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Wanna know what drives me crazy? People who say they love vintage styles, but won’t buy or wear them, let alone take a chance on reviving something from the past. That’s what I call shallow love. You can’t accurately claim to really love vintage clothes unless you feel like you’re on a rescue mission, unless you’re willing to wear things that aren’t perfect, unless you’re willing to be different.

And that brings me to my true subject: the courage to be different. In the brief stint I did as a librarian, one of the things I most liked about my colleagues was the way they embraced people with differences—not in a saintly sort of way that makes them love all people and each other, of course. No, it’s a more global kind of acceptance—as if their wide world of knowledge endows them with special vision and courage. Yes, they claim their right to fly their own freak flags, but they also protect people and ideas that are overshadowed by louder, more powerful segments of the population.

The Librarian as activist

There are countless examples of this. One is an organization called Urban Librarians Unite, an advocacy group that stands up for libraries and library staff in metropolitan areas. Examples of their work: they staged a 24-hour story-thon and a zombie march to protest budget cuts that adversely affected library service in the New York area.

Okay, you might think that sounds self-serving. Really it’s not. Because there are a ton of people out there who depend on pubic libraries for everything from internet access to job-related training. Remember, just because you and I can buy all the information and education we want doesn’t mean everyone else can. Librarians know this.

The Librarian as volunteer

Cities host conferences because they bring in lots of money, right? But how many conferences actually get involved with the communities they visit the way librarians do? When they descend on a city for their annual conference—as they will next week in Chicago—librarians make an impression that extends well beyond their profession and the money they spend.

In 2006, the American Library Association was the first group to host a major conference in New Orleans after Katrina. Once there, they organized themselves for volunteer work in the city’s schools and libraries, establishing an annual tradition of volunteering in their conference city. When they were in Seattle in January for their mid-winter meeting, they served the city’s homeless. See what I mean?

So here’s a two-part invitation, one for my librarian friends and one for all the people who love them for these traits.

Librarian Lovers: #LoveALibrarian
During the American Library Association’s annual conference June 27-July 2, let’s honor the librarians we love by wearing something we’d desperately like to wear—but are too afraid of the attention it would draw. It could be anything, but this is the time to drag out those hats you wish people still wore. If you don’t, who will? Prime yourself for the extra (perhaps unwanted) attention. It isn’t about you; it’s about celebrating librarians who make a regular practice of standing up for the needs and interests of others.

Then share it on Twitter, Instagram or on my Facebook page using the hashtag #LoveALibrarian. (You have to be a friend before you can share on our Facebook.)

Librarians: #LibrariansInHats
Librarians who want to participate, please wear a hat to the conference and post your photos similarly (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) using the hashtag #LibrariansInHats. I’ll be in Chicago on Monday photographing and posting anyone who’s willing. I’ll know you by your hat!

Who’s your favorite librarian? How did they make a difference in your life? Have you donated time or money to your library lately?