Sunday, December 28, 2014

What I'm Reading - Christmas Edition

I was  a good boy, so I got books for Christmas! Here's what I'll be tucking into over the next few weeks. Or months, or year. So many books, so little time . . . .


As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the making of The Princess Bride Cary Elwes. This is one of my all-time favorite films, and the books is a bounty of funny and heartwarming tales about its production.

Hornblower and the "Hotspur" by C.S. Forester. From my boys. Hornblower is required reading for anyone who claims to like adventure stories. 

The Next 100 Years: a Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman.  My appreciation for STRATFOR is well known on this blog.

Raising Steam by Sir Terry Pratchett.  Another Discworld novel. Satire and Fantasy and outstanding storytelling.  Do yourself a favor, and read Pratchett's Discworld books. Really. Go get one right now.


And as if that wasn't enough, I've already got a few things on the bedside table to read:

Organizations, a Very Short Introduction by Mary Jo Hatch. One in OUP's Very Short Introduction series.
and

The Geopolitics of Israel and the Palestinians compiled by Stratfor.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from Deep in the Stacks!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
 
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.


And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.


Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech.  

For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works. 
What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend. 

Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.
Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature. 

For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker. 

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness. 

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me. 

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ¡in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels. 

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant¢s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

St. John Chrysostom, “Homily on Christmas Morning”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Off the Cuff Movie Review - Sleeping Beauty

Over the weekend my wife went with friends to see Maleficent. She enjoyed it, but I'll let her write that OTC review. For our Sunday evening movie, she decided it's time to watch again her favorite of the Disney animated films, Sleeping Beauty.
This picture is copyrighted by Disney. Like they'll let you forget that.

The Plot

So just in case someone doesn't know the story-line here, I'll give a brief summary. The Good King and Queen are celebrating the birth of their first and only child, Aurora. They invite everybody in the neighborhood, except for Maleficent, who rules some undefined region known as the Forbidden Mountain. She shows up anyway, and uses this social snub as a reason to be Really Evil, cursing the child to die on her 16th birthday. This probably would mean, in-story, that she would never marry, and therefore, the King's line would come to an end - he's arranged Aurora's marriage to the heir of the kingdom next door, to keep the family line going. This goes beyond pettiness about manners, Maleficent is trying a political power grab.

Among the guests are these three fairies, and one of them offers her blessing to partially counter-act the curse, changing it from death to unending sleep. The fairies, attempting to side-step the curse altogether, take Aurora away and hide her and them in a remote cottage, disguising themselves as mortals to escape Maleficent's notice.

Fast forward fifteen years, 364 days where the plot proper begins. Aurora is All Grown Up but doesn't know who she really is. Prince Philip, traveling to the castle for what he assumes is his wedding to the Princess, meets Aurora in the woods, and with both of them ignorant of the other's identity, they fall in love.
Shortly thereafter, Aurora gets told who she is and that she's got to get to the castle to get married. Philip also heads to the castle, but plans to return to the cottage later to meet up with Aurora. Now, due to the fairie's bumbling, Maleficent finally discovers where Aurora is, and learns of her meeting with Philip. So, in an impressive stroke of villainy, she gets into the castle and puts Aurora under the curse, as promised, and captures Philip, whom she tosses in one of her dungeons.

The fairies help Philip escape, he fights his way to the castle, defeats Maleficent and rescues the Princess with True Love's First Kiss.  Dancing, singing and rejoicing follows.

My Thoughts

Right from the start this film reminds me of the 'cast of thousands' epic films from the 50's, which makes sense, as this one came out in 1959. Like many of those epics, SB is a sort of musical. Princess Aurora and Prince Philip have one on-screen duet, which also serves as their "falling in love" scene. There are a few other song sequences, but all by off-screen singers. The majority of the background music, by the way, if Tchaikovsky's ballet Sleeping Beauty. It only makes sense, and boy, does the music work.

Maleficent, clearly the film's antagonist,  deserves to be credited as one of the best animated Disney villains ever: she is not just self-centered (like Gaston) or greedy (like Edgar the Butler), or of petty cruelty (like Cruella DeVille) she is full-on Evil cuz she likes it that way. Her entrance at the start of the film is impressive and meant to intimidate (it does), her dialogue with the king sounds civilized but keeps that "I could go mad-ape crazy on you any second" vibe that threatens no matter what she's saying. Her plan for prince Philip is just heartbreakingly cruel; she blasts her own minions for being stupid and turns into a DRAGON to stop Philip at the climax.

The fairies, according to my wife, are the actual protagonists of this film. When it comes right to it, Aurora, the title character does pretty much nothing through the whole film.  Philip turns in probably the most old-school heroic performance by a Disney prince ever (who else in the Disney canon can claim the title Dragon Slayer?) but even he is really a secondary character to the fairies, who get far more dialogue and screen time. So I find it very interesting the way Disney portrays the fairies. They are not all-wise all-powerful demigods, it is a real struggle for them to carry on as mortals during their custodianship of Aurora. When one first suggests that they raise the child in secret, another objects that they don't know how to do such things, not without magic. The first responds "If humans can do it, so can we." The fairies are actually inferior to humans - they are limited by their magic.

Relations to other films

Tangled. Oh my goodness, Tangled. Philip's horse, Samson is clearly the inspiration for Maximus the horse, both in personality (Philip talks to him, and Samson responds) and in actually being useful to the plot - he never shies away from carrying Philip to his princess, no matter what crazy stuff Maleficent throws at them. Also in both Tangled and in Sleeping Beauty, the princess doesn't know she's a princess, grows up essentially alone in the forest, with only animal friends and her mother/aunt figures, with none of them being actual relations. Both fall in love with the first guy they meet, which happens on their first 'adult' birthday, and both are just naturally charming to both people and animals. Both princesses are separated from their parents soon after birth, but both are reunited by the film's end, after being rescued by the man they love.
A scene of Aurora singing with the birds in the woods is parodied in the first Shrek film, which also employs the "princess in a tower" trope. 

In Conclusion

The artwork on this film alone makes it worth seeing. This is all traditional cel animation, and it is gorgeous. The music, as I said before, is terrific, particularly the Tchaikovsky ballet. The duet between Aurora and Philip is good and is one of only a few direct man-to-woman love songs in Disney's animated canon. The voice acting is solid and enjoyable all around, and many of the voices are familiar to Disney fans - all they were missing was Phil Harris.

Is this my favorite Disney animated?  No. That would be Robin Hood or Beauty and the Beast. Is it good? Definitely. It has all the right story elements - humor, pathos, excitement, a hero & heroine to cheer for and a villain to cry "fie upon thee". The story may be straightforward and not very complex, it is a much more coherent story than some recent Disney films (yeah, you, Frozen).  Good triumphs, the two lovers get together, the kingdom is secured and a major villain is vanquished.

Best line in the movie: "Father, you're living in the past. This is the fourteenth century!" Yeah, Philip said that.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Say Farewell to the Roaming Librarian


 This will be the last entry in my series on the Roaming Librarian. The project will be closed out at the end of this semester. My feelings about this are mixed. 


First, the reasons for the change.  There have been just a few meetings of the librarians who participated in the Roaming project, and the feedback we've given each other is for the most part negative. I've mentioned the drawbacks already, such as librarians being by temperament more inclined to introversion. This means it takes a lot more social energy for us to initiate a reference interview with a patron, than having them come to us. 

There was an even more significant negative. We have comment cards, like most libraries, where patrons can tell us what they think. From the comment cards, we got the understanding that students felt that the librarians were monitoring students' behavior; a few commenters even used the word 'spying'. Obviously this is not the impression we were hoping to make. 

Advertising for this project was all but non-existent, so the students did not know ahead of time why we were walking around and looking at what we were doing. I had a sign that I hung on the tablet computer that gave an invitation to ask me questions, but in retrospect, I could have worded it more clearly; something like "Roaming Librarians - on the spot assistance. We'll come to you."  Anyway, the sign was fun but it could have been better. 

Our student workers were asked to get student feedback in a survey, and to do so were walking through the library with a clipboard and randomly asking students questions. All of the workers that I spoke to expressed great distress with having to take this approach. They felt as though they were intruding upon the patrons, and many said the patrons let them know they didn't like the intrusion. 

Many days while I was Roaming around, I found it uncommon for students who were seated and going about their work to even make eye contact with me. If they're not looking up or looking around, they are probably intent enough on their work that I would be an unpleasant intrusion. I chat with student workers at our service points, which is all good. This has had an unexpected side effect - I have become the librarian of choice when the student workers have to transfer a phone question. Because I've taken just a few minutes twice a week to stop and chat with them, we've developed a relationship, and so they think of me as someone who, as advertised, "knows stuff". 

While the Roaming Librarian is coming to an end, I'll still be here, taking phone calls, emails, chats and even questions in person. It is sometimes difficult to accept the essentially passive nature of our profession. Maybe there are ways to be more active, but it seems that Roaming wasn't it. Well, librarians are an adaptable lot; if this didn't work out, we'll surely find something else that will.
I'll be back, folks.



photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterharding/410096070/">peterharding</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tales of the Roaming Librarian - September edition

Some times it's not easy being a Roaming Librarian. It is an unhappy truth that even when we make ourselves on-the-spot available and advertise who we are and what we're doing, the students still have to decide that they want to ask us for help.
September is apparently Art month here in the library. While I've been out Roaming I've encountered:

A student in on of our group study rooms writing on the walls. It's OK, the walls are basically dry erase boards, so that students have plenty of room to make notes and such. This student was drawing clothing designs. There were four or five near-life-size female figures on the walls, all in some kind of modern dress design. The Roaming Librarian does not know women's fashion, he only knows how to do research about it. 

A student with an architect's rule, sitting on the landing of one of our open staircases. He said that from there he had the best vantage point to draw our lobby and main service desk. I spotted several more architectural tools in the area at the bottom of the staircase. 

A student in one of the Learning Commons areas, with her sketch pad spread across the table, making some revisions to a drawing of a statue. I asked her a few questions about her class, and about technique, and learned about the different markings on pencils, which indicate the hardness of the graphite. The harder the graphite, the lighter shade of gray it will produce on paper. Nifty.

Other notable interactions of late:
  • helping a student find books on inter-cultural marriage
  • recommending a few books on Orthodox Christianity to a student
  • discussing a nursing exam on the menstrual cycle with nursing majors
  • locating commentaries on the Acts of the Apostles for a student
A student actually came looking for me this week. I had spoken in his Criminal Justice class, and he sought me out for help. He was having trouble finding the kind of research he wanted on the phenomena of 'tunnel vision'. The databases were giving him info on glaucoma, not the psychological condition in which fear or adrenaline cause you to over-focus on one point, and miss all the visual data around you. 
Stay away from the light!


Before long we had located an alternative term, "perceptual distortion" from an article indexed by the NCJRS, National Criminal Justice Reference Service. From there his research got back on track, as he now had a more technically accurate term to search on.

Oh and for bonus points, I saw a lizard in the garden outside. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

This book is REALLY overdue!

Part of my job at our library is handling all of the book donations. One of my colleagues who was helping me sort out a recently donated collection discovered these two cards tucked into one of the books.

Second Notice
The card below the notice is an actual catalog card. Don't see those around much anymore.


This book was at one time part of the collection of the Jones Memorial Library, a separate library institution from the Lynchburg Public library. The Jones Memorial specializes in central Virginia history and genealogy. I contacted the Jones Memorial and inquired whether the book was something they would want back. Apparently the book (which clearly was never returned) was excised from their catalog at some point.

It's probably a good thing, too. $0.02 per day is not a lot of money, but over 82 years it does add up. By our math, the patron who borrowed this book in 1932 would now owe the Jones Memorial nearly $600.

Remember, gentle readers, RETURN YOUR LIBRARY BOOKS!
Seriously. Don't make her come and get it from you.



photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/derrypubliclibrary/3762251190/">derrypubliclibrary</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tales of the Roaming Librarian - Fall Semester Kickoff Tour

The fall semester has begun! There are students in the library again, I'm so excited!  
I've got a new, improved version of my sign from last semester, courtesy of our graphics specialist:
How cool is that?!?
 
I've already chatted with several students, and some visitors touring the library. One young lady was so excited that I helped her find Paradise Lost and some lit crit to go with it that she forgot to take the primary text with her. I had to track her down in the reading room to deliver the Milton.


OK, so this is not the result of Roaming Reference, but I wanted to mention it. A student contacted me by email, saying he was having trouble looking up county ordinances for a county in a Central/Midwest state. I do not know if this student comes from that county or not, but for his own educational purposes, he wanted to know about this county's ordinances. He searched the county website and did not find what he wanted, so he inquired of me if the library had a database of county ordinances that we could search.

We don't. So I looked over the county website as well, and lo and behold, there was the name and telephone number of the deputy county clerk. Well, there's someone who should know about county ordinances. So I rang her up, stated the problem and she was quite happy to have the student contact her with his question.

Now, why mention this?  Because the myth that "everything is on the Internet" apparently is still going strong. No, no it isn't people. Probably not going to be any time soon, as every KB of data loaded onto an Internet server means someone had to spend time and likely money to put it there. Not to mention all of the stuff that's accessible only by subscription - like most of the academic journals our library pays big bucks for, to give the students access.

And one more thing: I want one of these, but the I can't get the campus print shop to make them for us.
Gorramit, we want those overdue books back!

Oh well, maybe next year. Roaming on . . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Weed your Library While Looking Like Idiots

“Oh boy”, I thought as I read the headline. “Another library has gone and started another mass weeding project, and ended with egg on its face”.

Really, people? Why is this still happening? Haven’t we learned our lesson on this yet?

This is not what the public wants to see, folks!
photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7883660@N05/466221141/in/photostream/

The Annoyed Librarian over at Library Journal shared this news report from the Boston Globe about the Boston Public Library system making itself look stupid while going about a perfectly normal, process of library collection management. The really frustrating thing about this is that they didn’t have to. Look stupid, I mean.

Libraries weed books. Just because we acquire a book does not mean we are contractually obligated to keep it on the shelf until it disintegrates into a pile of paper dust. Books come off of our shelves for many reasons, such as:

· It has been damaged
· The information has been rendered obsolete
· The book has a recorded history of not being used
· Duplicates exist where there is no demand for multiple copies
· A newer edition has been added to the collection
· The patronage of the library has changed such that the book is no longer relevant

And some times, we just run out of space. Patrons have this unquenchable desire for new books, you see. “Have you got anything new?” is a normal question. Especially in academic libraries, having access to the current scholarship and research is absolutely essential. So we move things around, and try to fit the new stuff in.

Until someone invents a bookshelf that can get around basic laws of physics (two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time) we are faced with the limit of not enough space to put all of our stuff. You know, like your house. When we run out of space at the library, we either build a bigger library (slow and expensive) or remove tables & chairs to make room for more books (unpopular) or remove some existing books from the shelves (deeply unpopular).

The Annoyed Librarian makes a good point about that last option, though. AL says “people don’t care about the weeding. What they care about is noticing the weeding”. An irrational distinction, but true none the less.

If the BPL had to weed its shelves on the scale it did, fine, I’ll accept that they had good reason to want to cut back that much. Obviously, it would be very hard to do a weed on that scale without someone noticing. With that in mind, they should have tried harder to make sure the people who did notice were not upset by it.

The Globe article quotes a person who said “I can’t begin to imagine what their thinking is in this wholesale removal of books,”. This person was a member of the Friends of the Library group! Hello, what? They should have been the first people the library explained the project to.


A few humble suggestions:

Planning is good. Let the key people – like the Friends of the Library - know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Talk about parts of the collection that want to expand. Talk about making room for new books. Once you have them on your side, they can help spread the message you want to spread. Expect that the local news will get wind of it - so beat them to the punch, and send them a press release, which says what you want to say, not what they think will sell copy.

Get them to see that it is not destructive, but constructive. The Globe article mentions, in journalist passive voice, that the BPL adds 100,000+ books every year. That should have been headliner stuff: “We’ve got lots of new stuff coming in, and we’re trying to make room for it”.

It also helps to have the staff on board with the project. The Globe article made it sound like the BPL staff was unenthusiastic at best about the weeding project. They should have had some media statements ready for when the reporters came asking, to project ‘team effort’ and again, pushing the positive message you want to push.

Take it slowly. If noticing the weeding is what bothers people, then go slowly so it is less obvious. The shelves’ composition changes all the time – but whole shelves do not disappear at once. Avoid doing that by have shelving assistants come along behind the weeders, to shift and spread the books out so you are not left with barren shelves that scream “Help! Books are Being Thrown Out Here!”

Know your collection. Know what people want, and what they don’t want. Emphasize the positive – we’re giving you more of what you want. Americans love the new thing, so showcase the new stuff that’s going on the shelves – line up some weeding candidates (the oldest, nastiest books you can find) alongside the new stuff and show the patrons exactly what they’re getting from the exchange.

Never forget libraries are for readers. Even in the 21st century, people still want books. The idea of books not being available is a scary one to many people. Reassure them; don’t try to buy them off with coffee shops, media walls or colorful mosaics. They want books, first and foremost.

For the more devious minded, you could plant a few books in the weeding pile so that you can publicly put them back, to remind the public that you do listen to them. 




Really, people, we are smarter than this. My little blog post is far from original in mentioning ways to get this thing done without looking like whacking great idiots. Do some research. Here, I’ll get you started.

Articles on how to weed without PR disasters:
 


Soma, Amy K., and Lisa M. Sjoberg. "More than just low-hanging fruit: a collaborative approach to weeding in academic libraries." Collection Management 36, no. 1 (2010): 17-28.
 
Cascio, Keri. "Culling Your Collection: The Fine Art of Weeding." (2011).
 
 Metz, Paul, and Caryl Gray. 2005. "PERSPECTIVES ON … : Public Relations and Library Weeding." Journal Of Academic Librarianship 31, no. 3: 273-279. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed August 19, 2014).
 
Wajda, Carrie Netzer. 2006. "Selection, deaccessioning, and the public image of information professionals: Learning from the mistakes of the past." Library Student Journal 1, no. 2: 1-9. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed August 19, 2014).
 
Roy, L. 1990. "Weeding without tears: objective and subjective criteria used in identifying books to be weeded in public library collections." Collection Management 12, no. 1/2: 83-94. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed August 19, 2014).
 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Are Librarians Nerds?


Librarians: Rule of Cool or Revenge of the Nerds?

          As a profession, we librarians seem to spend more than the normal amount of time worrying about our image, and the status of our profession. (1) Are we being replaced by computers, the internet, iPhones and Google?  

          We have an even deeper self-image issue. For a long time now our profession has been painfully aware of the negative image we've got. Somewhere along the line, a thought seeped into our collective consciousness – we’re afraid that we’re nerds. 
 
Nerdvana!

          But are we?  To determine the truth of this, we must first define our terms, then evaluate how much we match the description. So what is a nerd?

          The word nerd is a relatively new one, appearing first in the 1950’s. Possibly it was introduced to us by Dr. Seuss (a mean turn from one whom librarians have always liked) in the book If I Ran the Circus. (2) But, the book used the word only in passing and did not offer a definition, so no help there. 

          I have consulted a number of definition sources, and find that there is no one accepted definition for nerd, although there is a lot of overlap from one source to the next. 

How to Nerd
  •  The Urban Dictionary defines nerd thus: “one whose IQ exceeds his weight”, and offers this as well: “an individual persecuted for his superior skills or intellect, most often by people who fear or envy him”.
  • Britannica has no entry for nerd. I include this just for completeness.
  • Merriam-Webster, my go-to dictionary says “an unattractive, unstylish or inept person; especially one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.”
  • Wikipedia says nerd  "is a descriptive term, often used pejoratively, indicating that a person is overly intellectual, obsessive, or socially impaired."
  •  The Oxford Dictionary of English (3rd ed.) says “a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious”, and “a single-minded expert in a particular field”.
  •  TV Tropes offers a more descriptive definition. A nerd is “not smooth, not handsome or attractive. Not, above all else, popular outside of a grouping of fellow-nerds. A walking, talking fashion disaster”. Like this:
For his own sake, don't let him out of the house like that!
Not painting a very pretty picture, is it?  
          Women in the profession still have to deal with the "Marian the Librarian"/old maid/spinster stereotype, which implies anti-social attitude and old lady dress sense. Men in the profession get tagged with being in a 'women's field'. Plus sitting around reading all day. (I wish it were like that).

For the last, I offer a visual definition, the Nerd Venn Diagram!


The fact that I've included this, and analyzed it pretty much makes the case, doesn't it?

         As you can see here, to achieve a Nerd score requires a witch's brew of Intelligence, Social Ineptitude and Obsession. This includes all of the aspects of nerdiness brought up in the definitions above.  Do Librarians, as a profession, deserve to be branded with this Trifecta of Fail?

         Having studied the definitions, and reflecting upon myself, I will readily cop to the Intelligent part. Is this a problem?  The other two 'requirements' are another matter. I have my hobbies, and my occasional social faux pas, but on the whole I can, with confidence, conclude that I am not a nerd. I present a short sampling of my reasons why not for your inspection. 
  
Reasons I am not a Nerd
  • I know how  to wear a hat. My hat of choice is the fedora. While my wardrobe is not super stylish, I understand the basic rules of menswear, i.e. length of pants, to avoid clashing tie with shirt or shirt with pants.
  • I was in the Army Reserve as a hospital corpsman where an infantry officer once described me as a "hardworking son-of-a-**@$%". I have thrown live hand grenades and fired machine-guns. There is an Expert grenade badge and a Sharpshooter rifle badge on my dress greens.
  • I teach fencing, which anyone will tell you is a fast, intense sport requiring focus and whole-body coordination. 
  • I can do 12 pull-ups in one set. 
  • I have been happily married for 15 years now, to the woman I love, and who loves me. Anyone who says my wife is a nerd needs their head examined, and may need their nose straightened. 
  • I have been a librarian for 13 years, and I've lost count of how many times I have stood in front of a room full of students (who know all about being cool, right?) or professional educators to present library research techniques, copyright, and other weighty matters. All without stuttering, stammering or fainting while communicating in an engaging and comprehensible manner.
  • Book currently on my coffee table: How to Be a Gentleman, by John Bridges. I am endeavoring to teach my sons to be gentlemen. 
  • This post should clear up whether I am obsessed with Star Wars or not. Or this one.
  • My favorite TV show these days is the BBC's Top Gear
  • My Pandora channels include 80's Rock radio, Dave Brubeck, Joe Satriani, Taylor Swift, Beethoven, Harry Connick Jr, The Four Freshmen, Kings's X and Straight No Chaser
  • I answer library reference questions in person, by phone, by chat and by email. I work with donors, faculty, staff and students. I have had questions on every subject you can think of.  I have yet to meet a question that has caused me to freeze up and be unable to provide at least some answer. 
  • The only thing that I absolutely, positively will not give up as long as I'm still breathing is my faith. The word for that is devout, not obsessed. 
  • Read the rest of my blog. Do I sound obsessed to you? Merriam Webster defines obsession as "A persistent, disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling."   So no, that's not me. 
 Some non-nerdy activities practiced by my co-workers:

  • reading - fiction & non-fiction
  • crochet & knitting
  • walking and fitness
  • baseball
  • a side business in homemade ice cream
  • gardening
  • running
  • karate (an advanced belt)
  • being parents
  • politics/current events
  • online gaming 
  • motorcycling
  • hosting dinner parties
  • role playing games
  • model trains
  • kayaking & mountain biking
  • cooking
  • ultimate frisbee
  • hiking
           I admit that there may be nerds among us in the library field, but it may be more true to say that the general public thinks of librarians as nerdy, owing to representations in popular media, or the apparent anti-intellectual bias in the background noise of our culture.
          Here's one example of a librarian who's got a lot going on, all of which requires significant social ability: http://acrlog.org/2014/07/20/the-varied-life-of-an-academic-librarian/  I do not know how this lady dresses, but I'll bet she doesn't have a pencil through her hair bun.   These folk from my blog roll seem to know how to dress themselves as well:  Hedgehog Librarian & Stephen's Lighthouse. Or how about Steven Bell?

          Will my little blog post make a difference in how Americans view librarians, or how we view ourselves?  I don't know, but I am still convinced that I'm not a nerd, and will continue to act and speak for our profession getting some respect.  

If you know of any cool librarians, please share a pic or web site in the comments.

Footnotes (1) pre-published article in New Library World 115, 7/8 (2014) Identifying the prevailing images in library & information science profession: is the landscape changing?
Authors: Evgenia Vassilakaki, Valentini Moniarou-Papaconstantinou
(2) Dr. Seuss If I Ran the Circus (1956) https://openlibrary.org/works/OL261176W/If_I_Ran_the_Circus