Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Failing the Test

If you want to see the kind of thing librarians and others involved with children’s literature get angry about, check out this puff piece about some school librarians who have a lot of influence on what books are selected for children.

If you can’t read it behind the paywall, it’s profiles a handful of librarians who blog, tweet, and cast pods, and basically try to get kids and others interested in reading, and the publishers who seek out their recommendation in an age of declining numbers of book review outlets.

And boy did it rile up the kid lit community, because fortunately there aren’t any other things to be angry about now that America has been made great again.

The main issue? “An attempt to characterize kid-lit influencers using only white males in their mid-30s misrepresents the work being done.”

And, yeah, that’s pretty much what the article does.

“Your lack of inclusion of women, people of color, and other historically underrepresented groups shows a shocking lack of awareness about current issues and trends in children’s publishing or the world of school libraries,” Donalyn Miller commented on the article.

How in the heck would she know about such things, one might ask. Well, it turns out she’s one of the four co-founders of the Nerdy Book Club, along with two other women and a man named Colby Sharp. She’s also got about twice as many Twitter followers as Sharp. She says she was even contacted by the Wall Street Journal. There’s no need to guess which one of them got quoted.

However, the charge isn’t precisely correct. In fact, there are women included in the article, two of them, and one of them is even a librarian. Here’s the proof:

“He’s a rock star in the library world,” said Kim Sigle, a librarian at Lake Anne Elementary School in Reston, Va., who recently hosted Mr. Schumacher for a reading event for roughly 500 students. She “won” the former grade-school librarian in a lottery after taking a picture of herself with a life-size cardboard cutout of him and posting the shot on Twitter, competing with dozens of other librarians who did the same.

Normally I find the idea of librarian “rock stars” sort of pathetic, but posing beside a cardboard cutout of someone to win some time with him does seem like the kind of goofy thing that fans or groupies would do.

Another woman gets a couple of mentions who might know a little something about children’s publishing.

“In 2015, Farrar Straus Giroux editor Ms. Kendall sent an early manuscript of “Gertie’s Leap to Greatness” by debut author Kate Beasley to Mr. Schumacher and Colby Sharp, a third-grade teacher at Parma Elementary School in Parma, Mich.

Did she send the book to any women? Maybe, but she also said, “Pretty much my top hope for the book was that these guys would like it.”

The big result seems to be the book showing up in a podcast Sharp cohosts with yet another male school librarian. “Each season, the hosts explore the evolution of a single children’s book. Last year they chose ‘Gertie’s Leap to Greatness.’”

There’s also another women whose presence is unremarked but ubiquitous, the reporter. At least, I’m assuming Ellen Gamerman is a woman, but she does have “man” right there in her name.

So it’s not entirely accurate that no women were involved in this, although none of the women involved were big influencers of children’s literature.

But the article fails a version of the Bechdel test. That’s a test that asks whether two women in a movie talk about something other than men, and it turns out that about half the time they don’t, and even when they do they often talk about marriage or babies.

This article is a real-life version of that. You have a female reporter talking to a female librarian and a female publisher about men. The female librarian even has a bit of a professional crush on one of the men.

Is this something to get angry about? Eh, there are probably more important things to be angry about. But is it weird? Sadly, no. It’s kind of what we expect to see in a lot of stories people tell about the world, and that’s all this article is.

Instead of an adoring profile of some librarians, it could be an article about a librarian selling heroin on the sidewalk outside the library. So things could be worse.



  1. I find the whole rock star librarian thing rather silly. If you want to get nitpicky wouldn’t the assistant librarian that got arrested for selling heroin outside the library be more “rock star”? I mean don’t the terms “rock star” and “heroin” usually go together? :-)~

  2. NotAnotherWord says:

    I love that the conversation on the article about the heroin sale is an argument over whether the heroin dealer should be called a librarian, or a library worker–priorities!

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