The author of a new book talks about the secret lives of America’s favorite — and endangered — disciplinarians.
Behold the stereotypical librarian, with her cat’s-eye glasses, bun and pantyhose — a creature whose desexualized persona and desire for us to be quiet has fueled generations of wild sexual fantasies. But there’s bad news for those of you with a shushing fetish; as Marilyn Johnson explains in “This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All,” the uptight librarian is a species that’s rapidly approaching extinction.
A new generation of young, hip and occasionally tattooed librarians is driving them out. They call themselves guybrarians, cybrarians and “information specialists,” and they blog at sites like The Free Range Librarian and The Lipstick Librarian. They can be found in droves on Second Life, but also outside the Republican National Convention, dodging tear gas canisters and tweeting the location of the police.
Johnson, a former staff writer for Life magazine, and author of “The Dead Beat,” a book about the fascinating world of obituary writing, delights in refuting our assumptions about librarians, while making a rock-solid case for their indispensability at a time when library systems are losing an average of 50 librarians per year. Who else is going to help us formulate the questions Google doesn’t understand, or show non-English speakers how to apply for jobs online, or sympathize with your need to research the ancient origins of cockfighting? Librarians, Johnson argues, are one of our most underappreciated natural resources.