says:

    God Bless you AL!!

    You are the voice of our profession!

  2. Bruce Campbell says:

    You are really looking a gift horse in the mouth with this post, AL.

    How can you possibly complain about an article that expresses excitement for libraries?

    Libraries are green. Think about the computer angle for a minute. Instead of each citizen purchasing their own laptop or PC, they all share 35. That means less IT waste going to some Taiwanese kid who’ll boil the motherboard down for the copper.

    Of course libraries have problems getting our budgets maintained and not slashed, but the tenor of the article is arguing for libraries.

    You come off as a self-loather in this post. It’s the equivalent of a Joe or Jane who hasn’t gone on a date in ten years and once someone shows an interest in them, Joe/Jane dismisses the possibility of dating the person because their shirt isn’t ironed. Seriously, find something real to complain about.

  3. Real Librarian says:

    Don’t be a hater, Bruce.

    Learn to accept the fact the AL is the voice of the true library.

    AL is now the patron saint of libraries!!!

  4. ElderLibrarian says:

    Special Libraries and school libraries have been on TV shows: Buffy hung out in the school library with its librarian and there was that dumb show called (I think) the Librarian. Of course, public and academic libraries show up as lovely back drops for movies. And there is the great NYC library scene in Ghostbusters! It is only proper that someone acknowledge finally how pop culture libraries are!

  5. Bruce Campbell says:

    Well, her job is to complain and she does that well.

    I usually heart all of her posts, but this one seems a bit out there.

  6. Real Librarian says:

    Don’t forget the “Time Machine” where libraries are reduced to a holographic image who hates people and questions that they ask.

  7. My God AL, why can’t you be happy for public libraries for once?

  8. “the general publics unfamiliarity with academic or special libraries”

    You’ll need an apostrophe (either a ‘ mark indicating possession or a digression addressing an abstraction, such as “Death, where is thy apostrophe?”)

  9. Samantha says:

    Agree x100. Thanks! (Oh, and fix that apostrophe…)

  10. Real Librarian says:

    “You’ll need an apostrophe (either a ‘ mark indicating possession or a digression addressing an abstraction, such as “Death, where is thy apostrophe?”)”

    You should use some form of punctuation at the end of this sentence.


  11. LibraryFoundations says:

    I think the misconception here is that the NPR article is actually in support of libraries. Instead, it supports the mere stereotypical idea of libraries, including all the silliness that has surfaced since the 2.0 revolution. What’s wrong with the library as an institution of education? A place where the self-motivated individual can better themselves? Nowhere is that mentioned in the NPR article. Education of the public is what libraries (yes, even public libraries, thanks to Mr. Carnegie) were founded upon.

  12. The rapturous acceptance of “The Librarians” by the Australian profession was, in my opinion, a sign of that we are so starved for recognition that we will accept abuse instead.

    The writers wanted to explore a pathologically controlling character so, who better expresses a pathological need for order than a librarian? She’s not just conservative, but openly racist to her staff. She is so unapproachable that the first time we see her husband he’s doing things to himself in the shower that are likely outside Library Journal’s comment policy, as a symbol of her inability to connect with any warmth to anyone.

    And the story’s not about her mellowing out an becoming human, it’s comedy at the pain of others the whole way through.

    I know a lot of librarians found it funny, because we all know people like the main character, but do we all know people like the cocaine dealing children’s librarian?

    I’m not saying its a good or bad series as entertainment, but I am saying that if librarians are looking for a higher profile in pop culture, then we want better than “The Librarians” which essentially about librarians being funny by being a mixture of pathetic and viscious.

  13. BigBadLibrarian says:

    I think I read (or interpreted) the article in a very different way. First, I didn’t take it to be totally serious. NPR is often a bit tongue-in-cheek (esp. as the author is a former Television Without Pity writer – as funny & snarky as the AL herself).

    But I read “pop-culture” as TV, whether reality or scripted, not “popular.” Have you noticed that many reality shows popping up are now about interesting jobs? I took the cupcake comment to be along the lines of Cake Boss, Ultimate Cake show-off or whatever it’s called, and that new one about 2 women running a cupcake store in DC. I thought the NPR article was just suggesting that libraries would be the next profession to have cameras following staff around, and her arguments were about why you’d get good drama.

    Except that she’s wrong. They’d have to do a LOT of filming to get the good bits. We all have stories – funny and horrifying – but it’s not like they happen every minute, or every day. We’re not exciting like Whale Wars or Ice Road Truckers.

    As AL pointed out, libraries could be great settings for a sitcom because you have any number of characters coming in and out, even among recurring staff characters there’s a wide variety of personality types, and lots of potential for different scripts and scenes.

    Re-read the NPR article. I think we might be taking the author to task for something she wasn’t even suggesting.

    That, or I’m a librarian who can’t read…

  14. As much as I would love to see an American version of Australia’s “The Librarians,” I’d have to say, “pass” on this idea.

    Has anyone seen the Librarian movie trilogy? I have seen amateur YouTube videos that are better in every respect.

    The last thing I’d like to see is the stereotypical library and all of its associations in “pop-culture.” It just might catch on and before you know it – it will do just that—“pop.” Do you really want to be associated with the likes of Jersey Shore and the Salahis? Didn’t think so.

    Keep it moving NPR, nothing to see here.

  15. The story is for the library patron not us. I think the future for library patrons is good, however the future for librarians is dim. And therein lies the rub. Should we be excited for a future without many library professionals if the the user experience is improved? Unfortunately this is a future I do see. I will probably just become like a train enthusiast, an anachronism, or the fan of a certain golden era.

  16. The comments are pathetic. No one even mentioned Rupert Giles. Trying make librarians hip ‘n’ happening is like trying to tell little kids that tofu is just like ice cream.

    But NPR bloggers are people who want to work in radio, but instead are writing for the website. I work in a special type of archival research for film and TV, and I’ve yet to meet a librarian who has a clue about the materials I need. Some university archivists and special collections librarians do, but in general–nada, zip, zilch, and that includes NARA and L/C.

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