By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.
The very first time I attended an ALA conference was in Philadelphia in 1982. I was a newly minted librarian and could hardly believe the entire city was filled with librarians. I didn’t know which way to turn! I randomly attended the most fascinating presentation I had ever seen, a show-and-tell session about librariana: collectible items related to libraries and librarians. Until that day I had no idea that there were people with collections of library overdue notices on postcards.
If I had been a true collector, I would have saved my program from the conference, which would tell us who had been speaking. However, using my magical librarian skills, I have determined that the speaker was probably Norman Stevens, author of the sadly out-of-print “Guide to Collecting Librariana.” Maybe you have a copy in your collection.
I thought I’d delve deeper into librariana to see what I could find.
Although The Library History Buff is a little dated, it’s a pretty comprehensive site for library collectibles. Turns out there are more souvenir library spoons and china than you might expect.
One of the most obvious collectibles is library cards. Apparently you can go into some libraries and they will just give you one (un-activated), especially if you are on vacation and ask very nicely. Some people who have moved around a lot have pretty extensive collections from everywhere they have lived. Here’s an interesting article on the subject (you may have to scroll down to see the content).
It seems that there are also Lego librarians. I had no idea about this! Who wouldn’t want to collect them? But why do they all have “Shhh!” mugs? I myself am a somewhat noisy librarian.
The idea is taken even further here, with entire library scenarios made from Legos. If that wasn’t enough, there’s even a stop-action Lego library movie.
Circulation & Reference: “There are 30 holds for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ Shall I add your name to the list?”
Have you ever heard of librarian action figures? Irresistible! I could imagine playing with one as a kid.
Some librarians just really like to shop. There is a small industry that caters to this group, including a company called Out of Print. You may have seen them at library conferences, with their fun assortment of date due card socks, book cart shirts, and library stamp boxers.
If your tastes run a little fancier, you might find something you like at the Library of Congress gift shop. If you are shopping for me, I really love these dishes: (Hint, hint.)
Or perhaps this snow globe:
It’s always enlightening to examine a subject through the mirror of the past. Looking at vintage library-related images and collectibles, we can get a glimpse into how libraries were seen by their patrons, and how libraries attempted to convey their raison d’être to the public. To close, here’s a collection of fascinating vintage librariana on Pinterest.
Fern has worked for Brodart as a Collection Development Librarian since 1990. She also did a stint as a reference librarian in the CNN newsroom and is married to a newspaper librarian. Click here for more.
2 thoughts on ““Librariana””
Norman Stevens died earlier this month. I am fortunate to have a copy of his book on Librariana..
My first ALA conference was in 1985 in Chicago, was fortunate to win a conference grant with 25 other MLS students. In return for free room/ board and conference admission, I worked the ALA store selling what I now call Librariana…. I have a Snoopy stuffed animal wearing a I love my library shirt bought at the conference….
Thanks for the update, looks like this news came out right after my deadline for this article. We will dedicate this post to his memory.
Here’s my update – my husband (librarian and proofreader) took the hint and now I am the proud owner of the snow globe from the Library of Congress catalog.