100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Things Librarians Fancy, Chapter II

It’s time to once again peer into the hidden world of librarians.

Blatantly borrowing a concept from a website that shall remain nameless, I present Things Librarians Fancy, Chapter II.

Click here to read Chapter I.

I am, for the record, guilty of many (many (many)) of the items described below.

Hand-selling Books

There is nothing that gives a librarian more pleasure than talking someone into reading a book they didn’t know they were interested in (or “hand-selling”). Avid hand-sellers have been known to carve notches on their circulation desks for every patron they successfully persuade. Fast Fact: Overly-ambitious librarian Anna Demson holds the record for hand-selling. She once convinced a patron to check out War and Peace, Two and a Half Men (Season 4) DVD, and buy the half eaten bag of Doritos from her lunch!

Small, Unseen Boom Boxes Playing Soft Music

If you hear gentle music emanating from places unknown, chances are you’re in a school library, where small boom boxes are often hidden behind desks and shelves, playing music that creates just the right mood. Fast Fact: In the Uline District Library, a Coby TH-2312 CD Player/Radio has been playing Lite 96 FM for eight years nonstop. Librarians have been unable to find the device to turn it off!

Not Being Called Librarians

Uncommon titles such as School Library Media Specialist, Cybrarian, and Media Technologist have been created and adopted to inform patrons that important things are going on in the library – things they wouldn’t understand. Fast Fact: Charles Trastel has given himself what is considered to be the most secretive librarian title, changing the sign on his office and business cards to read “Head Wildlife Photographer in charge of Literature Importing/Exporting”. Successfully confusing his staff, he has not had to attend a meeting since this change in 2006!

Applying Stickers to Books

Librarians will do anything to help patrons find the right book, even if it includes completely disguising the book behind an array of labels, barcodes, tags, dots, and reading level stickers. Fast Fact: Several library supply companies have begun selling Groucho Marx-inspired glasses with attached false noses to help further the book anonymity.

Foreign Edition Covers

Librarians derive great pleasure out of introducing strangers and colleagues to familiar books sporting unfamiliar covers. After proudly displaying the foreign edition, librarians will typically respond to confused looks with curt “It’s from the UK”. Fast Fact: The most staunch foreign edition cover supporter, Ellen Blant, refuses to read any book that is written in her native language, resulting in 0.0 books read in the last five years.

Exhaustively Precise Cataloging

The librarian’s mind is a cluttered place, and nothing brings order to the world better than obsessively kept records. If it’s a thing, and it’s in the library, chances are it has been given a MARC record detailing its weight, color, dimensions, and current mood. Fast Fact: Librarian Stephen Bredel has been called “The King of Cataloging”. In his library he catalogs the individual tissues in boxes of Kleenex, because “they have a way of walking off”.

Not Weeding

Well before it became reality-show vogue, librarians were the original hoarders. Weeding, or the act of removing unusable materials, has yet to catch on among many in the profession. To librarians, the older and more out-of-date a book is, the more its importance grows. Reality is often altered for support. Dated is turned into “collectible”, while damaged quickly becomes “near-mint condition”. Fast Fact: The most extreme case of weeding negligence took place in Anderton District Library, where a complete set of 100 reference books on Burt Reynolds’s moustache were discovered on an out-of-the-way shelf labeled “treasured keepsakes”.

Photo Credits

Librarian X meets the Laugh Out Loud+cats!‘ http://www.flickr.com/photos/53057512@N00/3057613794

she was an open book to all+that+knew+her‘ http://www.flickr.com/photos/53611153@N00/272560684

Anita Ozols typing in Cataloging Department of+Ohio+University’s+Chubb+Library,+1969‘ http://www.flickr.com/photos/37066425@N08/3513478201

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. If I end up getting that degree in library science someday, I will look back on this blog post as the deciding factor. I have never been a librarian, but clearly I understand everything on this list and it made me laugh out loud! You have shown me my calling! This is great.

    • Ha – I didn’t foresee this influencing folks to get their MLS, but glad to hear it!

  2. Love it. And guilty… :-)

  3. So much fun! I think I’ve had my job (and the library itself) called about 8 different things since I started working here 3 years ago. I still don’t know what I am or where :)

  4. Wow! Very funny.

  5. Thanks for my laugh of the day…no, the month!

  6. LOL – spot on.

  7. Hmmm. Notches on the desk? Great idea! Why didn’t I think of that before?

  8. I am an unabashed “hand-seller,” although I’d never sell my lunch (I like a good meal!) and sadly, I cannot notch my green metal desk.

  9. I am sending this to my Collection Development professor, since we have just been talking about the importance of weeding in class. LOL!

  10. Apparently, I am only half a librarian, as I
    1) love the title “librarian”;
    2) can take or leave foreign overs; and
    3) LOVE LOVE LOVE to weed. Seriously – is there anything greater than deleting a book that was published in the Reagan administration?


  1. […] of you with MLIS degrees in your back pockets might want to check out the 100 Scope Notes piece Things Librarians Fancy.  And those of you who are doing Save the Library related storytime and craft programs (hey man, […]