30 January 2006

LIBRARIANS ON THE RADIO

This was Lin’s Bin in response to a question from XRT listener Rachel Kitzmann on 11-16-05. [WXRT is a rock radio station in Chicago, Illinois. Lin Brehmer is the morning disc jockey there.]

This Lin’s Bin went on to become somewhat of an Internet legend … being traded back and forth between libraries across the country.

Dear Lin,

I have a confession: I’m 22 and in library school. As I was working on my reference homework, and contemplating my life as a young adult librarian post-graduate school, I became worried that my ability to be cool and connect with teenagers is going to go kaput. How do I convince them that librarians aren’t the shushing she-demons we’re always portrayed as?
Rachel Kitzmann, Library Temp
Donors Forum of Chicago
208 South LaSalle, Suite 735
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 578-0175 | fax (312) 578-0158
http://www.donorsforum.org


LIBRARIANS. WHO ARE THEIR HEROES? WHERE DO THEY LOOK FOR ROLE MODELS?

We are forced to think of librarians as older women, prim and bespectacled.

If we cast them as younger women in our memory, they are forever compared to Marian, Madam Librarian, a woman without suitors. A woman whose devotion to books and education blinds her to the evil that lurks behind the pressed pages of classic fiction. (pickalittle-where they mention Balzac and Chaucer) [from the stage and movie musical, The Music Man]

Or is the librarian the great deceiver, the highly educated spinster on the outside and on the inside, one who recites the steamy words of literature to other librarians in some secret underground librarian-swapping boudoir. What does conman Harold Hill know that we don’t?

Think of the film, It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey is shown a gallery of nightmarish visions that correspond to a world in which he had never been born. What is the most horrifying? That his wife, Mary, never married and has become, it’s almost too
tragic to repeat, a librarian. (Clarence-she’s closing up the library, she’s an old maid.)

One of the severest librarians in cinema history was the cranky archivist in Citizen Kane. Katherine Hepburn was a sort of librarian in Desk Set. You can tell because of the bun in her hair.

Yet, there are men besides the music man who look beyond the buns in your hair and harbor fantasies about librarians. But in the interest of full disclosure, I suppose, we should confess that men harbor fantasies about almost anyone.

One librarian website strove so strenuously to debunk the proper stereotype of the librarian that they thought it educational to list titles of explicit fringe literature devoted to librarian erotica. From such page-turners as Librarians Enslaved to the Eager Librarian, stereotypes have been unshackled.

On the other hand, librarians secure in self-image might prefer perusing the pages of Progressive Librarian where we can curl up with an article entitled “The Basis of a Humanist Librarianship in the Ideal of Human Autonomy.” [Progressive Librarian 23, Spring 2004]

The Modified Librarian offers you a chance to become acquainted with library professionals, men and women, who share details of their lives with pictures of piercings and tattoos. And if you think women librarians have issues with stereotypes, what about male librarians. “What! Couldn’t you get into a more masculine line of work, like nursing?”

When I was 21, I worked in a library. Not just any library. The New York State Library housed in the landmark state education building in Albany. A more imposing structure would be hard to find. The front steps are flanked by 520 feet of giant Greek columns, the longest row of load bearing columns in the world.

The main room boasted 94 foot ceilings. I joined a group of temporary employees, aimless recent college grads, high school drop-outs and substance abuse novices working among the 20 million volumes in the stacks. The stacks, eight underground floors accessible only through four coal mining style elevators.

Each floor was like a separate library. And since each aisle had its own light switch, the vastness of this subterranean book vault was largely pitch black.

For air circulation, there were open slots between the floor and the bookshelves. So you could
look all the way down the stacks if you peered down these gaps. And they inspired mischief.

Imagine if you can, one of my colleagues, some drug addled 19-year old, coming off a methedrine binge filing books in one of the darkest, spookiest places on earth when suddenly a hand grabs his ankle from the darkness below. The howls echoed louder than the tortured sinners of the Inferno.

Yes, it was fun. But while I labored in this precursor to damnation, I became friends with librarians. We ate together and drank together and went to concerts together. And I can state categorically, that librarians are just as “psycho” as the rest of us, only much smarter. And the women librarians who put their hair up in a bun only do it because they know how much it stimulates the imagination when they let their hair down.


URLs:
Lin's Bin: http://www.wxrt.com/program/detail/linsbin.html
Article: http://www.libr.org/PL/23_Rosenzweig.html
New York State Library: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/
Citizen Kane: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033467/
Desk Set: http://www.imdb.com/title/ttoo50307/
It's a Wonderful Life: http://www.imdb.com/title/ttoo38650/
The Modified Librarian: http://www.bmeworld.com/gailcat/
The Music Man: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056262/

See also:
Librarians in the Movies: An Annotated Filmography, from Martin Raish: http://emp.byui.edu/RAISHM/films/introduction.html

1 comment:

Kate Brown said...

Thanks for this post - I came across it from the LIBREF list. The link you provide for Lin's Bin also contains an audio link for the piece. Also, here's a link for Hollywood Librarian A sneak preview of the documentary will be held at ALA conference.

Kate Brown
grad student
College of Information, FSU