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Librarians. Sheesh.

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

This week’s guest blogger Lauren Silberman, thinks museumers have something to learn from the “Librarians of the Future” and their kin about how to shape the image of their profession. Lauren hearts museums but still likes libraries and books. In addition to serving as the coordinator for AAM’s Museum Assessment Program and on the board of the Small Museum Association, she was the education and program coordinator for the Jewish Museum of Maryland and is currently working on her second book, Wicked Baltimore (The History Press, expected 2011).

I’m annoyed with librarians. 

Apologies to my husband, who happens to be one. It’s not that librarians have done anything wrong. In fact, the reason that I’m annoyed is because of what they’re doing right. Librarians have gone viral. Across YouTube are videos of book cart drills and Lady Gaga parodies. The “Old Spice Guy” has done a bit on libraries (and there’s another video parodying him to promote libraries!). There are so many blogs about the new hip vanguard of librarians that their entries could more than fill many brick and mortar locations.* NPR has done a piece suggesting that libraries may be next “pop-culture wave” after cupcakes. They even have an action figure with “amazing push-button shushing action.”

So, it leaves me wondering, “Where are the museums?”

Why aren’t there videos of museum staff and visitors singing parody songs in the galleries? Are there any crudely drawn animations of museum collections coming to life? How about a reality tv show featuring the crazy world of registrars? You can almost see the sharpened pencils and white gloves flying!

Okay, I’ll admit that “annoyed” is not the right word choice. To be honest, I’m just jealous. I want to see videos and links to museum oriented fun being exchanged on Facebook. I want the New York Times to one-up NPR and espouse a duel between museums and libraries for the social media throne. I want people to talk about us in a new way. And I want you to do it.

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Yes, that’s right. You have to help us museum lovers out. I can’t get us viral on my own. I need your assistance. So, I challenge you – no matter your museum specialty or work expertise – to help me show up those trendy librarians. I want to see what you’ve done and what you’re thinking about doing. I want to know what fun items exist or could exist for museums. Is it already out there and I’m simply missing it? Is it an idea just waiting for the right person or people to come along and bring it to life? Let me know! Let the social media revolution begin. Include your links, ideas, and whatnots in the comments below.

*You are correct. Every single word in that sentence links to a different library focused blog. The author of this post does not necessarily agree with anything mentioned on any of these blogs.

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  1. YES YES YES!!!!

    Librarians are lapping us, so I echo the throwing down of the gauntlet.

    And can we also mention their goofiness in doing book-cart drill teams?

    What I really love about librarians is that they are willing to poke fun of themselves, which actually helps to make them even more relevant to the public.

    And, finally, the American Library Association has an amazing online shop with library gear of all sorts. It is amazing. We need museum gear!!

  2. Museum gear! Yes, we are in definite need of museum gear. I see whole armies of museum peeps outfitted in museum gear. There may have to be a whole post on that idea alone.

  3. I always thought there was a strong market for museum action figures – the director, the curator, the educator, the fundraiser – all with the appropriate accoutrements. Imagine the fun at the vendor showcase at the AAM meetings.

  4. Well we are trying! We started a blog at and just set up a facebook page for our museum, as well as one for Tapping Reeve, the founder of the Litchfield Law School, whose home and school building we operate as a museum. Not to make excuses, but libraries, especially those doing things like this, often have more staff members than the local historical society or small museum. Keeping these things up to date is VERY time consuming. But we have to try!

  5. I just got my very first museum job. I've already come to terms with the fact that, as an aspiring social worker, I will be living off grants for the rest of my forseeable career. I might as well have fun with it. One suggestion that I'd love to see more of, is museum workers posting their findings and work-related interests on Facebook. The best fb posts, I've noticed, are the ones that link to interesting news and arts-related articles or at least get people nostalgic and thinking. For example, I find an 8mm film camera and opera binoculars in boxes to be accessioned. I google the brand, find a photo, and post it online. My friends, family and colleagues see it, they drool over the image, and I have successfully promoted the interests of my museum and the people working within it. My theory is that the more people know what are in their local museums, the more they are willing to support it. More support hopefully leads to more funding. Social networking sites can keep me in business.

  6. Of course there are crude animations of museum collections coming to life. Most of them involve Ben Stiller.

  7. Thanks Shawn for getting our back! We're totally rocking it over here at SFMOMA and it's only getting better with time. We have all sorts of great stuff, competitions, and random awesomeness on twitter and facebook. We even got in a tussle with the de Young the other day on twitter and then started a kickball league with the other Bay Area museums. And we've been making YouTube videos setting people as our user icon in Warhol fame mania, and hiding art books and museum gear in local shops all over SF. What you really have to watch out for are our SFMOMA librarians… they're obviously primed to take over one of these days.

  8. See if we can get the help of librarians who work for museums…make the most of the middle part of the Venn Diagram!

  9. B., stupid is in the eye of the beholder. You might find it stupid, but many others love the cheesiness of those antics.

    The only reason the market is oversaturated with librarians is the recession and the fact that schools are still churning out graduates. (Ok, and because admin is trying to use the excuse to utilize fewer librarians and pay them less). Before the recent downturn a decent number of graduates (comparable with other professions) found work in a reasonable amount of time.

    However, most librarians love their jobs and that is reflected in our ability to make fun of ourselves.

  10. My apologies in advance, but this is a silly idea. Librarians have long been stereotyped, which makes parody (and self-parody) easy. And the stereotype is based on the fact that many librarians have very similar job descriptions in very similar institutions.

    Yes, there is diversity in librarian jobs, but not nearly what there is in museum jobs. A curator of 17th century British art has almost nothing in common with the science educator at a local nature center. But both are surely museum professionals.

    The diversity of types of museums and the types of people who work there is one of the things that makes museums wonderful. Why would self-parody be desirable, even if it was possible?

  11. Check this out if you haven't yet.

    The idea is hilarious, but unfortunately the museum comes across as a bunch of humorless suits. And yes, I do realize it's disruptive and misleading, but it does make you wonder if there isn't more room for a sense of humor in our museums.

  12. the problem is there are too many different types of museums out there…art, history, natural history, science, children's, and I work in a maritime museum…all attract very different people. Libraries all have books and attract book lovers. we certainly are not as united in the ability to stereotype us.

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