Shotgun start

The semester starts on Monday, and as a result there are small hordes of students and parents staring at maps in puzzlement, waiting for books and IDs and paperwork, lining up for pizza and mac and cheese, and generally filling the campus with stressed-out joyful buzz.  The College Libraries are also almost ready to go… or, we will be on Monday, regardless.  In this buzz of chaos, there are some questions I’ve been thinking about that I don’t have time to write full, thoughtful posts on, but which are deserving of some attention:

  1. Why are librarians so eager to adopt cutesy gimmicks?  What’s with faux words like “guybrarian” and “gaybrarian” and all of our ridiculous acronyms and names for services that are supposed to be catchy but really are just unprofessional?  Why do we feel so drawn to twee as a profession? Why did it feel so very refreshing to agree that we’d just call it the “new catalog beta test”?
  2. Why do so many LIS grad students (or, more specifically, the ones on the internet) seem startled to discover there aren’t many men in their graduate programs? Did they miss the “feminized profession” memo? Have they ever been to a library and looked at the staff?
  3. How do we move past the depressing trend of managing library staff by either a) ignoring the problem, b) waiting for the problem to quit or retire, or c) making the problem miserable until it reverts to option b?  If new managers feel that the majority of current and past library managers are modeling ineffective skills, how do we find good mentors to learn from?
  4. Why did no one tell me how important it would be to make friends with custodians and carpenters, and where did I miss the course in How To Take Care Of Your Library’s Carpet?
  5. Nooks, Kindles, or iPads?  Discuss.
  6. What shall I do with the squadron of yellow velvet ropes and stanchions that are in our locked storage room?

Happy semester start, academia.  May you remain sane long enough to get the doors open, the lights on, and the coffee hot.  Remember: So long as the doors are open, the lights are on, and the coffee’s hot, they won’t know how many things you didn’t get done this summer.


  1. If you have space or can take some space over outside–that you set up a maze or meditative walking path. Call one of the art profs to get students to decorate the stations.


  2. I’m an older student(46)currently doing an LIS program online and I frequently wonder how many of my classmates have actually stepped into a library–for more reasons than their lack of understanding about library trends.


  3. The teacher of my Academic Libraries class taught us the principle of buying donuts, at least monthly, for carpenters, custodians, and the like. Probably helped that the teacher was a guy. One who, incidentally, would likely throw up at the term guybrarian.


  4. When I started graduate school, my father gave me a sound piece of advice. He asked “Who are the most important people to make friends with?” I suggested perhaps the department chair and my adviser. He replied, “No. The department secretary and the custodian. Because the secretary knows everything and the custodian can get you anywhere.” My dad is a smart man – it’s advice I still take to heart.


  5. Re #4: When I left for college (gad…*23* years ago!!!) my dad gave me this in the way of fatherly advice: “Make friends with the janitors and the lunch ladies.”

    At the time I didn’t really understand what he meant, but I quickly learned!! I got more maintenance done on this campus without involving bureaucracy by being on a first-name basis with the custodians. Hell, I used to fix stuff myself! And never pissing off the people who serve your food is good advice in any setting, but an editorial or two in the Racquette defending PACES here, and turning in a shoplifting frat boy there…and pretty soon I’m getting free sodas and extra helpings without even asking.

    These people run the universe, whatever the tie-wearing contingent would have you believe. You can have your boss pissed off at you and still get things done. The same can’t be said of Physical Plant! Worship the ground on which they walk (and sweep and mow). They deserve it!


  6. My response as follows:

    1. I am not sure why “we” adopt cutesy gimmicks and it sure is annoying that we do it so frequently. Perhaps it has to do with our perceived need to be early adopters. If so, it has clearly gotten out of hand. So help me god, if I get called a “guybrarian” by someone…I feel we need to stop with the silliness that has no real meaning to our users so when I suggested calling it the “New Catalog Beta” there couldn’t be any confusion. I will go down swinging against calling it anything cryptic, cutesy or anything else unclear.

    2. I answer this question with my own question: Where are all these women clamoring for a guybrar…ahem male librarian?

    3. I can’t answer this but for now I am looking to you so don’t screw it up lest I be screwed up! 🙂

    4. See Romeyn’s answer above though I would like to make the addendum that we treat CTS the same way.

    5. This question is really answered best by the old “wait and see.” Each device has it’s drawbacks. The Kindle isn’t open enough format-wise to allow for library sharing though it is in its newest iteration quite handsome. The ipad is not a real reader, it is too expensive to take to the beach, you can’t see the screen in sunlight and the thing weighs to much for comfortable extended reading. Oh yeah, and it is backlit. The ipad is however awesome for countless other things. The other problem is that the ebook collections that we have purchased/subscribed to are generally not reader friendly.

    6. Either we throw them out, open a bank in a 1970s style or open a movie theatre in the same style. I’ll let you chose which but I support all three whole heartedly.


  7. re: #2 When I was starting my MLIS, one of the questions we were asked in my introductory class was “do you think stereotyping affects the profession?” and nearly everyone agreed it wasn’t. I looked around the room and noticed that of the 31 people in the room, 4 of them were men. And if that’s not a stereotype (of librarians being female, or feminized) affecting the profession, I don’t know what is. People seemed stunned when I pointed it out, though the guys had certainly already noticed.

    There’s a fair bit of research to back up that many men who are otherwise very well-suited don’t even consider it as a career choice. I’ve been fascinated (and frustrated) by the gender inequality in librarianship since that class. And the seemingly willful blindness to it as a problem. I just don’t get it — is it that we don’t *notice* it’s a problem, or is it that we notice but don’t think it’s a problem? I work in a public system with 60 staff, (including admin staff and such) and there are … 0 men. How is this not a problem?

    Incidentally, “guybrarian”? Is part of the problem. Ugh.


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