Meet the creative force behind the Instagram sensation known as “the memeing librarian“! In this interview, we chatted with Molly Quinn , who stands behind the account that entertains and educates around 20,5k followers. Through short videos and amusing memes, she’s been promoting how cool, fun, informative, and sometimes also radical libraries can be for the past 5 years. Dive into her insights on community awareness, library evolution, and the power of online platforms in promoting the library’s services.

Whether you’re a bookworm or just curious to learn more about the librarian world, you won’t want to miss this conversation with “the memeing librarian”. Enjoy!

About “the memeing librarian”

Question (Q): When did you start posting as the memeing librarian?

Answer (A): August 29, 2018! I had been working in a library for about a year when I started it. It is absolutely wild to me that it has been 5 full years of running the page, it does not feel like it has been that long.

Q: Was it a gradual climb to your large following or was there certain content that saw your following increase exponentially?

A: I would say it has been mostly a steady climb, though certain posts would boost my follower count significantly. The most recent one that got me a lot of followers was the post where I talked about the type of books that Nazi Germany burned, and how those books are similar to the books currently being banned throughout the US.

Q: Why do you think that librarians love your content?

A: I think a lot of library/bookish social media pages tend to stay away from legitimate issues that librarians face on a day-to-day basis. I’ve seen a lot of library/bookish accounts make books and libraries more of an aesthetic. But if you’ve ever met a librarian, they are funny, thoughtful, passionate, and tough as nails. Some accounts are better at capturing that spirit than others, and I hope that that is true for my account! 😊

Q: How do you manage making content alongside your work responsibilities?

A: It is not hard to balance the two, honestly, because most of my content comes from my experiences while I work! For example: if a funny or interesting thing happens to me or one of my coworkers, it will probably end up being a meme. Any time I find something that I think will make an interesting reel or post, like an article or survey concerning book censorship, I just save it for after work when I am free to film a reel or put together a post.

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Your message

Q: What message or information do you hope to get through to your followers?

A: Of course, I want my followers to come away with the idea that libraries are super cool, fun, and radical places, but I also hope they leave with a better idea of how to talk to people about book bans or other library issues.

Q: Not all your content is “just” memes, a lot of it has to do with the censorship of books and other hot-topic issues in the library world. What motivates you to raise awareness of these issues using your platform?

A: I have seen so much misinformation around what sort of materials libraries provide; this leads to a lot of people developing pretty significant misunderstandings. These misunderstandings often look something like accusing the library of providing obscene materials to minors. My goal is to correct these confusions whenever possible, which often requires a lot of patience! I also want to help others who love their intellectual freedoms to speak up by providing them with talking points and tools.

About Libraries

Q: Do you work at or with a library?

A: Yes! I work at a public library in the youth/teen section.

Q: Would you recommend libraries to leverage social media? If so, why?

A: Oh absolutely. People love to see their library on social media, and it is often one of the first places that people will go to for information about libraries. It’s a great way to get the word out for what you offer! Not everyone feels comfortable being funny or clever on social media, which I get, but there is plenty that you can do to have a popular page without being funny! Post historical photos of your library/community, post pictures of staff interacting with the public or having fun in the back office, post some fun facts, etc. etc. I always tell libraries they are more than welcome to post my memes, but please tag me if they do. In my opinion, the best libraries on social media right now are the ones that aren’t afraid to get a little silly. Not everything has to be “on brand,” sometimes things work better when you are a bit ridiculous.

Q: How do you think libraries have evolved over the last 5 years?

A: So, there have been a lot of issues that libraries have had to deal with. Censorship laws, dramatic defunding threats, the pandemic, more and more books being censored, etc. all have happened within the last five years. All of that has shaped the way librarians interact with their libraries. Sometimes this has been a negative thing. For instance, now librarians are expected to do more for less, which isn’t sustainable. But sometimes it has been positive. For instance, I have seen more librarians becoming more comfortable with being a bit more radical. Libraries aren’t neutral spaces, the act of having multiple perspectives freely available, or having a place where you can hang out without being expected to spend money, is a radical one.

Q: In general, do you think communities are aware of all the resources libraries offer?

A: Oh no, not at all. I think people who regularly use their library have a better idea of what the library offers, but many people who don’t habitually use their library don’t think to check with their library when they need something that’s not specifically a book. For instance, we have a language learning database, Mango, that I am constantly pointing people to, if they want to learn a different language. 19 times out of 20, the person had no idea that we offered anything like that.

Q: As people tend to get their information from online sources, how do you see the relationship between librarians and their community changing?

A: We’ll need to see more robust, easy-to-navigate library websites, which unfortunately not every library has. We’ll adopt to new technology as it comes out, just as libraries have always done. Right now, I think that means figuring out how AI can help librarians better serve the community, and we will see how that goes. Maybe that will look like an AI chatbot on a library website that answers common questions about the library. But really, I think more libraries will increase their online collection budget in the coming years. Libby and Hoopla are so popular, even with many people who don’t know all the services we offer, that I think that more of our overall budgets will have to go to online services.

As a person (with a librarian soul)

Q: What is your favorite resource or service to use at a library?

A: I use Libby and Hoopla on a very regular basis!

Q: What book would you recommend everyone to read?

A: What a tough one to answer! I would have to say The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. My favorite translation is the Katherine Woods one, even though it has some funny errors in it (like when she confuses at one point the word “friend” with the word “sheep”!). It’s so poetic and sweet. I must read it once a year at least.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

We will be back with another interesting article from the library world soon!

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Molly “the memeing librarian” Quinn

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