When Librarians Write: On The Riot Librarian

Annie Coreno -- August 20th, 2013


A few weeks ago we ran a starred review of The Riot Grrrl Collection edited by Lisa Darms.

Having just finished my degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Toronto, I was particularly excited to learn that Darms is not only a librarian but also the founding archivist of the collection showcased in the book (and a Canadian to boot!).

There are lots of librarians who write books (for example, see her, him, and a personal favorite, him). But usually we encounter these writers in their role of author rather than librarian. This is not surprising considering that librarians have long struggled with the issue of visibility and are most recognizable by their physical workplace rather than the nature of their work. Defining librarian without mention of the library is not that easy of a task—even in Merriam Webster, the librarian is defined as “a specialist in care of or management of a library.”

This is precisely why Lisa Darms’s book is such an achievement: It is not about libraries, it’s about a punk-rock, feminist movement. It does not tell you what librarians do, it shows you.

The book itself, much like the collection, aims to document “the process of zine-making, being in bands, and activism, as well as, the finished products of these activities.” Darms writes, “It isn’t intended as a coffee-table book, despite the fact that many of the documents are beautiful in their own right. Our goal is to make the content of these smart, radical texts more broadly available.”

Although the collection “makes up less than 1 percent of Fales [Library]’s physical holdings, it already accounts for 15 percent of our research use, and is further accessed by hundreds of students in classes that the Fales staff teaches on riot grrrl, feminism, queer activism and zine culture.”

If I learned anything during my two years at library school, it’s that the value of the library is not so much in the physical components of the library itself but the activities which go on inside: whether it’s the process of reading a book, making photocopies of a zine to distribute, or meeting with a group. It is the librarian’s job to encourage, empower, and enable patrons to partake in these activities. Darms, in her book, hones that energy and transports it outside the library and into a wider world.


One thought on “When Librarians Write: On The Riot Librarian

  1. carol b tuhy

    What an interesting point of view. Libraries, like book publishers, are adapting to the digital world
    while preserving and enlarging the best parts of print. The author of this post shows that the key to survival is adaptation and, like the riot grrls themselves, to blow out constricting definitions of our jobs
    and, for that matter, ouselves. Librarians, once stereotyped as nerdy women with glasses and buns
    and maybe a twinset and pearls–are more and more the culture’s archivists. And, again like the
    riot grrls, anarchists as well.

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