Since I’m not getting the New York Times right at the moment, I’m probably the last person to comment on this story: hipster librarians. This is one of those stories where the crunchy coating of surprise gives way to the creamy center of recognition. (Does that sentence make any sense?) It is, when you think about it, sort of kind of inevitable that it would become hip to be a librarian. If hipness is all about superior knowledge — being “superiorly aware,” in Anatole Broyard’s phrase — then being paid to know things (or know how to know things) would be the natural career outlet, right? And at times when there is pervasive official contempt for knowledge, reason, and verbal expression, the simple business of minding books gains an aura of subversion.
But on reflection, this doesn’t look like a trend so much as something the New York Times is belatedly catching on to. (Wouldn’t be the first time.) A quick Google search (“radical librarians”) pulls up a lot of stuff: Naomi Klein’s speech “Why Being a Librarian is a Radical Choice“; an interesting piece on how the University of Michigan is collecting radical ephemera (I’ll have to check that out); the anarchist librarian web (“the revolution will be cataloged”); and let’s not forget the “radical, militant librarian” button. Can David Horowitz be far behind? I think we have a new subversive menace to warn the American people about!
Nonetheless, it is hard not to feel at least slightly snarky about the idea of hipster librarians. I don’t look forward to the day when a kid doing a science fair project on bats is met with an even stare and told “if you have to ask, man, you’ll never know.”
***AFTERTHOUGHT*** Speaking of things radical, when is the Radical Musicology blog going to start posting stuff? The idea is great — use a blog to enhance an online scholarly journal. (ECHO should try something like this.) But a blog only works if someone, you know, blogs. Just sayin’.