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10 of the Coolest Librarians Alive

Face it: most librarians are probably cooler than you. After all, their job is to wrangle books, attract readers, and then get the two together — one of our own favorite activities. Though for many years, the librarian stereotype was a severe old lady who couldn’t stand excessive noise, the mold has changed (to the extent that even the New York Times has noticed). Now, many librarians are punk-rock agents of social change, complete with tattoos, tech savvy, and new ideas to get books to the people. After the jump, meet just a few of the very coolest librarians alive — and since we know there are hundreds out there, add your favorite book lender (or yourself) in the comments.

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Lauren Comito and Christian Zabriskie

These badass literary Brooklynites started a grassroots library advocacy group called Urban Librarians Unite, which “facilitates dialog between libraries and library workers, encourages new developments in library science, and advocates for libraries and librarians in urban areas.” In April, they plan to train and dispatch a Volunteer Library Brigade, wherein librarians (and librarians for the day) will hit the streets with carts full of books. Get in touch with them to volunteer!

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Lisa Darms

Who could be cooler than an official riot grrrl librarian? Lisa Darms, a onetime zinester herself, is a senior archivist at the Fales Collection at NYU’s Bobst Library, which houses the famed Riot Grrrl Collection. Later this year, she’s collecting some of her favorite materials into a book — head here to read what she told us about it.

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Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl is the closest thing we’ve got to a celebrity librarian these days. She achieved hometown fame with her “If All Seattle Read The Same Book” project and national fame with her bestselling book Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason. It’s like having the smartest reader you’ve ever met in your pocket. Oh, also? She has her own action figure — with amazing push-button shushing action. Doesn’t get cooler than that.

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Jessamyn West

The tagline of West’s website, Librarian.net, is “putting the rarin back in librarian,” which should give you an idea about her attitude. A library technologist based in Vermont who spends her time thinking and talking about “the digital divide,” she is the irreverent, awesome librarian of the future (and also the present). She co-edited Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out, a volume on “alternative librarianship,” and wrote Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide in 2011.

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JP Porcaro

Now here’s a librarian with personality to burn. “I would like to see a librarian on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine,” Porcaro says. “I want to see a librarian on Jersey Shore, in Kanye West’s entourage, and on the coaching staff of the New York Jets. I want to see the first librarian elected President of the United States. Don’t forget, Casanova was a librarian.” Indeed, Porcaro, who cofounded 8-Bit Library, prides himself on his championship of the social side to book lending. “I’m now the ‘party king’ of librarianship, our own Andrew WK, and run some of the biggest library parties, such as ALA Dance Party and the [Association of College and Research Libraries] Social,” he says. “That’s what we do as librarians: we are social organizers in our communities. We connect people to other people as well as to information. I’m living out the words of the good Dr. Seuss — ‘If you never have, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.’” We have to agree.

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Andrew Coulon and Matthew Moyer

Librarians — or personal DJs? These two music lovers, both librarians at the Jacksonville Public Library, have implemented an awesome-sounding program for their patrons, who tell the pair their musical likes and dislikes via an online form. After a few days, they get a personalized playlist, with links to the recommended music in the library catalog. We only wish we had them at our local branch.

Photo Credit: Nick Brandreth

Photo Credit: Nick Brandreth

Colin McMullan

Another guerrilla librarian roaming the streets of New York, McMullan is the creator of the Corner Libraries, miniature book depositories that lend out books to those who contact McMullan and obtain the passcode. The K.I.D.S. (Kindness and Imagination Development Society) Corner Library, on the corner of Leonard and Withers in Williamsburg, has a Chekhov collection, Faust, Basic Baskets, and other goodies.

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Audrey Barbakoff

Barbakoff, a librarian at Bainbridge Island Library and one of Library Journal’s 2013 Movers and Shakers, takes community outreach to the next level, targeting 20- and 30-somethings. She put together a “speed friending” night, a DIY series called “Radical Home Economics,” and Ferry Tales, a “floating book group” that takes place on the Bainbridge Island–Seattle commuter ferry. She’s also in this.

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