By Christopher Raab
In 2006, I wrote a short journal article titled, “No Laughing in the Library: You Name It!” It was part of an ongoing humor series, and the article explored librarian surnames that were “professionally ironic” or “unintentionally descriptive.” For example, the Cataloging Librarian named Field, the Database Librarian named Gale, the Scholarly Communications Librarian named Spark, etc. I remembered the article being a lot of fun to research and write, so fifteen years later I figured I’d take another shot at it.
Just as before, I began by searching surnames within the Personnel Index of the American Library Directory (ALD). Only this time, I used the online version of the resource, as the print directory stopped being published several years ago. (I should have realized this simple change from print to online would be a portent of things to come!)
Now 15 years is not that long, but in terms of library and information technology, it may as well be a lifetime. To get started, I signed up for a free 14-day trial of the ALD, and began searching the “Personnel Name” field for surnames relating to the modern academic library.
Where to start? Well, I could search the same names I had explored in the first article, but that wouldn’t be much fun—just more of a longitudinal study I suppose. Instead, I began with what I see and hear every morning when I walk into the library—technology. That’s right, printers, scanners, computers, all lit up and ready for action. To my surprise, the current ALD contained no Samsungs, Lenovos, or Epsons, but it did contain 5 Dells, 1 Apple, and 1 Acer. Actually, it was an Acerro, but close enough!
As for printers, there were 17 Cannons, 9 Sharpes, and 3 Packards (no Hewletts unfortunately.) When considering network computing, I have to admit, I was disappointed. No Ciscos or Routers, not even a Cloud. There was, however, one lone Server (soon to retire, I’m sure.) Of course, when I walk into the library each morning I also see (and greet!) my fellow staff members. And the ALD didn’t let me down. While there is currently only 1 Staff among us (read budget cuts here), there are 10 additional Staffords if needed. Must be volunteers!
(I should have realized this simple change from print to online would be a portent of things to come!)
Next, I thought about cataloging, and all the changes that have occurred in recent years with content and descriptive standards. Surely, there must be some surname representation within cataloging! As one might guess, however, there were no RDAs, DCRMs, METS, MODS, Dublins, or Cores. Simply no metadata surnames to be found. Actually, there was one bit of good news. Archivists will be pleased to learn there are currently two Eads active in the profession!
But what about the virtual library, and the plethora of G Suite tools we now use on a daily basis? Surely, Google must have influenced the “naming” of our profession by now. I decided to run a few names to find out. You may be interested to learn that while there were 27 Pages, there was only 1 Brin. To my surprise, there were zero Searches, Chats, Forms, Docs, or Drives. There were, however, 11 Books, 6 Sheets, 1 Site, and 1 Slider. I pressed on, and while there were no Vaults, Photos, or Mails, there were 3 Newsomes and 1 Mapp. Those of you overwhelmed with all the recent video conferencing will be happy to learn there are only 2 Meetz among us, and zero Skypes, Zooms, or GoToMeetings.
What else has changed in 15 years? Well, social media certainly has. (When I researched the first article in 2006, Facebook was two years old – just an infant!) While I figured there wouldn’t be any Facebooks, Twitters, Pinterests, or Instagrams (and there weren’t!) I was interested to discover 9 Posts, 5 Storys, 3 Friends, and 1 Share. My teenage daughters had me check for TikToks and Snapchats – nothing there. The only thing close were 2 Snapps. Now, if those two would get to chatting at a conference, would that count? Not sure . . .
The last 15 years have also got me thinking about the physical library, or Library as Place. Libraries across the country have undergone incredible physical changes in order to adapt to the modern/virtual world. Has this trend been reflected in our surnames? While you may be disappointed to learn that I found zero Desks, Lamps, Tables, and Chairs, I did find 2 Roofs, 2 Doores, 2 Lights, 14 Cranes, and 28 Carpenters. Well, I guess capital projects are well represented at any rate.
So what’s in a name, or a librarian’s name in this case? Well, according to Shakespeare’s Juliet, everything and nothing. But take heart! As I was conducting my research, I also came across 2 librarians who were Kuhl, 14 who were Wise, and 27 with special Powers. And if all the recent technological change has left you feeling frazzled, don’t sweat it. After all these years, our foundational commitment to basic literacy is well represented. My final searches of the current ALD revealed 80 Reeds and 72 Wrights among us!
About the Author
Christopher Raab is Associate Librarian for Archives & Special Collections at Franklin & Marshall College. He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, and holds a Masters of Library Science and Certificate of Advanced Study from the University of Pittsburgh. Current research interests include library administration, digital preservation, and printing history.
Raab, Christopher. “No Laughing in the Library: You Name It!” College & Undergraduate Libraries, 13, no.3 (2006): 125 -126