Yesterday, B.J. Novak addressed the closing session of this year’s summer edition of ALA (the American Library Association’s Conference), a conference that many of my twitter colleagues get to go to most years and I get to enjoy through the miracle of hashtags. But still, no bitterness here. I got to attend a whole day of our local library conference this past year (and actually presented at one of the sessions, but let’s not get all braggy here). Let’s get back on topic: B.J. Novak. He talked about how he wanted to be a librarian before he wanted to be anything else because at school the library was the one place where you weren’t being directed where you head had to be. I kind of like that. He said a bunch of other nice things about the profession and his involvement with it now that he is a published author.
But the thing is, he started off his talk by saying that librarians were a “specific sexual fantasy” of his and it was a bit weird to be addressed us. (and then a graphic was put up of him and the words: “Librarians, call me” or something) and then it went on from there.
Maybe I just gravitate to the negatives, but it seemed that a bunch of my fellow librarian tweeters did not take kindly to this kind of talk and took to twitter to talk about it (as you do).
I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever been someone’s specific sexual fantasy before, and I’m sure how I’m feeling about this (especially not someone who goes by the moniker B.J.) [there, I said it. I wasn’t sure how long this post would go before a blatant B.J. reference, but it looks like we got partway through the 4 paragraph, so that’s pretty good, right? I mean I considered naming this post “A B.J. for Librarians” but come on now, right?]
But of course I’m coming at this as a dude, so I feel like maybe I’m not attuned to the problem as much. Or maybe it isn’t my “dudeness” that’s the issue here. Maybe it’s just a genuine lack of interest or caring on my part. And I’m not defending the Beej here at all (does he go by Beej ever? Maybe Mindy Kaling calls him that in her texts? “Hey Beej, what’s up, wanna join me and Anders and Messina for some sushi? My treat!”) I know he was on “The Office” of which I saw several episodes in syndication BUT NEVER TWO IN THE SAME ORDER, and he’s appeared on “The Mindy Project”, which has become one of my favourite shows, don’t judge me!
At the most, maybe a generous eye roll over the mention of that tired, overused stereotype, “the sexy librarian” and then leave it at that? I don’t know.
It reminds me a bit of this year’s CLA (that’s the Canadian Library Association) for you non-librarians and fake-librarians out there. It was held in Victoria, B.C. (oh gosh, I wonder if there were any David Tennant sightings during the conference. DAMN IT.) At the conference they do this thing called “The Great Debate” where a topic is (you guessed it!) debated. But it’s usually irreverent and tongue-in-cheek and all that. For example, I attended the one last year in Winnipeg and the topic was “Libraries no longer need Librarians” and one side had to support that statement and other side refute it. (I’m not sure why I am explaining how debating works to you all of a sudden. I think you get the gist of it). ANYWAY, the moderator of the debate this year, a Mr. Stephen Abram, said something that he really really shouldn’t have. At one point of the debate he called one of the debaters “an ignorant slut”. Now, on it’s face that sounds horrible (and it is) but he was actually referencing a Saturday Night Live sketch from the 1970’s where Dan Ackroyd called Jane Curtain that in a debate. I didn’t know that’s where the term originated, but I do remember 15 years or so ago Al Gore was a guest on SNL and he was in a debate situation with Amy Poehler and she said something like “Aren’t you going to call me an ignorant slut, Al?” and he responded with something like, “Oh I’d never use words like that.” or something and at the time I thought, “What the hell? That isn’t funny.” but I guess it was just a callback to something else, no different that if Will Ferrell all of a sudden started shouting, “CHEEZEBORGER! CHEEZEBORGER! CHEEZEBORGER!” which he very well may have. What do I look like, the SNL archivist? I can barely make Youtube work.
So yeah, back to Stephen Abram, a man I saw present at last year’s CLA, and I have to say his presentation was the best one of the whole conference. It was dynamic and thought provoking, and it felt very “Ted Talky” and like something that he probably delivered dozens of times previously with minor tweaking but still felt fresh. That’s all I know about him, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean anything by his comment. He probably thought he was making a clever (although crude) pop culture reference. Could he have been ignorant of the fact that most of the people in the room were probably not even born when the reference was first made? He did write an apology of sorts. You can read it here. A lot of people took issue with the apology as well, saying that it wasn’t very sincere. As it was, the conference relieved him of the rest of speaking duties and as a result he’s taken some time away from his social media presence. He says he’ll relaunch things in the fall, but for now he’s disappeared and we’re the poorer for it.
I don’t know. One stupid comment and it’s all over? (Says the person who says 10 stupid things before breakfast most days).
I really don’t care about any of this, not really. But I kind of do.