A recent post by The Daring Librarian, entitled Lady GaGa Librarians Unite, has gotten a bit of notice. Gwyneth is also one of the members of the Geek Squad/Geek Tribe, about which I’ve posted before. As luck would have it, I spent the other evening with one of my former students, a classical musician, and the topic came up. It also came up in two conversations I’ve had, one with a librarian/mentor and the other with an academic librarian (who actually knew the Lady in question pre-title).
At the dinner, we were talking about another violinist, one that also attended the school. My companion said that she found his look distracted from his music, and compared him to pop musicians like Lady GaGa: the look, the flash and antics are as much a part of the act as the music (sometimes more so). Classical music, she said, was more subtle and emotional, with a longer-lasting impact on the senses.
Then in the other conversations, this comparison of librarians to Lady GaGa arose. The more I think about it, the more I agree – gasp – with the Annoyed Librarian, who wrote that videos aren’t going to save libraries. Neither will dressing in costumes, touting our tattoos or claiming that we’re like Lady GaGa.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the initial premise:
We need to establish a clear, pervasive, vibrant, and involved presence in their school, community, and on the web. The more visible librarians are the less likely that they’ll be taken away. Those teacher librarians who are hiding their brilliant programs under a bushel, that’s when they’re most likely to get cut. We need to stay positive, be proactive, and always be professional!”
But nothing there says “be Lady GaGa” to me. Going for flash, for style over substance won’t help, it’ll hurt. What we need to do is to embrace our inner classical musician – reach for that emotional connection to our students, our communities. All the self-promotion and self-advocacy and “watch me! watch me!” antics in the world don’t help if they alienate people or overshadow our message. The close connections, that “clear, pervasive, vibrant and involved presence” will help because those in the community will advocate for us, because the community will know how important we are to their student’s success and their teacher’s practice.
Furthermore, the more we ally ourselves with that type of image, be it Lady GaGa or a Geek Tribe member, the more we alienate librarians who aren’t, for whatever reason, interested in claiming those identities. As one of my conversation buddies said, it smacks of an exclusive circle showing how exclusive they are by pretending to be inclusive – choosing different language that doesn’t have such an in-your-face effect will attract those who are taking baby (or toddler) steps towards vibrant, indispensable programs and those who are already quietly there.
(And for the record, Lady Bird Johnson did leave an impressive legacy to emulate: just as she taught us that “beauty is not a luxury”, we need to teach our communities that libraries and librarians are not a luxury. Now that message I could go gaga over.)