Monday, April 2, 2012

What A Librarian Looks Like

I've never been a big fan of having my photo taken. Despite the fact that my online persona wears a cape while banging the library drum with all her might, I’m really something of an introvert. No really. No. Really.

Once, many years ago, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Maya Angelo (yes, that Maya Angelo). It was a lovely gift to me from the parent of a student I taught. Five people, gathered around the table, having an amazing conversation, and me – quietly listening, but never joining in. Before she left, Maya (I’ve never seen her since, by the way, but in my mind we’re on a first name basis) said to me “you’ve got things to say, teacher. Let the world hear your voice.” I wish I could say that, inspired by the poet laureate and one of my personal heroes, I immerged from the cocoon of my shyness that very moment. But, alas, no.

Being “outgoing” is work for me. But I keep chipping away at my inner introvert because, frankly, my profession demands it. School libraries/librarians are a vital part of the educational village that it takes to raise a child and, yet, we are sorely lacking in advocates. Our students deserve access to all that a vibrant, thriving library program has to offer, and yet we’re often missing from the list of services that need to be protected come budget chopping time. These days, librarians can’t afford to be introverts. If we don’t stand up for our students and the roles we play in their lives, no one else will.

1989 - a good year for styrofoam
So, I’ve learned to swallow my fear and turn it into fuel. To think of myself as an extrovert, even though everything inside me says otherwise. Which brings me back to having my photo taken. Seriously, I’m not a fan. I mean, if this was your high school yearbook photo, you’d probably prefer to stay behind the camera too.

Which is why, although I’ve been aware of Bobbi Newman and Erin Downey Howerton’s project, This Is What A Librarian Looks Like, for awhile now, I’ve been quietly pretending to be clueless.  Don't get me wrong, I love the ethos of the project: a challenge to the stereotypes most people still hold of those of us who work in the stacks, I just didn't want MY picture there.  But then, some people I greatly admire started throwing down the gauntlet. First, there was my super pal Gwyneth Jones, followed by my neighbor to the south, Tamara Cox. THEN, when my library brother from another mother, Matthew Winner, joined in, I knew I had to (once again) overcome my shyness and play along.

All of that said, this year, for a camera shy person, I’ve had my photo taken a lot:

First, Here’s me geeking out with my teacher hero Ron Clark. (An aside: someday, I *will* make it to the Ron Clark Academy, and if you'd like to sponsor that dream, I can totally be bought). :)

Here’s me geeking out at the I Love My Librarian Award ceremony - which, to date, is still the most magical evening of my career.

And here’s me geeking out as a Mover and Shaker.  Someday my print copy of this issue will actually arrive. #stillwaiting Hmmft.

In the end, however, I chose this picture from my library’s Mockingjay book release costume party to submit to the What A Librarian Looks Like website. 

I know this isn't the best quality of the bunch, but this night was just so much fun. Plus, how often do you get to sport a pink beehive, blinking tiara and pink metallic eyelashes?? Of all the photos I’ve had taken recently, this is my favorite because it’s all about how libraries are about so much more than books. Even when we’re geeking out (and yes, I realize I’ve used that phrase four times), over a book, libraries are about literacy, learning and life. And if I don’t don my beehive to shout that from the rooftops, who will?  Exactly.

Turns out Maya was right, I do have something to say. And although it might be hard for me to put myself out there to say it, my students are totally worth it.  (And I bet yours are too!


  1. I just love the Mockingjay book launch picture! Great costume idea :)

  2. I've got three comments on this one, so bear with me...

    First off, you knew you HAD to join in after I did?! I didn't know I had that kind of influence. You may actually legitimately be my sister from another mister!

    Secondly, that movers and shakers picture is awesome! I think I'll have it printed to a t-shirt with the words #1 Fan and don it every day of ISTE.

    Third, are you sure you're not a charm city native? That beehive screams Baltimore, though, if the odds are ever in your favor, I'll assume that sourthern accent of yours isn't something you won from time well spent at Enoch Pratt.

    I'm glad you put yourself out there for this! You are a true super library girl!

    1. a) Library siblings, baby. All the way!
      b) I propose a trade: button for a t-shirt??? ;-)
      c) I was once accosted by homeless folk on my way back to the inner harbor after an Orioles' game - a Nolan Ryan no hitter even! Does that count? And that accent is straight from the mean streets of Wilmington, NC, yo!

  3. People I meet today do not believe me when I tell them I am shy. Like you, I have had to work on putting myself out there when I would much rather just be on the periphery of things (so that I don't feel completely left out).

    I was one of the lucky "few" who was able to meet James Patterson at the AASL Charlotte Conference. I had a ticket to have a book personally autographed by him. I couldn't bring myself to speak to him as he signed my book - I knew I would break down in tears and embarrass myself. He probably wondered why the heck someone who must not really be a fan bothered to enter the drawing to "win" a spot in the autographing line. My true self came back that day as I stood in line to meet one of my favorite authors.

    However, our students, teachers, and school communities deserve our best and that means standing up, putting your foot down, and speaking from the heart to protect what is best for them. Even if I come to tears, I will not hesitate to stand up for what is best for my students.

    Wow. Maya Angelou. I would have been in tears just sitting at the table with her. Love that she understood what you were feeling and then spoke those words to you.

    You haven't let Maya down! She would be so proud of where you are today. (Just as I am - gotta love that another Carolina girl is a Mover and Shaker and winner of "I Love My Librarian" award!)

    Thanks for always inspiring me with your awesome ideas and your sense of humor.

    1. Hi Fran,

      Thank you so much for your personal reply to my post. I'm so glad you were able to chip away at the introvert inside to share with me! Us Carolina girls need to stick together!

  4. OK, now I don't wanna interrupt this love fest that I would like to say started with ME! [grins] Ahem! Really? [foot taps]

    But seriously, I love it when people I love find each other & become friends, too! It's like joy X 2 = extra happy! (the only math I can do) You & Matthew are 2 of my fav people in the WERLD! And I couldn't be happier or more proud of all of your successes! (Matthew, too! #hushhushsoontobeannounced) I just wish I could make a perfect library district & bring us all together - but when I think of it we NEED dynamic amazing TL's like you in every state - for the kids!

    And yeah.....beehive, hon all the way! GORGEOUS! Very Bawlmer!
    Miss you sweetie and I love every picture of you because I know how beautiful you are in person, inside and out!

    1. Oh, Gwyneth! You know are the tie that binds, girl!! MAN ALIVE, though, now I am super excited to hear about Matthew's super secret news!! #chompingatthebit! Can't wait - no matter what it is, I'm sure it's WELL deserved!

      Love you BOTH!