When I met Kara Jesella, co-author of How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time, at Pete‘s monthly party Chuffed! held during the ALA conference and she said she was doing a piece on librarians for the NY Times, I was intrigued. Fluff piece for the style section? Probably. Fun? The odds certainly looked good. And really if I had a dollar for every time someone quipped that I don’t look like a Librarian, I’d be on vacation right now. So while the “hip librarian” thing might be a new cliche, maybe with a true glut of these articles I can stop trying to come up with a reasonably amusing response every time someone comments on my appearance when I tell them my profession.
I am a little surprised by the twitter over the article (pun intended), although I suppose I shouldn’t be. While I will try to maintain, as my friend Carrie (who is also quoted in the article) put it, some emotional distance from the content of a story that I didn’t write, I will say, that as I stated, it’s true that I finally decided on library school after listening to a zine curator at a public library speak. She was passionate and articulate, and worked in Salt Lake City, for the love of God. I saw her at what was once the Underground Publishing Conference which has since morphed into the Allied Media Conference. The conference that year was full of people who were focused on getting information “out there” to people. Among them, naturally, were librarians, library students, and a great many people who recognized the powerful role that librarians can and do play within society. For me it was less, the job sounding “pretty awesome“, but more opening up the possibility of what the job could be. That it could be more than a job, really but perhaps a personal philosophy, of a dedication to putting information in hands where it was necessary, and useful, and in some, albeit extreme, cases life-changing. To supply an abused woman with the information she needs to get help, to give an elderly world-traveler who can no longer fly on a plane an book that will make them forget that they’re in their own living room, to show a student how to get the information they need to write a good paper. That’s cool. That’s hip. And maybe when I’m done I’ll celebrate with a $10 cocktail, because I’m in DC and that’s just how much a cocktail costs when you miss happy hour.
At the end of the day as Kendra notes, the article wasn’t for us, us being library types. Jessamyn points out that,
“As someone who talked to the author of this article at length about politics, I think the problem was that the publishable article was about hipness but the article the author *wanted* to write about was about progressive politics… I agree, fluffy article, but if it can get a little more attention to the leftist aims of some librarians, I’m all for it.“
I couldn’t agree more.