Sometimes when I get bored I daydream about creating a Scrubs-style sitcom about librarians. Cast of characters so far:
A recent MLIS grad whose illusions regarding librarianship are shattered when the only job she can find after getting her degree is in a run down public library in a small town, where funding is a pipe dream and “programming” consists of telling patrons not to deal drugs in the bathroom.
A perpetually harassed branch manager whose expectations have sunk lower and lower with each passing year until he can barely muster the energy to leave his office.
An assistant branch manager, who uses the manager’s lack of involvement as an excuse to rule the library with an iron fist (at least in theory).
A children’s librarian who is great with kids and struggles with horrifying anger issues when dealing with adults.
A circulation librarian described by a coworker as “an eccentric genius, except not a genius. So… just a weirdo, I guess.”
A librarian universally referred to as “the Fossil,” who is roughly twenty years past retirement age and habitually tries to ban people for walking too loudly.
A patron who everybody suspects maybe lives in the library, as he is never seen out of it. May or may not be the one who deals in the bathroom.
And then! Shenanigans happen! Things are hilariously misshelved! Cart races are had! Main Character maybe having a long-standing flirtation with the cute guy who runs the bakery across the street! And some Terribly Dramatic Season Finale involving a patron standoff!
It would be amazing.
I Know Too Much about how libraries and librarians work. This resulted in complicated headcanons about job roles and org charts, trying to figure out how the behind-the-scenes of all the accumulating bits of canon and fanon would work. Hope it’s okay to share this here.
Libraries contain vast amounts of information that create possibilities, and stories, that have an immense amount of narrative weight and power. They are basically one giant liminal space, but one that exists for the people that use it. And it’s the people that work in the library that create that connection.
The Fair Folk have opinions about librarians. There’s a certain amount of idealism involved that would make them vulnerable, but so much of what they know and do is dangerous. They are accorded a certain not-inconsiderable amount of respect and caution, let’s say, and leave it at that.
There are two kinds of librarians at Elsewhere University, two sides to the same coin. There are the librarians who have an employee ID number, and a title on their nametag. They have lunch breaks, vacation time, and salt and iron in their pockets and stashed in odd corners in their desk drawers and offices, just like the rest of the staff and faculty. And then there are The Other Librarians. The other librarians can be found on floors ten through twenty-three. Officially, there are nine floors to the library. (This does not include the rooftop garden that is not accessible by stairwell or elevator.) The sub-basements are officially recognized. The tunnels are not.
The other librarians also have officially-issued library nametags. All they say is “librarian.” Some of the other librarians may have been human once. They may have officially retired. They may have learned too much, or willingly given up something that held them tethered to mundane cares outside of The Library, or made a bargain for something the library needed.
There are stories of a cataloguer, best of his generation, who reached a point where he could recite chapter and verse of the standards, never misjudged a subject heading or used the wrong cutter number. The arcanest of arcane inscriptions held still for him while he captured the true author and all relevant cross-references. There was not a text he could not read, or element of biliographic control that he could not master. The years went by, and the standards changed, Anglo American Cataloging Rules superceded the Rules for Descriptive Cataloging, ISBNs were introduced, AACR became AACR2, and a switch from cards to computer records loomed large. He knew so much, but was afraid so little of it would still be relevant. He made a deal.
He wasn’t the first. There are still cards appearing in the card catalogue today written in copperplate Library Hand script, as proscribed by Melville Dewey, with a pen and an inkwell.
There are still memories on the lower floors of a reference librarian who could find anything. There are people on staff who worked side-by-side with her on late night reference desk shifts, and tell stories of how she had an infinite command of Boolean logic to wring every penny out of the paid-by-the-second online search services. There was not an annotated bibliography or index that she didn’t have at her fingertips, and she could walk a student though the reference interview from “I need a book, I guess” to “help me find three print sources for my introduction to pre-confederate Canadian literature mid-term paper” in twenty seconds with a smile. Rumour has it that she bargained away the memory of every childhood pet she ever had to get internet access in the library for undergraduates. Officially, she retired in the late nineties. But in the Deep Library, there are those who can coax the dial-up modem into connecting to a Dialog subscription that the university hasn’t paid for in two decades, and bring back an answer in seconds every time.
There are fading echoes of the year that the entire cataloguing department and half the reference librarians vanished in the stacks in the early 1940’s. The university was smaller then, and the protections that were needed to balance a tumultuous time in world history took a terrible toll. It was said that if you stood in certain parts of the stacks, you could hear the air raid sirens, and watch the collection grow as refugee books were taken in. There were dark whispers that some of the staff disappeared into the library in a trade for safety for family members or one of the other desperate bargains made in wartime, but some were promoted to the upper floors without warning because the library didn’t want to lose their valuable talents to conscription or worse.
If the Library needs you, it will take you. If you are lucky, it will be on your terms, at a time of your choosing. In most cases, a masters’ degree in library and information sciences from a nationally-certified graduate program is required, though in some rare cases, an equivalent combination of education and experience may be considered.
Most undergraduates and visitors (both the mundane kind that come from outside the campus, and the Visitors), and some university support staff, will leave with a vague impression of any of the librarians as an ominous yet helpful shape, and an overwhelming sense of sameness. This is a type of protective camouflage that the library generates, and it extends to cover all the librarians, the one that leave at the end of the day, and the ones that do not. They cannot all be the same. It is, of course, impossible to run a library without a wide and varied pool of skill sets and personalities, all of which contribute to the, shall we say, unique personalities, egos, interdepartmental rivalries, feuds, and alliances that are the lifeblood of an academic library.
This protection waxes and wanes depending on the year. During the spring and summer semesters following the Chemistry Majors’ Revolt, anyone remotely associated with any of the science departments would find themselves on the doorstep of the library with a ringing in their ears like the sudden absence of a loud noise, holding the books or other information they’d gone to the library to find, with no memory of how it got there. An entire spring-semester introductory chemistry class knows the structure of an APA-style bibliography inside and out, but could not tell you when or where they learned it.
In more recent times, sufficiently motivated undergrads, graduate students, and faculty will have little trouble differentiating one librarian from another, if they are on floors one through nine. (They must, of course, be referred to by job title as they do not have names.)
There are operational needs that must be met. It’s hard to plead your case as to why the library really should keep that critical music theory database for your graduate level seminar course that currently costs as much as all of the journal subscriptions for the art history department combined when you’re not sure if you’re talking to the subject liaison librarian for fine arts, the head of interlibrary loans, or an eldritch creature with no face but a really excellent recall for geopolitical boundaries in medieval Africa, and a working knowledge of twelve dead languages, seven of which were never spoken by a human tongue.
(Interlibrary Loans and Fine Arts–the subject librarian, not the department–have been in the midst of a prolonged feud for the past decade over a hiring committee disagreement regarding practicum student placements and a botched exorcism. It is rivalled only by the cold war between Interlibrary Loans and Cataloguing over supply budgets that’s been running since the late nineties. Confusing one for the other would be unhelpful, to say the least.)
The Other Librarians generally do not encroach on their colleagues’ responsibilities. They are still librarians with all of the professional ethics that entails, and are generally orderly and rule-abiding, unless a fundamental principle of librarianship is at risk. (Do not speak of internet filtering within the library walls if you wish to leave with all of your fingers intact.)
The Deep Library should be approached with utmost caution, regardless. Some people in the profession say, your library should have something in it to offend everyone. EU’s library would agree to that statement, with some extensive additions, explanatory footnotes, and cautionary appendices. Respect the Library.
Welcome to the Elsewhere University Library. This guide endeavours to provide students with a general outline of library services, facilities, and safety precautions. More comprehensive help, including study guides for planning your research, finding books and journal articles, evaluating and citing sources, and safely navigating the library both with and without a map, compass, or bread crumb trail can be found online on the library’s website, in print at the first floor reference desk, and translated into Norse runes and carved into the foundation of the condemned building in the west quadrant of the campus.
Instructors wishing to book a tour and orientation for incoming classes can make arrangements directly with the subject librarian assigned to their department. Basic research skills and bibliographic instruction for classes is a core services provided to all faculty. Advanced research support may be obtained with proof of approved interdepartmental charge. Payment will be extracted at the campus health centre, or during one of the library’s monthly fundraising blood drives. A pound of flesh is no longer accepted in payment, as the exchange rate is currently exorbitant. Requests from the biology department will be assessed on a case by case basis until the overdue accounts resulting from the escaped blood scandal last fall are resolved.
Borrowing privileges for undergraduates and non-academic staff include a semester-long loan period with no renewals, and a maximum of three interlibrary loans per course per year. The length of the semester is determined by time passing within the registrar’s office, and no exceptions will be made for the west quadrant of the campus, philosophy majors, or those born on a Tuesday. Library staff, and RAs and custodial staff assigned to Brigadoon Hall are eligible for an exemption, however. Please ensure that circulation staff are advised of your status upon yearly renewal of your library card, and keep in mind that time passes differently within the library.
Graduate students and faculty are eligible for a year-long loan period, and unlimited interlibrary loans. Additional charges for interlibrary loan material may be passed on to the borrower. Library staff will do their best to ensure that you are aware of the procedures and policies of the lending institute, however, can take no responsibility for additional fees and fines accrued. Arrangements for payment must be made directly with the lending institute. We do not have the liability insurance required to send your first-born, existential sense of dread, or the memory of the colour of next spring’s tulips via interoffice mail or interagency courier. Please note that while all graduate theses are archived in the library collection, borrowing privileges for theses that have not yet been written are limited to faculty only.
Overdue fines may be waived at the discretion of the library staff for just cause. Fees for lost items must be paid by the end of the semester or late charges will continue to accrue. Nonpayment of fees and fines may result in withholding of your final transcript, degree, sense of smell, or sense of self. Barter for tangible, nonmonetary items will not be accepted as payment, with the exception of plastic beads. Intangible items may be accepted on a case by case basis. Baked goods are always appreciated, but will have no effect on the balance of your account. (Donations of plastic beads will be accepted at the circulation desk, and will be donated to the library’s current community support program, who is welcome to join us in the library foyer, coffee shop, and first floor classroom space, but we would appreciate it if it refrains from attempting to use the elevators to reach the rooftop garden.)
“Pardon me, do you have anything on leviathans?” the young man asked hopefully.
“I do believe we do, yes,” the reference librarian remarked. “Just a moment, please.” With her skeletal right hand, she removed her left and sent it scurrying to a massive card catalog.
“Living or undead?”
“Monstrous or mortal?
“Hm… monstrous, I believe.”
The librarian nodded and continued chatting politely with the patron. After a few minutes, the arrant hand returned with a small pile of thick, off-white cards inscribed with titles of various books. The words were written in a small, beautiful script.
The librarian perused the cards while her hand reattached itself then said, “This way, please” and floated towards a darkened hallway.
So first we have Verrock. He’s a scholar. A librarian, if you would. A collector of rare and exotic books. First printing, author’s signature, you name it- he’s not beyond reanimating an author, soul included, to sign a novel or finish an unfinished work. Unfettered by societal opinions on Necromancy he has gone giddily off the deep end in pursuit of being the most well-read and educated mage out there. Dreams of opening a college. Doesn’t know he’s the villain whatsoever. He’s just trying to amass knowledge! I found this image on 4chan ages ago so if anyone knows the artist do let me know and I’ll credit them.
Then we have Shirley, who I can’t or don’t have reference for. She’s his librarian, and does so willingly. Her backstory is complicated but involves the fact that her blood has some dark magic of the necromantic variety in it and she’s got a chip on her shoulder. She too has a love for books, and maintains Verrock’s personal library while he’s away- sometimes accompanying him. I have a whole tale for her and how they met and became partners (and I mean partners in that they are on equal terms, no one is the boss). When in a Bloodrage she possesses great strength and calmly dispatches intruders with a claymore.
Their character levels are as I left them mid-campaign and I don’t have their final forms typed out but it is sweeet how awesomely powerful they become.
End of Discourse: Death and Just Stay Dead - My thoughts on the Halo series as of 2017 Part 2
Alright now comes the shit zone: While I’m gonna do my best not to shit on 343i, I need to get my grviances across.
Last part I purposed that explaining everything is a bad idea. 343i has taken the idea of explaining everything to the extreme, going as far to canonize multiplayer and giving a justification for the mancannon existing.
A couple weeks ago, I asked a 343i fan why the Forerunners and ancient humans were so incredibly stupid, and that was the answer: 343i wrote them to be stupid. I know I’m gonna come off as a prick, but that’s a fucking shitty justification. What it tells me is that 343i doesn’t know how to write a story.
Oh and lets no forget 343i’s active contempt for anything Bungie established.
You know how the Monitor and Gravemind and the Librarian explicitly refer to Master Chief as a Reclaimer? Yeah according to Halo 5, it turns out they were speaking to Cortana the whole time! EVEN WHEN SHE WASN’T FUCKING THERE GEE WIZ WHAT A MIX UP,
Hey remember how Halo 3 had a great ending and you finally put the Monitor in it’s place? Fuck you the Monitor is still alive and is actually a human trapped in a robot body.
Remember the likeable ODST squad from Halo 3 ODST? Fuck you Rookie dies in a fucking book and Mikey is a traitor.
Man, Buck is so cool.
Remember how Halo 2 was all about the elites breaking away from the covenant after the brutes and Prophets betray them? Fuck you the brutes did it first according to Halo Wars 2.
Remember how Spartans were supposed to be the best of the best and required training from age 6 in order to be the perfect soldiers? Fucking fuck you, now, according to Halo 4, you can be a Spartan in every Happy Meal you buy with a free drink on the side.
While we’re on Halo 4, can I ask why Bungie fans asking for a good story that’s easy to understand is the main reason why Halo 5 was a sack of shit? Is wanting good writing a bad thing now? According to 343i fans the story of Halo 4 was “just too complex for Bungie purists to follow.” No, it wasn’t. A fucking baby could follow Halo 4′s plot, as shallow and boring as it was. One arguement is that we Bungie purists don’t like seeing the Big Green Fuck showing emotions (I guess we’ll just ignore Halo 1-3, okay sure). There’s this thing in media called “show, don’t tell” where instead of just dumping a wall of exposition on us, we get to experience it instead of having it spoon fed to us. Halo 4 and 5 are big on “show, but you better have read the 5 novels and the live action series tie ins.”
To sum it all up, 343i writing feels lazy and corporate, while Halo 1-3 and Reach (and Halo Wars I guess) felt like people who were passionate about their product.
If you want a clearer summery of my ramblings, just watch this video:
Last night, I was excited, because I had finished combining Mulder’s and Scully’s perspectives for Pequod into one cohesive 66K-word novel, but my excitement was tempered by the fact that my interlibrary loan books on Oradour-sur-Glane hadn’t come in yet and I didn’t know if they were ever going to. Sometimes it can take MONTHS just to be told no, we can’t get the book.
Five minutes ago, one of our reference librarians put the books in my hand. I am officially two name changes and a little bit of fact-checking away from officially having a completed first draft.
We started doing everyday cosplay on Monday and usually stick to a theme to bind us all together. This picture shows off our theme of D.C. Superheroes! From L to R we have Sarah (reference and instruction librarian) as Batman, Kassie (reference and instruction librarian) as The Flash, Jess (circulation clerk and LIS grad student) as Aquaman, and Laura (senior circulation clerk) as Wonder Woman. We all work at SUNY Genesee Community College in Batavia, NY.