October 2003

Michael Farrelly

library rakehell

F**king action figure.

I suppose I have no choice.

I mean, how can I hold onto my cred as a library-issues columnist and not write about it?

I can’t really.

What do I mean? Oh, you know what I mean. You heard a story about it on NPR, The Today Show, or Jay Leno or some enterprising newspaper columnist who made lots of pithy third-tier commentary about libraries probably informed you of this long before you clicked on Bookslut.

I’m talking about the librarian action figure.

Correction: The stupid librarian action figure.

Further correction: The stupid controversy about the stupid librarian action figure.

The story goes thusly. A toy company, who bring us such witty concoctions as The Smoking Baby and Jesus: The Action Figure approached a librarian in Seattle (for the record, she’s not actually a librarian, she’s a library administrator) to pose for a figure based on librarians. Sounds all well and good right? A kitschy piece of plastic to appoint your desk with and take up some of that tall library green you’ve been raking in.

Nothing is that simple in libraryland. Seems that the librarian chosen for the figure is a rather plain woman in her mid-fifties with short-cropped hair. She wears sweaters and sensible shoes. So does her plastic counterpart. Oh yes, and the figure comes with a “shushing” action feature. Like Kung-fu grip or the ability to transform into a robot…but not nearly as cool.

So librarians are mad. Both in the literal meaning of the emotion and in the more existential connotation of madness. Letters, more specifically e-mails, have been fired off. Angry words about the dourness of the figure, and its model, have flown across the internet during coffee breaks and after-hours at the local bibliotheca.

Now how do I feel? Mr. “Librarians are sexy,” Mr. “Librarians are information gods,” what do I have to say on this little molded tempest.

Fuck it.

I say fuck it, fuck the people upset about it, fuck the toy-makers, fuck the woman for modeling for it, fuck it all. I rarely use that word, and even more rarely in my writing, but it sums up my emotions more succinctly than all the flowery prose I can pull from my over-read behind.

Let’s start with the indignant masses shall we? Don’t you have anything better to do? Libraries are overworked understaffed places, no time of indignation there. Grow up. It’s a toy, and a stupid one at that. Don’t buy it, tell people who want to buy it not to and just go on with your lives.

Then there’s the model. She’s acted like this is all a big shock and she can’t believe that librarians could be this mad. Surprise. We are a maligned profession of underpaid and overeducated men and women who are saddled with a dowdy image for decades. This should not be a surprise. Before she agreed to do the figure maybe she could have dyed her hair, or asked to be pictured in a “Sex Pistols” t-shirt or objected to having a “shushing” action feature.

As for the company, they make crap toys for hipsters who think that a Rosie the Riveter figure will give them indy cred. It won’t. It should come as little surprise that they made such a silly toy.

The Patriot Act looms, funding for libraries is going towards big beautiful buildings and not books and many librarians aren’t earning enough to live with just one full-time job. Don’t organize a boycott of craptastical toys inc.; use that energy to better our whole profession.

Besides, they already made a hip sexy librarian action figure. Giles, the librarian from Buffy the Vampire slayer. He comes dressed in a dashing vest and shirt and wields an occult tome as well as a medieval axe.

Now that’s an action figure I can identify with.