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This is what a librarian looks like [Feb. 12th, 2014|07:57 am]
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Early in January I got a message from Naomi Gonzales, ‏‪@InMediasRes_‬ on Twitter, telling me that there was going to be a convention of librarians in Philly.





She connected me with Ingrid Abrams, and eventually Christina Coleman and Jenny Levine who were all going to be attending the American Library Association's Mid Winter Conference January 24-28. They offered to book a room and put the word out that I'd like to photograph and interview people, but they could only do it on the 27th, which was right at the end of an extremely busy weekend that had me flying to Chicago late Friday night, running half marathon Saturday morning, photographing Peter Sagal for Joan of Dark's #GeekKnits book, getting up at 3:00 AM Sunday morning, flying to San Francisco to photograph Adam Savage (from Mythbusters), then taking the red-eye back to Philly that night, getting in at 7 am monday, doing various things all day Monday and then, basically on zero hours of sleep, setting up a portrait studio and photographing librarians at 7:00 that night.

Not much you can do in a situation like that but soldier through and hope you get a row to yourself on the redeye (didn't happen).




Librarian JP Porcaro snapped this behind the scenes shot of me, loopy with jet lag, setting up a studio surrounded by a bunch of awesome librarians. Clickenzee to Embiggen



Libraries and librarians have meant a lot to me throughout my life and there are specific ones that without whom I wouldn't be who I am today. Living, as we do now, in a world where the relevance of libraries is often challenged as superfluous by people with Amazon Prime accounts and reliable access to the Internet at home, I wanted to create a forum where liberians could could talk about the challenges that they're facing and the work that they're doing to an audience that might not otherwise see and hear that.

Ingrid helped me conduct interviews, I set up a studio with a single Pho-tek Softlighter II (the medium sized one) and shot with a Nikon d800.




Clickenzee to see the slide show!



When I was done some of the librarians asked if I wanted to go out and I was so giddy with jet-lag I said "sure" and had a swell time. By then I was out over the edge but I was done, there was a bed waiting for me at home and I thought about how much I'd done in the past 72 hours; it was a lot and I felt good about all of it.

From the beginning I thought that the photos should run in Slate and they were interested right away. I did a telephone interview and they talked to some of the librarians, picked ten of the images, and it sat around for a few weeks and went live yesterday. I found out when my inbox started to flood with people who had seen it. Within 45 minutes, when I finally got a chance to look, three thousand people had shared it on Facebook. Last time I checked, a few hours later, that had grown to 14,000 Facebook shares, then a Twitter fight (which I wasn't expecting) broke out between groups of librarians, but mostly love poured in. Love, and interview requests.

My plans are to go to the ALA conference this summer and keep photographing and interviewing. And, somewhere in there, get some sleep. If you're going to ALA in Vegas, keep an ear out for details on the shoot. If you think it's a cool think and would like a portrait of a librarian hanging on your wall, keep an ear out for details since I'll probably be kickstarting the trip.

In the meantime, tell me about the library experience that had the biggest impact on you.






Clicenzee to see the slide show!







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Comments:
[User Picture]From: angelamermaid
2014-02-12 04:45 pm (UTC)

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As a shy, socially awkward teenager forced to move to a rural area, libraries were my lifeline to the outside world. Being on a first name basis with librarians had an impact on me - people who knew me by sight and also knew that I loved science fiction and fantasy and would talk tome about my interests.
[User Picture]From: buboniclou
2014-02-12 04:45 pm (UTC)

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Without hesitation I can say the most formative thing in my becoming a librarian was the weekly experience of RIF and the availability of books and people to nurture me every step of the way.
[User Picture]From: elusis
2014-02-12 06:58 pm (UTC)

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Wait, librarian Twitter fight? And no links?

I almost picked this up the other day because it looked fascinating:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1592407870?tag=npr-5-20
[User Picture]From: tsarina
2014-02-12 06:59 pm (UTC)

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Sometimes I regret not becoming a librarian or an archivist. I think I would love that kind of work. (Sadly I cannot afford the cost of going back to school for that degree.) A friend of mine is an awesome archivist at Emory in Atlanta. (I so think you should photograph her!)

There was a library branch in my neighborhood. I rode my bike there frequently. I spent a lot of time there, moving rapidly through the children's lit section and into the adult shelves of science fiction and fantasy. I was always so glad no one ever told me "no" when I brought books to the check out desk. I was a very shy kid.
[User Picture]From: ronsrants
2014-02-12 08:33 pm (UTC)

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I saw and shared the link on FB today before I saw it on LJ! I had no idea you were going to be there, I would have encouraged my library peeps to seek you out at the conference!

-R
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2014-02-13 12:38 am (UTC)

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I'll be at Las Vegas this summer, they can find me then!
[User Picture]From: wood_dragon
2014-02-12 09:47 pm (UTC)

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I was an early reader. Because we lived in the country, I couldn't use the town library until we actually, you know, lived in town. I was ten when we moved and the library had a rule that you had to be thirteen to access the adult books. (Considering they shelved Little Women in the adult section & I had read it more than once by that point ...?)

When the librarian realized I had read all the children's books I was interested in and had then started reading the books in alphabetical order by author's name, she talked to my school librarian and my parents. They struck a deal. I could take any book I wanted out of the adult section. If she felt it was 'too old' for me, she had the right to take it and ask my parents for permission first.

She never once had to and I solidified my love of words. I really do wish I had become a librarian. I suppose it isn't too late to look at courses, right?
[User Picture]From: ariandalen
2014-02-13 01:17 am (UTC)

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My grandmother achieved her library science degree after returning to college in her 50s. She was the school librarian in Kerens, TX for 15 (?) years, possibly more. The made her retire when she turned 70, or she would have worked there until she couldn't work any more. She was the elementary, junior high, and high school librarian. :)
[User Picture]From: MarcyTanter
2014-02-13 12:52 am (UTC)

Indispensible!

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I was brought up on books, was an early reader, yadda yadda. When I was 8 yrs old, the librarian at Makefield Elementary in Morrisville, PA (a man, I think his name was Mr Williams, but I could be wrong), called me over and said, "I have a book I think you will like" and he handed me _Little House on the Prairie_. I devoured it and all the others in the series and when I was done, he opened his desk drawer one day and pulled out a faded page of newspaper. He told me to read it. He said it was her obituary--he had to explain to me what that was, I'd never read one before, and it was the first time I remember realizing that authors are real people. From that point, I became an historicist and I've never looked back. I'm an English professor who relies heavily on librarians and am lucky to have some great ones at my disposal at work and around the world. No scholar can do his/her work without the help of a good librarian. And I feel lucky that my first librarian just knew what I needed to read. In fact, I have a daughter named Laura now. :)
[User Picture]From: damiana_swan
2014-02-13 01:24 am (UTC)

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The only reason I'm not still working in libraries (I have an associates degree as a library technician) is that I couldn't get enough hours to support my daughters.

Nevertheless, the years where I was working at the library across the street from the high school, and down the block from the junior high, and where the high school ESL program had students with 22 different first languages (in a school of about 800 students) are still some of my absolute favorites. I lost count of the number of times we'd have someone come in, and explain that they had just arrived in America the day before, and could they please get a library card?

Oh, and my absolute favorite library saying?

"There is something in this library to offend everyone. If you cannot find any materials which offend you, please complain."



Edited at 2014-02-13 01:26 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: tabor330
2014-02-13 01:27 am (UTC)

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My mother was the high school librarian, and I LIVED in the library. I napped in the periodical room (on a stack of Christian Century magazines that made the BEST pillow). Mom had a vertical file that was the envy of many librarians. I wrote about it here: http://wp.me/peYJy-gz My favorite memories were of piles of books, Mom asking me to read Henry Miller ("what did you think?"), and Mom's insidious ways to get kids to read. Whether is was the stack of romances at one door or the Car & Driver magazines on the other door, she figured all she had to do was get them in the door and she could find a book they loved. Edgar Rice Burrows, H Beam Piper, Georgette Heyer wrote gateway books for so many readers. I loved books with huge vocabularies that would take me to wonderful places. Growing up in South Dakota in the early 70s, there was no television to watch of much merit, so books allowed me to imagine worlds off of our world and on it. Too bad that as a young woman in the 70s I wouldn't allow myself to entertain the idea of doing the same thing my mom did. I am a born librarian. All the books in my classroom are alphabetized, and I have 1800 books for my students to borrow.

Edited at 2014-02-13 01:28 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: librarian
2014-02-13 03:25 am (UTC)

lovely

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So very pleased to see so many friends and colleagues so well represented. You did a great job. Thank you.
[User Picture]From: nightyv
2014-02-13 03:28 am (UTC)

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In Jr. High when I was just returning to school after being hospitalized for my strong case of school phobia and agoraphobia my IEP allowed that I would not have to take PE (biggest trigger ever for me). I was lucky enough to be able to be a library aid for the entire two years there. The library was my oasis in a sea of blinding ( literally) anxiety attacks and chaos. Mrs. Mahoney our beautiful librarian was always there for me for anything I even needed. I've had a lot of spectacular people play guardian angel in my life and she was one of the most spectacular of all. I don't think I would have made it through without the library, the books, and her.
[User Picture]From: ladycelia
2014-02-13 01:45 pm (UTC)

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When I was a kid, life, well, life was difficult in a lot of ways. Alcoholism impacts the whole family.

Anyway, even with that, I had my escapes. One was long distance bicycling, the others were fishing and the library. The first made the other two more possible. The "big" library was in San Luis Obispo, about 11 miles from home. I'd get on my copper-colored Schwin Fair Lady (the girl version of a Crate Stingray), and ride to the library. Then I'd spend all day there, complete with napping on the sofa in the children's stacks, before cycling home with a basket full of books.

The local library, in Shell Beach, was less than a mile from home. It was small, two rooms, that acted more like one long room with an opening between. But they had ALL of the Dr. Dolittle books. All of them. And Mr. Popper's Penguins.

My school library at St. Patrick's Elementary was truly a one room affair. Small enough that it had probably originally been planned as a utility closet. The contents were...strange. Made up of books donated to the school. I remember in second grade, going to the school library for the first time, I checked out a book about silk worm husbandry. Clearly it had been translated (badly) from Chinese. I was thoroughly enjoying it when Sister Teresa saw what I had and made me take it back and check out Curious George. I never really forgave her for that.

The photos are fabulous.
From: Linda Myers
2014-03-09 05:53 pm (UTC)

Love of Libraries

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I remember my mom taking me to the library - the really big library - to get my very own library card. I was 5. We read books for entertainment. We didn't have much. She was a single mom of 2 girls long before it was common. (about 50 years ago) I learned my love of books and libraries from my mom. It was nurtured by the librarians that taught me how to find books and authors on those amazing shelves. Librarians who suggested authors I might like. They did this because they remembered me and what I had read before.