I Learned a Lot from Librarians

I was invited to present a session on romance collections and romance readers at the Connecticut Library Association conference in Stamford this week, and I learned two key things:

1. I was SO wrong
2. Librarians are even more awesome than I thought

I figured that at a state-wide conference of librarians from all different types of libraries, which are STAID and QUIET and INSTITUTIONS of QUIET STAID BOOKISHNESS, I had to be formal. I NEEDED PIE CHARTS. And graphs! And sexy numbers with decimal points when talking about romance.

Note above: I was SO wrong.

Much like romance readers are judged and dismissed according to an antiquated stereotype, so too was I operating under an antiquated stereotype of librarians. How did I learn of my mistake? Flying Peep heads.

In the room next door to mine were two librarians demonstrating science projects for use in hands-on library programming. The “Science Fun @ Your Library” session was led by Janet Murphy and Susan Hansen of the West Hartford Public Library‘s Bishops Corner Branch.

The description was awesome, too: ” Find out how one daring children’s librarian and one geek-girl branch manager plunged ahead with a plan to promote science literacy through hands-on experiments and activities with phenomenal results. Join us in an experiment (or two) and learn how to start a FETCH! Club at your library.”

They had tables. With arts and crafts! And popsicle sticks. (And a projector and a LCD slide presentation, too – I presume without pie charts). Their session, which was at the same time as mine otherwise I SO would have gone, had attendees making either a self-propelled car, or a catapult. 

In the conference session, the catapult involved pompoms, but Ms. Murphy told me that in the library version, they found that the best item for catapulting in the library was decapitated Peep heads. At one meeting, the goal was to modify the catapult so the Peep head would fly from their meeting area all the way across to the circulation desk. Once they did it, and the Peep head landed on the circa desk, Murphy put the Peep head on the phone – only to come back a few days later to find it was still there and was now permanently bonded to the phone.

This, it seems, is how librarians roll.

My presentation was about romance communities, romance readers, and libraries – and how libraries can improve their romance collections and welcome readers into their local branches.

Right up until I found out about the long reach capabilities of your average decapitated Peep head, I was still laboring under the idea that I needed to be professional and as boring as possible. Which leads me to point #2: librarians are awesome.

I was greeted by a roomful of enthusiastic librarians who have healthy romance collections, along with some children’s and youth services librarians who were looking to build their YA library collections. I talked a bit about the romance community online, how active and enthusiastic we are about the genre (and how many of us love libraries) and how to reach out to us online. I gave a selection of programming ideas for romance-specific library plans on a minuscule budget, and I made a little fun of the endless possibilities of a title like “Adult Services Librarian.” Because, DUDE.

The best part was the reader’s advisory panel that erupted at the end. One YA librarian asked for suggestions of middle grade and teen YA romances for those who finished the Twilight series and wanted more (I knew some answers to that, thankfully), and another librarian was hoping to find suggestions for the must-have romances to build her own collection in all the popular genres. Another gentleman (who turned purple when I mentioned the mighty wang and the magic hoo-hah) asked about romances specifically for his mother, who didn’t like the sex scenes in most romances. I was most happy to tell him about Kristan Higgins, who is also a local author for many of those libraries.

The best part of the hour session was how excited these women were about romance, and how they wanted to help each other build better collections. I came prepared to make a case for cataloguing all the romances, and perhaps having a special section for them if there’s already a section in the library for mystery or science fiction, but all of them already catalogued their romance paperbacks, and made them searchable and reservable online and in person. YAY!

Money quote of the day came from one of the attendees as we were talking about HarperCollins’ efforts to limit ebook checkouts: “Asking for more money from libraries right now is like kicking homeless people.” There were a number of panels on programming and budget stretching – I joked that their budgets were likely a penny, specifically one of those pennies that’s been spread out and flattened at the amusement park kiosk. The HarperCollins ebook check-out limit was also a topic buzzing in the room, with librarians scoffing at the idea of a 26-checkout limit. Most of their popular romances, even the older ones, have more than 75 checkouts, and there were mentions of heroic book repair and restoration that made me weak in the knees.

Most of all, I learned that librarians who love romance are like double-powered versions of romance readers. They love books super-amounts of much, and they were as happy to see romance readers as we are to see healthy romance collections.

If you’ve got a local library with a great romance collection, you might want to find and thank the librarian in charge of it – because wow, were these ladies and gentlemen awesome people to know.

Thank you, librarians everywhere, for being made of awesome.

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Sharon says:

    I have always maintained that how goeth our libraries, goeth our society…and how falleth our libraries…and so on.

    I LOVE librarians. Love. If I had it all to do over, I’d have majored in library sciences—or information sciences, or whatever they call it now. I’ve yet to meet a librarian who isn’t a positive, enthusiastic, interesting, witty person.

  2. 2
    orangehands says:

    and INSTITUTIONS of QUIET STAID BOOKISHNESS, I had to be formal

    Pu-leze. As my dad recently discovered (he’s peripherally working with the library union in LA), librarians swear better than sailors.

    I’m starting my program for my master’s in library science and information in August. So damn excited. Librarians rock!

  3. 3
    Hannah says:

    I’m glad you found out how awesome librarians are, but I already knew that *pats self on back*

  4. 4
    Francesca too says:

    I just love my library and my librarians!

  5. 5
    Janet Sader says:

    I found this site because of a librarian…

  6. 6

    Thank you, librarians everywhere, for being made of awesome.

    You are very welcome.

    I’m a Young Adult Librarian from NYC, and there’s nothing quite, staid or boring about us or our libraries. And frankly, I hate decimal points and pie charts. :-) I rarely say “shhh.” My shoes are comfy but stylish, and I like reading romance novels & some erotica. I have a tattoo, piercings, and read comic books. Most of my teen patrons are shocked to find this out. I tell them “What? You think I live here?” lmao. I forgive everyone who didn’t know how librarians roll in the 21st century. :-D

    I love your site and your book. This blog helped me get back into romance novels big time.

  7. 7
    brooklynshoebabe says:

    Besides swearing, we’re also really good at knocking back booze, when necessary, orangehands.

  8. 8
    redgirl says:

    Great post about librarians…I love them AND their habitat! How can anyone who spends their day with books ever be boring?

    It’s a secret that should not be kept.

  9. 9
    Kristin says:

    I am lucky enough to live in a county with a kick ass library system and a completely searchable, online card catalog. They have even hosted awesome discussion panels with romance writers.

  10. 10
    Lynn says:

    I just became a Reference Associate at a small library in Ohio after having worked in libraries in West Virginia for 20+ years. I am already in charge of the new book club and I am hoping I can get the group to vote to read a few romances and maybe some SF and Fantasy.
    Since I am the major Romance and SF/Fantasy reader on staff, I am hoping that I will be asked to help recommend titles for the collection—mostly categories in Romance and Star Trek/Star Wars/Warhammer in SF/Fantasy does not a well-rounded collection make!!!
    Now if I could just convince them to integrate the mass markets with the hardbacks and trades—tho I think it is more a matter of space (or lack thereof) than anything else.
    I think you will find (and have found) that there are a lot of front line staff at libraries who are massive genre readers.
    L

  11. 11
    nauga says:

    Yay! I’m currently studying library science and based on my classmates, I wouldn’t expect a lot of quiet staid bookishness from the next generation of librarians, either. :)

  12. 12
    EbonyMcKenna says:

    That post is made of awesome.

  13. 13
    orangehands says:

    brooklynshoebabe: Just one in a long line of reasons I’m going to be one. :)

  14. 14
    Buggurl says:

    I work in the library industry,and I am constantly amazed at the strength and humor that librarians have and the incredible ways that they find to do more with less.  It breaks my heart when I have a customer that is in danger of losing any library funding, or even the library itself.

    Libraries having been proving their worth over and over again during the crazy economic times, by providing access to electronic resources, as well as books, DVDs, etc. for everyone who’s been forced into reduced economic circumstances. 

    I live in the South, where we were ravaged (and not in a good heaving bosom kind of way) last week by tornadoes, and if it wasn’t for the libraries that were able to open, many folks couldn’t have gotten their phones charged or gotten on the internet to apply for federal aid.

    BTW, my friends and I have an annual Easter Brunch that culminates in the traditional Peep Head Spitting Contest off the back deck.  We have a ton of Peep chicks in all the colors we can find, and we gleefully decapitated them and ptooey them as far as we can.  Evidently, squirrels like Peeps, because the debris is always gone by the evening.  We have to do it before dessert, while we can still move and haven’t been felled by the food coma.

  15. 15
    Jean says:

    Pat Berger, the ALA President at the ALA Conference in 1990, just died and I was thinking of her. She said something along these lines:
    ***
    Anonymous hotel official, on why he liked the ALA annual conference:

    “You honor your reservations; you go to your meetings so we can clean the rooms; you’re relatively quiet; and you drink more than the American Legion.”

    (Quoted by Patricia Wilson Berger in Chicago Tribune article,
    29 June 1990, Tempo section, p. 1)
    ***

  16. 16
    sweetsiouxsie says:

    The librarians at the school where I taught were always good friends and soooo helpful and accommodating. I always felt at home in the school library as did all of my students. Librarians are the best kind of people.

  17. 17
    Sarah says:

    I’m a librarian and I really wish I could have been at your session!

  18. 18
    e publishers says:

    well its a great post and like it alot..Well e publihsers can help you to read more and more books

  19. 19
    Aliyah says:

    I really miss my local library in Ottawa, Canada. I just wish I could find an English library in Geneva, Switzerland. For the last year I have been libraryless – I’ve tried municipal libraries (for childern under 16), university libraries (not a romance novel to be had) and church libraries (ugh, never again… Calvinist history was not exactly what I was looking for).

    If anyone knows of an English library (with romance novels, please!) I would love to know about it. This post reminded me about how much I miss the library I grew up in.

  20. 20
    Suzanne says:

    I am a middle school librarian and faithful fan of this site.  Not only have I never shusshed a student, I wear shirts to school that say things like “If I hadn’t become a librarian, I would have been a Ninja” and “Librarian by day, Rockstar by night”.  My students know that librarians are not old, quiet, orthopaedic shoe wearing booknerds.  However EVERY adult I know asks me “you’re a librarian?  You don’t look like a librarian.  You wear heels.”  *Gasp*

    Thank you for opening the eyes of many with this post.  I plan to forward it to the masses so they know that I’m not the exception to the rule.

  21. 21

    I was part of a library conference last year and on the organizing committee.  Meetings, of course. Lots of meetings.

    When a meeting notice went out and one of the librarians responded that she couldn’t possibly make the meeting because she had puppet practice that afternoon, no one found that unusual except me.

    Just being on a committee where puppet practice was a valid excuse for missing a meeting put a smile on my face.

    (and the librarians drank me under the table at the conference, btw.)

  22. 22
    TracyP says:

    Yes, I’ve been at many librarians’ conferences (I am on a committee that puts one on every year as a matter of fact), and librarians love their liquor and wine.  We’re a fun bunch of people to work for/with, and I wouldn’t change my line of work for anything.  Thank you for the wonderful kudos!

    Captcha: Makes69—um, yeah.

  23. 23
    Kristen A. says:

    I’m an adult services librarian and yes, that is exactly how we roll. Now I want to find an excuse to decaptitate peeps at work.

  24. 24
    Annbkreader99 says:

    I love libraries and librarians.  I have always lived in excellent library districts, and my current district has 27 libraries.  There is a wonderful romance collection, which is good for my budget.  I have a Kindle, and I hope that my library starts supporting Kindle e-books.

    Ann

  25. 25
    Olivia says:

    I did most of the research for my first book at the local library, including reading stacks and stacks of things from my publisher to get a sense of house style/sex scene vocab before querying. Not to mention all my usual stacks of other romances, Emily Dickinson biographies, obscure YA novels from decades past, and so on.

    When I finally got published, I wanted to turn around and donate a copy of my book as a small thank-you for all the holds they’d dug up for me over the years. But my book was an ebook, so things like Overdrive and the way digital content works at present made it impossibly complicated to even add one book, at no cost, to a single library collection.

    It’s made me something of a amateur library advocate (like I needed that much help) who has been reading up on the librarian blogs (which are awesome and super-smart).

  26. 26
    Laura says:

    @brooklynshoebabe “when necessary”? When is such not necessary?  (I am eagerly awaiting the return to NOLA this summer with the ALA conference. I declare the whole conference to be “when necessary”) ;-)

  27. 27
    Anna says:

    Not only am I librarian, but I was AT that conference! Alas, professional duty had me going to boring sessions on copyright….. *SIGHS* I SO wanted to attend your session.  Please say you’ll come back someday!

  28. 28
    SB Sarah says:

    Not only will I come back but I am presenting at ALA this year, too.

  29. 29
    Stana says:

    I’d like to put out a note to those librarians whose faces become very hard when deigning to check out romance novels to STOP IT. That felt good.

  30. 30
    Michele says:

    This librarian thanks YOU! Love your blog super-amounts of much. ?

    However, the pedant deep inside me needs to point out that, when a Peep head is separated from a Peep body, the body is decapitated, but the head is disembodied.

    Am now going try to fuse a disembodied Peep head to my phone…..

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