The outgoing librarians of the Desk Set don't take Shhh! from anybody.
Wed May 14 2008
Photograph: Lisa Corson
Popular culture loves to portray the librarian as an uptight spinster with her locks scraped back into a tight bun. The librarians, archivists and bibliophiles of the Desk Set, however, know how to let their hair down. On Friday 16, the group hosts Dance Dance Library Revolution at Enid’s in Greenpoint, where blogger-DJ Jonathan Toubin will spin garage, pop and ’60s soul as guests enjoy cocktails like the Dewey Decimator (a beer with a shot of tequila), nibble on a reference-book cake and vie for literary raffle prizes like a membership to the New York Society Library and a signed copy of How “Sassy” Changed My Life. There is a philanthropic angle behind the merriment, though: The dance party doubles as a collection drive for Books Through Bars, a nonprofit providing prisoners with reading materials. Attendees who donate a gently used dictionary or thesaurus earn a free drink.
Sarah Murphy, a librarian at the New York Academy of Medicine, founded the Desk Set in 2006 with friend and fellow book-minder Maria Falgoust, after realizing local researchers were hungry for a social outlet. “If you’re working at a museum or foundation library, you’re really isolated from other parts of the institution,” says Murphy. “Groups like the American Library Association are great, but they’re really formal and you end up talking about work all the time. We just wanted to bring together all different kinds of people who share a love of books.” While some events—including field trips to the Grolier Club, the City Reliquary Museum and the Brooklyn book collective Booklyn—tend to attract research professionals, the Desk Set is open to all, including delinquent borrowers. “I’ll waive all their fines,” jokes Greenpoint librarian Mel Gooch. Staffers from the Brooklyn Public Library will also be on hand to register attendees for library cards.
There’s always a few surprises at Desk Set parties, including a fair number of male librarians (who constitute a fifth of the profession nationally). The guys who come, Falgoust says, are delighted to find “so many cute girls with glasses.”
She’s not kidding. At a recent Friday evening gathering, three out of the six women present sported cat’s-eye frames. “I guess there are some stereotypes that hold true,” admits Murphy, whose own glasses dangle from a chain around her neck.
Stereotypes crop up in members’ personalities as well: While many attendees plan to live it up well into the wee hours Friday night, Murphy predicts some will arrive before the party officially starts. “Librarians aren’t just on time,” she says, “they’re half an hour early.”
Dance Dance Library Revolution takes place 10:30pm–4am on Fri, May 16 at Enid’s.