Living the Dream: Librarians


 Today we present you the first in what we hope will be an ongoing series of articles about geek dream jobs and those who are living the dream. Today, M. Flynn reports on what it’s like to be a librarian.


“Really? You’re a librarian?”

I get that all the time, and I don’t know whether to they want me sign autographs, be offended or act relieved. I don’t often use the word “librarian” myself and usually opt for “I work in a library.”  That’s a much less loaded statement. It’s easier that way.

Still, the second it “clicks” and they realize I am indeed a foot soldier of the Dewey Decimal system, the confessions usually start. Some need to apologize for hating their high school librarians or for pocketing that picture or Shaun Cassidy ripped quietly from the library’s latest Tiger Beat during the summer of ‘78. Some embarrassedly admit they never would have made it through Chemistry or British Lit without the help of their local librarian, and a few whisper quietly with a solemn look as if sharing a great shame: “I always loved the library.” Of course they love the library. What’s not to love?

I’ve been an academic librarian worked in an academic library for nearly 9 years and there are definitely a few things to love about the place and the job:

1. It’s hard to look dumb in the library. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by shelves of weighty tomes and tables littered with clicking laptops, scribbling researchers and serious, focused readers. If that doesn’t make everyone in the building look gifted, I don’t know what does.

2. You have some of the most interesting conversations. One person wanted information on buying mosquitos (You can. If you have the right cage, you can buy as many larvae and hatch to your hearts content.). Another was looking for a place to purchase the chemicals needed to create the smell of vitamins. (You can purchase the smell in 5 gallon increments.)  Another needed to get 7mg of dry adhesive into every 1.5 inch square on a ream of paper. (We figured it out, but I still get dizzy if I think about it too much.)

3. You overhear some of the most interesting conversations. Let’s face it, even the most furtive whispers echo reverberate on the quiet floors, so if you don’t want the world to know it is your “third speeding ticket in as many days and your father is going to kill you”, Don’t say it. Don’t even whisper it.  Let’s just say that there are many, many things, I wish I didn’t know and leave it at that.

4. You don’t have to spend a lot on your attire to outdo the stereotypes. Keeping up with the Joneses is hard. Keeping up with society’s perception of librarians is easy.

5. You’ll never be bored. In one day, you can read “Don’t’ Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” to a 5-year-old, research bus safety statistics at the Department of Transportation website, help a woman pick out a mystery to read on her next bus trip, and spend 20 minutes helping a man find a “bus port”—a task made immeasurable easier when you realize it isn’t a “bus port” he’s looking for, it’s a “USB port.”

6. You get paid to read, think and play. Sure you may have to read a few things you don’t like. For example, that book you had to read to support the Public Health class–Ebola, Culture and Politics: The Anthropology of an Emerging Disease—was a downer, especially the chapter on “Facing Death and Stigmatization,”but you learned some great statistics for the next cocktail party you attend.


Sure, setting up your first LAMP server to test some open source application can be daunting, and identifying scholarly research on the effects of steroids for the tenth time can be hard, but take heart: you’ll look good doing it your better-than-your-average-librarian clothes, surrounded by a century of wisdom in one of the smartest buildings in town. What’s not to love?

I’m a librarian…really.  

M. Flynn


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One Response to “Living the Dream: Librarians”

  1. Ross Says:

    From a soon-to-be MLIS graduate, you took the words right out of my mouth. Unlike IT professionals or hard-core gamers, Librarians have a certain power and mystique–which, I believe, lies the essence of geekdom. People don’t mess with librarians.

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