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Librarian Is A State Of Mind

During an interview last week I heard myself say something that surprised me. I don’t even remember what the question was, but this is how I answered:

“Librarian is a state of mind.”

The person looked at me, opened their mouth, closed their mouth, and then moved on to the next question.

It's all in our heads

It's all in our heads

In the week since, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I said, and even though I don’t know where it came from, I realize that I believe it. From here, there’s only one thing to do.

But first, an explanation

Most librarians are curious people who aren’t suited for other jobs. People so scattershot and eclectic in their interests that rather than specialize in something, they gain conversational, sometimes superficial knowledge of just about everything.

Along the way, many pick up some pretty incredible research skills. And yet, to just about everyone who walks in the door, a librarian is the person who hands your book to you or tells you to be quiet.

My youngest sister married into a family full of brilliant pharmacists. You listen to them talk for about one minute and realize how smart they all are. They’re basically professional chemists who know as much about medicine as most doctors and yet…they’re the people who hand me my pills at Walgreen’s when I’m sick.

What about that state of mind question?

If we say–and I am officially saying–that librarians are curious lovers of stories and knowledge who hate boredom and want to learn until the day they die, well…I say there are more librarians out there than there are fancy diplomas that bellow “Here sits a librarian!” in some perverse, curvy font that nobody can read, sitting on some wall in a home office.

My master’s library degree diploma is at the bottom of a box somewhere. I think.

So, do you love stories? Are you curious? Are you a bit odd? Do you have glasses? Do you loathe censorship? Do you like to learn? If any or all of these apply to you, then I say you’re in the right place. And with that, I think it’s time to change the name of the blog…

Something cool is happening here

You are here reading these words today along with a lot of other people. That both scares and delights and confuses me.

There are more people here reading with you than makes sense. There are lots of blogs out there you could be reading or that I could be writing. But we’re both here and I’ll take it.

I’ll take it and not question too much because you and I have created something here that didn’t exist before us, and evolves every day because of us.

It’s not just because of me. It’s not just because of you. It’s the combination of all of us.

This blog is quickly becoming a wonderful little community of weirdos and I’m honored to call you my friend. And while I’m calling you things, I’m calling you a librarian. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t true.

We’re unofficially changing the name of the blog today

Unofficially because I’m not going to go register another domain name. But the fact remains that this is a group project, a community, and a family on the fringe of the norm.

So in your heads, when you think about our blog…

And when you type the name of our blog….

And when you tell people to come visit our blog…

…tell them to come join the merry band of the World’s Strongest Librarian(s). And tell them it’s worth as much (or more) as any fancy librarian degree.

But also tell them that if they add that S to the URL, the poor suckers aren’t going anywhere cool.

Now down to business.  We’re going to need official uniforms.  Let’s talk about what our little army is going to wear in the comments section.  I’m voting for propeller beanies and Tombstone-style dusters.


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Photo credit to Dirk Schaefer

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Casey August 20, 2009, 7:10 am

    Viva la Josh!

    What about the glasses with the built in noses, eyebrows, and mustaches?

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 7:17 am

      Casey, they’re all added to the list. Maybe the uniform should be everything we suggest.

  • Casey Brazeal (North and Clark) August 20, 2009, 8:45 am

    If there’s anyone who wants to live in a room or building full of books they must have a pretty specific state of mind. It’s worth aspiring to.

    Congratulations on your success. I have my library card in my pocket right now.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 9:26 am

      North and Clark: Are you reading anything good? I’m always pestering everyone for recommendations.

  • Jodi at Joy Discovered August 20, 2009, 9:11 am

    Hi Josh!
    I’m a librarian! I’m a librarian! Seriously, I’m not. I don’t have a masters degree at the bottom of a box. But if being one is a state of mind, sign me up! I love the look of your site and I’m very intrigued by your subject matter. Can’t wait for subsequent posts!
    Best to you! Jodi

  • Megan Horton August 20, 2009, 9:29 am

    Josh I think we should wear overalls with no shirts underneath. Like a hillbilly….Just saying it would be entertaining.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 11:21 am

      Megan, that is the minimum uniform. I assumed that’s what everyone was already wearing.

  • Andy Small August 20, 2009, 10:50 am

    I am a library tech with an eye towards the peice of paper so it can sit in a box in MY house as well. (have to finish my undergrad first)

    I love working around all these books and all these smart people. The library is now one of my favorite places to be.

  • Larissa August 20, 2009, 11:07 am

    Count me in! Oh, and I’ll make the book bags! 😉

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 11:20 am

      Larissa, sounds good. Start designing a logo that incorporates every single one of our faces.

  • Jessica Marie August 20, 2009, 12:05 pm

    I think we must all carry a Commonplace book like Twain or Emerson. Let’s face it; aren’t all librarians writers as well?
    I worked as a Young Adult and Children’s Reference Librarian for 5 years until our little library joined a bigger system, at which point I was basically told I couldn’t work there unless I had an advanced degree. Even though I haven’t worked there for three years, I still consider myself as a librarian due to my biblioholism and love of learning.
    I think the most important thing about our group is our clubhouse. I’m thinking of the massive library in Beauty and the Beast or perhaps the Library of Congress.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 12:20 pm

      Jessica, have you ever been in the library of congress? It is a sight to take your breath away.

  • Gayze August 20, 2009, 12:50 pm

    LOL, I just posted to my blog today about “The Dreamtime: A Question of Questions”, and then read your post, Josh. Serendipity. I love it.

    Proud to be a weirdo.

  • Jessica Marie August 20, 2009, 1:22 pm

    I have only been to the Library of Congress once. I stood at a door with an open mouth and started to mist up. I was immediately mocked by my three brothers. I counted it as a trip to a holy shrine.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 1:44 pm

      Jessica, as an older brother, that’s what brothers are for. But I don’t blame you for misting up.

  • Larissa August 20, 2009, 1:31 pm

    Okay, so I’m not a graphic designer, but this is the logo I would put on the book bag. 🙂 http://twitpic.com/emacq

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 1:39 pm

      Larissa, wow, that was fast! You’re more of a designer than I am, that’s for sure.

  • Tim August 20, 2009, 2:17 pm


    Great post! Funny you should write about this. I’ve been thinking about the one place I’ve spent most of my time this summer: the library. Yep, I’m “in transition” and while I do get some job-hunting work done at home, when I need some place where I can reflect upon where I’ve been and where I’m going, I go to the library.

    I live in Chicago and I often walk to my neighborhood branch of the library. If I get tired of that branch, I drive to one of three other neighborhood locations -each with its own vibe. There’s also a regional location that’s three miles away- that’s the branch where I see a couple librarians I have a crush on. Single at 40, I’ve only recently realized that I’m attracted to book-ish, intelligent women. And if I really want to get lost among the books, I hop on the train downtown to the Harold Washington Library, our city’s main library with over 8 stories of books, chairs and tables.

    In this age of computers, I’ve learned how to find any book very easily at the library – even at our biggest location. I am a stealth researcher, a lifelong learner, a word-lover. I love the fact that anyone at any income level has access to the same books as the wealthy. The public library, a true equalizer. We are all wealthy because of its presence.

    So Josh, my hat’s off to you and all the librarians out there who help all of us navigate the dizzy-ing world of information. Thanks, as well, for creating this community on your blog.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 3:07 pm

      @Tim. When the library school recruiters come to convert you, they say things like “the Library is the poor man’s university!” and “you will be the steward of democracy!” Depending on how highfaluting you are willing to get, both of those things are true in some ways. I work with a lot of refugees who come from countries where libraries either don’t exist or they mean something very different. Nothing is more critical than the free flow of information.

      Now, before I get too grandiose, I should add that I spend much of my day asking kids to pee in the toilet instead of on the library’s floor:)

      Hat’s off to us both.

  • Sami - Life, Laughs & Lemmings August 20, 2009, 2:25 pm

    How about leg warmers?

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 3:03 pm

      Sami. Yes! We’re adding leg warmers, but Janette wants shin guards, so maybe we’ll have to rotate days.

  • TheDebtHawk.com August 20, 2009, 2:44 pm

    I am a lawyer by trade, but I too feel like a librarian. I love to learn.

    About 7 years ago I had an illness that I thought was fatal. I was 27 at the time. One thing that I did not expect to feel was the huge sadness of not being able to learn more.

    Learning is probably my favorite past time. And, most times I don’t care what I am learning about.

    Blogging is a great thing for someone who likes to learn. Every day I can learn about a new area and write about it.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 3:04 pm

      @thedebthawk. I’m so glad the illness wasn’t fatal. As pastimes and addictions go, learning is pretty superior. What kind of law do you practice?

  • Casey Brazeal (North and Clark) August 20, 2009, 3:20 pm


    What I would recommend of the books I have read recently would include:
    World War Z (Max Brooks)
    Everything is illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer)
    The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)

    You can’t go wrong with any of that stuff. I know you are a Vonnegut fan the book of his that I think is kind of over looked (to the extent that anyone who gets assigned in highschools can be overlooked) is Bluebeard. Its got a much different feel than some of his later work.

    All that stuff is really fly right through it a joy and a breeze to read type stuff. I am dyslexic so the simple fact that I read slowly makes me gravitate to that kind of book. A couple of those I actually listened to rather than read (whole versions none of that abridged stuff). But, they are all top notch. Good enough books that I was happy to read them even when my eyes flipped the words on me.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 3:30 pm

      @North And Clark. I’ve read all of those and loved them all. Bluebeard is wonderful. I’ll never forget what’s in the potato barn.

  • Casey Brazeal (North and Clark) August 20, 2009, 6:43 pm

    Well sir, I guess our taste run in similar veins so I will recommend the book my brother recommended to me last night.

    The Age of Orphans: A Novel by Laleh Khadivi

    Haven’t read it yet, but he rarely steers me wrong. If you’ve read that your one at least a step ahead of me.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 20, 2009, 6:47 pm

      N&C, never heard of it. I’ll put it on hold right now.

  • Casey Brazeal (North and Clark) August 20, 2009, 6:49 pm

    Oh and Raymond Chandler’s The Thin Man — cracker jack dialogue and a lot of drinking.

  • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} August 21, 2009, 2:04 am

    Josh, i can already see it….all us librarians wearing everything that has been suggested…;) we would all look like nut jobs from a library on mars…but smart nut jobs none the less 😉
    I join thy state of mind…:)

  • Love it – all of us librarians in matching outfits doing librarian-like things together. I had a friend tell me the other day that he loved going to his local library lately because there was a new “hot” librarian.

    Seriously, though, I’m glad to be a part of this cool librarian group. Josh, you’re the man with the best ideas.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 21, 2009, 7:30 am

      Laura @ TJCC. I’m always surprised at how many people I meet with librarian fetishes.

  • Jessica Marie August 21, 2009, 11:27 am

    I just finished Annie’s Ghosts by Steve Luxenborg. I thought it was pretty interesting.

  • Lucy August 21, 2009, 1:36 pm

    Love the idea of librarian as a state of mind!

    Surely anyone who spends time reading (blogs, books, back of cereal packets) has an innate sense of curiosity and anyone who curates a blog (writing, editing, marketing…) enjoys learning new stuff daily. That’s a lot of librarians.

    Lover of stories, knowledge and learning? Who wouldn’t want to be part of that group – can I play?

    I’m just not sure about the uniform – I’ll trip over my duster tails and my Groucho glasses will fall off, rendering me unable to read. I like the Beauty and the Beast library as a clubhouse though … “step into the light” … then at least we’ll be able to spot the vampires among us.

  • Helen Hoefele August 21, 2009, 8:07 pm

    I think I’ve bought more books than I’ve read, does that count, too? Hope I can still join the club.

  • Kerry August 27, 2009, 8:59 am

    Dude. Holy crap. I’ve been contemplating a career change for a couple of years, and “librarian” is the new life I have been leaning toward, but I wasn’t sure. I think you just clinched it. I might print this out and laminate it.

    Only…if I become a librarian, can I still watch “America’s Next Top Model?” Is that okay? I make fun of it the entire time, if that helps…but I still watch.

  • Chris August 28, 2009, 11:51 pm

    I think I’ve always been a librarian – and my grandma was an official one so I guess it’s genetic! But about the time that I was thinking about getting an MLS is when the big push to get librarians all into “multimedia” started to happen and I just didn’t wanna – I’m still a print girl at heart.
    I’m a new reader here, but I did a search and didn’t come up with any mention of this book so here goes:
    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
    Usually I cringe when someone tries to write fiction based in the circus since I have “been there, done that”, but she actually gets it right and tells a good story to boot.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 29, 2009, 7:32 am

      Chris I loved Water For Elephants and you’re right, it hasn’t come up.

  • Johan September 6, 2009, 9:33 am

    So, true. I am not a real librarian, but does a personal book collection of over 400 books count? I would like to add that I started visiting the local public library as soon as I could read. I am now down to only reading about 5 books a month, but in my teens I read at least 2 books a week.
    My grandmother used to say that all I ever needed was to sit in a corner, with a book and a cookie, and I was no longer aware of what happened around me. But it sounds butter in Dutch, it even rhymes.

    Currently reading a lot of Charles Stross.
    All time favorites: Terry Pratchett, Patrick O’Brian, Frank Herbert and Lao Tzu.

    A bad book is still better than a good movie.
    So please, can I be a librarian too?

    • Josh Hanagarne September 6, 2009, 11:15 am

      Johan my boy, you’re in. Honestly, you could join without owning any books at all, as long as you like to think. That’s about it. 400 books doesn’t hurt either, and you really sealed the deal with Pratchett and O’Brian. In fact, I’m making you one of my lieutenants.

  • Johan September 6, 2009, 12:05 pm

    Yes, you made my day … is there a secret handshake, or a t-shirt or mug?