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Things Librarians Fancy

Ever wanted to delve into the unexplored world of librarian culture?

If you just said “no”, I can’t hear you. If you just said “yes”, then today, my friend, is your lucky day. Cribbing heavily and blatantly from another website which shall remain nameless, I bring you Things Librarians Fancy.

I am guilty of many, many (okay pretty much all) of the items listed below.



Be it book, A/V or other, librarians love all things multi-shelved and four wheeled. The tech-savvy may gush about how they put together “the perfect document camera setup”, the bookish may encourage you to check out their drill cart team at American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference – either way, librarians rely heavily on these contraptions for their identity. Fast Fact! Librarians are known to keep their cart wheels free of oil, so that the screeching sound may announce their arrival in advance.

Sensible Lunches in Brown Paper Bags


When it comes to lunch, librarians completely forego warm food in favor of items that can be pulled out of the refrigerator and eaten at once. Raw vegetables, various cheeses, whole-grain crackers, granola, and other foods enjoyed by mice are common librarian staples. Fast Fact! Librarian Abner Tweed went 43 years without using an oven or microwave (1961-2004).



It may not surprise you to hear that librarians love cardigan sweaters. What you may not know is that there are two varieties of cardigan-wearer – ironic and irony free. The former is typically middle aged or older and enjoys the warmth that a well-made sweater provides in the chilly library setting. The latter resides in the 20-35 year old age range and is seeking to project the nerdy hipster image. Fast Fact! The ironic/irony-free librarian schism occurred in late 2003.

Books that Haven’t Been Published


Nothing gets a librarian more excited than reading a book that you haven’t, usually so that they can recommend it to you or totally dismiss it before anyone else. “In the know” librarians often use the terms ARC, galley, and advanced copy to describe books that they feel are “going to be big”. Fast Fact! Kelly Forte has been called the world’s most forward-reading librarian. She is currently reading books that won’t be published until 2014, and has even sent a letter to Jon Scieszka’s agent, asking that she be allowed to look over Mr. Scieszka’s shoulder as he works on his next book.

Tote Bags


Librarians have many unnecessary items to carry around on a regular basis and nothing fits the bill like a sharp tote bag. The more obscure the better. Carrying a bag given out at the recent ALA convention? Frowned upon. Carrying around a bag from that Hawaiian grocery store you visited last year? Just right. Fast Fact! The tote bag was created in 1895 by librarian Lucy Sue Pente to carry her valuable rubber stamps to and from work.

“The Classics”


Librarians would like to make something clear: they love the important works of literature. If it’s leather bound and dusty, librarians support it. Librarians are also constantly bestowing “new classic” status on things ranging from the latest Newbery winner to the digital date-due stamp. Fast Fact! The most misplaced awarding of “new classic” status occurred in 1992, when Librarian Greg Tackus bestowed the honor on the Whatchamacallit candy bar.

Boldly Defying Stereotypes


(The scene: a street corner in Anytown, USA)

Librarian: I’m guessing you assume all librarians are older women with glasses and a bun in their hair?

Average Joe: Uh, yeah.

Librarian: Well guess what? (Dramatic pause) I’m a man.

Librarians love nothing more than to make you say “You’re not like the librarians I know”. Fast Fact! Joe Winnan is the world’s most unstereotypical librarian. He runs a barber shop and bakery while checking out scent books in his underwater “knowledge cave”.

Tiny Laptops


There is nothing that gives a librarian more pleasure than pulling out an impressively minuscule computer (sporting an eye-strainingly tiny screen) faster than you can say “Wikipedia is evil”. Fast Fact! The soon to be released Toshiba DeweyTronic is the world smallest laptop computer. It’s so small you can swallow it!

Oddly-Shaped Glasses


Nothing says “I like to read” more than a pair of oddly shaped eyeglasses. The thicker the frames, the better. Oddly shaped lenses are also common. Fast Fact! Cutting edge librarian optometrist Charles Hopp has created the world’s thickest-framed glasses. To achieve this distinction, Hopp completely removed the lenses to make room for more frame.

Laughing at Obsolete Technology


Librarians like to be on the cutting edge when it comes to advances in tech, and derive great joy from mocking technologies that have become “obsolete”. Comments such as “I don’t even know what this is!” and “Have you ever seen one of these?” are common when outmoded technologies are encountered. Librarians also enjoy labeling technologies obsolete either far too soon or far too late. Fast Fact! Some librarians have already labeled cell phones obsolete; pointing to a revival in smoke-signal technology that they predict will be the preferred form of communication in the coming years. They are already stockpiling wool blankets.

Photo Credits
Image: ‘Book carts‘ www.flickr.com/photos/8052628@N05/3835395701
Image: ‘brown paper bag‘ www.flickr.com/photos/60058591@N00/3592908373
Image: ‘untitled‘ www.flickr.com/photos/93281642@N00/2975877883
Image: ‘Doris Luke models a cardigan‘ www.flickr.com/photos/28262934@N00/240935708
Image: ‘6.146.912.256‘ www.flickr.com/photos/8362215@N03/3257642799
Image: ‘Masterpieces‘ www.flickr.com/photos/46042146@N00/508799587
Image: ‘Iowa State University IBM punch card‘ www.flickr.com/photos/13645648@N02/2605554260

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. 100, once again, you slay me.
    “Work of fiction” my arse. Every word of this is stone-solid true!
    Especially the bit about the carts. I’ve seen librarians come to blows over who “owns” a cart.

  2. So true, so true! Okay, I’m off to put on my cardigan now… ;)

  3. The really scary thing is most of it’s true!

  4. I know it’s fun to characterize an entire group of people, but as a librarian who eats out in a restaurant almost everyday, despises cardigans, actively avoids tote bags and is apparently the only one left with 20/20 vision this list isn’t working ;) I’m ambivalent about arcs too.

  5. Hilarious and just true enough to make me squirm. I confess to wearing a cartigan today ;-) I do have to point out, that you, Mr. Scope Notes, pillages the our shelves of arcs whenever you come to visit our book club meetings!

  6. Scope Notes says:

    Ha – yes, I am guilty on just about every count here. I tried to wear my cardigan on Wednesday but it was still packed away from the summer.

  7. Liberry Ann says:

    Sadly I find I am now too old to be wearing my cardigan ironically. Sigh…

    • Yikes! I was totally unaware that a person could age-out of cardigans! Quick, post a helpful guide for the clueless or just tell me if I’m in dangerous territory demographically. I am currently 51, grey, and mostly orthopedic. Also please give guidance about how to dispose of said cardigans if I am too old. Can I give them to someone or is it necessary to build a bonfire?

  8. So it’s not just me! Even got my luddite husband up out of his chair to see what I was laughing at. He nearly tripped over my tote bag – mind you there are a lot of them scattered round the place!

  9. sarahwinters says:

    Oh no, only metal book carts! Where are the wooden ones? Those metal ones could lose a wheel. :-) I enjoyed the read, thank you!

  10. Hysterical!! Where do you find these little gems? :)

  11. tasmanlibrary-staff says:

    Cardigan – check. Glasses -check. Tote bag – check. Oh dear—

  12. And the shoes! Librarians will buy their jumpers and turtlenecks at any old factory outlet, and do not disdain thrift store cardigans, but our shoes cost upwards of a hundred dollars and moreover have $40 insoles inside!

    What a funny list!

  13. Proudest day of my professional career: getting my own bookcart. yln–so true about the shoes!

  14. Nodding in recognition as I look at my lime-green and black, thick cats-eye frames….

  15. Here’s another one……Feeling indignant about infringement upon the freedom of information.

  16. carts! new reference texts! being a non-traditional art librarian that doesn’t wear glasses or cardigans! also my coworkers love tote bags and I eat an apple and a cheese sandwich everyday.

    oh dear indeed.

  17. Also, brooches with cats on them, holiday-themed jewelry, and tell me you can’t imagine a librarian wearing this ring. ; )

  18. If it was a cat, I’d buy the pig ring.

  19. silverrod says:

    I could part with some of my tote bags. Note that I say SOME, not all. I have several blog entries on the problem of piles of tote bags taking over my house!



  20. Clever and valuable!

  21. That is so true! We are willing to pay dearly for comfortable orthopedic shoes. And they sure feel good!

  22. No wonder why librarians disinterest me…

    and I am only reading this because a librarian forced it upon me.

    (you forgot to include that librarians enjoy pushing thier religion of reading upon an unsuspecting populus.)

  23. I echo other commenters – gotta have thosesensible shoes!!

  24. And, by the way, we reuse and reuse the lunch bag until it’s just about dead.

  25. rolliwrites says:

    This is delicious. Of course, it demands a sequel, “Things Librarians ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT TOLERATE,” which might include talking above a whisper, the careless re-shelving of books by patrons, homeless people … really, one could go on forever.


  26. What about cats and knitting?

  27. A couple of colleagues of mine used to use the plastic liners out of cereal boxes to wrap their sandwiches in, so as not to use plastic baggies.

  28. I echo your sigh! I’ve recently noticed the same thing about wearing my reading glasses (which I’ve had since I was 19) on a chain around my neck. I have yet to come up with a suitable alternative, so if anyone has any ideas, let me know.

  29. You forgot cats. Most of us librarians — females at least — *love* cats and have at least 2, which probably have lofty, historical or literary names. Never mind that those names seem misplaced when the beloved furball is hacking up a hairball or using the litterbox.

    As for your list: I’ve been a librarian 17 years, but I hate brown bag lunches, cardigans, and glasses of any sort other than mirrored sunglasses behind which I can hide while up to no good.

  30. mojo librarian says:

    i’m a librarian, and i want to know: what’s an ARC?

  31. Not lying–instead of a brown bag, I use a mini-tote bag for my lunch.

  32. They’re in the tote bags! Sometimes it’s the same bag. ; ^)

  33. Very funny but interesting! Incidentally I take lunch to work daily, but I see characteristics of a few of my dear colleagues.

  34. It’s cute that you say librarians are into busting stereotypes while you characterize them by a bunch of stereotypes.

  35. shirley smith says:

    I am a librarian in a prison. I love tote bags but cannot take them to work. When that happened I started looking for clear tote bags. I am developing quite a collection of colors and sizes (including a Vera Bradley print on the handles and bottoms; a backpack; and a briefcase-looking one). If you know of any sources of unique clear totes…..

  36. librarians love to show their support of the freedom to read by wearing my I Read Banned Books bracelet, necklace or pins. bracelets ar the ALA store. I was a librarian and have raised over $100,000 in support of the Freedom to Read at ALA exhibits each year selling my jewelry. Next stop Boston.

  37. How funny! Enjoyed reading it!

  38. Don’t pages have domain over carts? I would think that most librarians wouldn’t worry themselves about cart ownership.

  39. OMG, I can hardly bear it. I was at Iowa State when they were using punch cards. My dad was studying computer science. Once, the day before the midterm he dropped the box of cards and they went everywhere. He cried, which I had never seen happen before.

  40. shirley smith says:

    PF Anderson–what a chuckle! Do you remember making Christmas wreaths out of old punch cards? Spray painted geen they decorated many a library office door.

  41. Things librarians really fancy– computers that run at the speed of light, pictures of the student on the check-out page for those who love to say: “I never checked that book out.” Also, time in the day to actually read without a teacher saying,”must be nice”. We do not reuse lunch sacks because it is greener to use a lunch kit that can be used for years. I do not own a cardigan, have a bun, or wear orthopedic shoes. I will admit to being barefoot by the end of a long day.

  42. Margaret Nicholls says:

    Extremly funny. That list applies to librarians of long ago, certainly not today’s Library Media Specialist. Well not those whom I know and who live in the West Indies> (smile)

  43. I love my messenger bag for my computer, Sam Edleman’s, Bantu twists, and three dogs. As for sweaters, I wear turtle necks with knee or calf length leather skirts. I transport my tuna or veggie sandwiches in a small Whole Foods reusable shopping bag. My younger female neighbors (I’m mid forties) have labeled me, “The Block Fashionista”. Yes, there are classic leather bound books in every room of the house.

  44. Librarians are fun check out this link See the photos!


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