Wednesday, October 19, 2005

more thoughts on museum librarianship*

Going to library school in DC, I have meet people who work at the National Archives** or the Library of Congress, even the White House.*** I'll admit, in the beginning, I was a little intimidated.

But after a week of hearing--

"Hi, my name is Shitty MacShitty and I work as a junior cataloger at NARA and I was wondering if those mocassins are whale or seal skin?"

or

"Hello, I'm Terrence Von Fucktard and at the Smithsonian, where I do reference, we do a lot of neat stuff. Where is the bathroom?"

---I am no longer so impressed. Especially once I found out that at least three other people in the class worked at other neat places, like the FOLGER LIBRARY (where you can't even set foot in the door without a PhD and a Mensa membership card). These people didn't run around with a stack of business cards in their oh-so-important grubby little-Library-of-Congress-working hands.

So, without further ado, I introduce a new species to the world: the Name Dropping Librarian. It just so happens that I first noticed this group during my grand museum tour.

The Name Dropping Librarian (NDL) is an interesting phenomenon in the library sciences. It may be a sub-species of the Knowledge Dropping Professional (KDP). You know what a KDP is-- its that one person in any group setting who has to tell you everything he knows whenever he opens his mouth. Its the guy who launches into the history of the Otis elevator and its improved safety standard whenever there is a bump or jolt during the ride. Lib sci-ers are nerds and dorks, bottom of the social food chain, my-only-friends-are-books kinda people, prone to becoming a KDP (see how I worked in something about the history of elevators even as I made fun of people doing it?), but still pretty modest and humble compared to other professions. There are one or two cool kids (cough moi cough), but "the cool" is relative to the characteristics of the group on the whole.

The NDL is a fascinating creature because even as it reeks of library nerdiness, it acts just like the kind of stuck-up, annoying, name-dropping ego-maniacs that DC is famous for--e.g., Capitol Hill Interns, Senate Staffers, and K St Lawyers. Except these people look and dress the part of snobbery, in their suits and pearls, while librarians, sadly, overwhelmingly remain librarians.

However, the museum library world does have one good bragging point- the Background in Art History Library Professional, or BAHLP. BAHLPs are hot. They wear tailored suits, tasteful jewelry, and have great haircuts. They get manicures and are posh but not annoying and move their hands around in ways that makes me feel oaf-ish. Obviously, they all took ballet as children. And, not being artists themselves, they have made the study of art an art unto itself. God, I want to be a BAHLP, working in my little conservation lab with art-gum erasers and low, yet sexy, heels.

*For my original thoughts: here. Also, the joke I made about St Shlomo the Saint of Archivists is really really funny, if you worked at an archives.

**Library science does not necessarily equal Librarian. We are wide and varied and extremely important. Without us, there would be nothing.

** Before you choke on the thought of working for the current White House administration, I'll tell you that she was doing her best to subvert the man by answering
FOIA requests.