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Ten Songs about Libraries and Librarians

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The New York Public Library recently published a blog post about favorite fictional librarians. I'm a librarian who plays music—and the drummer in my group is also a librarian—which got me thinking about songs about libraries and librarians. I came up with this list of ten songs about libraries and librarians (researched at the library). Suggest your own favorites in the comments section below.

1. "Karen" / The Go-Betweens

The Go-Betweens / David Nichols.
The Go-Betweens  / Nichols, David.

Formed in Brisbane, Australia in 1977, The Go-Betweens featured the twin talents of singer-songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. The group released 9 albums between 1981 and 2005. The Forster penned hymn to a librarian named Karen was the b-side to the group's first single 1978's Lee Remick. This song  is the only one I know that  praises a librarian's readers advisory skills. Forster sings:

Helps me find Hemingway
Helps me find Genet
Helps me find Brecht
Helps me find Chandler
Helps me find James Joyce
She always makes the right choice.

You see what I did there? We just can't help ourselves!

Go-Betweens (Musical group)

Go-Betweens (group)

2. "Young Adult Friction" / The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart 

A lot of songs that mention libraries seem to be about things happening in the library that are not strictly study related. I couldn't find a single song about, say, bibliographic instruction or collection development. But that's OK. In their song "Young Adult Friction," New York City indie-poppers The Pains of Being Pure at Heart sing about an activity taking place in the library that should not be taking place in a library. Sex and libraries in songs is a common theme. Characters are either hanging around the library before going somewhere to do their courting, or are hoping for a date (or more!) from the sexy librarian. The lyrics to "Young Adult Friction" refer to "stacks" and "microfiche," and there is a pun on Young Adult Fiction, so bonus points to The POBPAH. Knowledge of library terms also suggests that this group might have spent some time in the reading room. 

Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Musical group)

Photograph through center hallway of the stacks
Stacks at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building are closed. So no Pains of Being Pure at Heart-style shenanigans here. Image ID: 2006656

3. "Library Rap" / MC Poindexter and the Study Crew  

Enough with all this bookish indiepop. It's time for some bookish rap, albeit pretend rap. As I write this I am working from the reference desk, so can't listen to this tune in order to discern it's musical qualities, but I heartily endorse the sentiment in this sample of the lyrics.

The silence is golden
To books I am beholden
I know I'm bad,
'Cuz of the knowledge that I'm holdin'!

And I give you one warnin'
There will be no repeats:
Get out of my face
While I'm readin' my Keats. 

I 'd not heard of MC Poindexter and the Study Crew, so I did some searching online. It would appear that this song  appears in the 1990s science fiction show Sliders, in an episode called Eggheads (Season 1, Episode 7). MC Poindexter is actually actor Mark Poyser. Fittingly enough, the episode in question is available to borrow on DVD from The New York Public Library. So you can see and hear for yourself! 

Sliders. First and second seasons.

4. "Lost In The Library" / Saint Etienne

Taken from their 1999 Japan only album The Misadventures of Saint Etienne (could I be more obscure?) by the English dance pop group of the same name, Lost in the Library is an instrumental song. So I cannot be sure whether it is about losing oneself in a world of knowledge, of books, prints and photographs, archive folders, and microfiche, or a song about struggling to find the geography section. Or perhaps it's about a quiet existential crisis in the reading room? Whatever, it's a plangent, acoustic piece whose mood is most relaxing. Quiet calming. Like the library.

Saint Etienne (Musical group) Performer

Young Adult, Margaret Scoggin
Is that a young Devo seeking readers advisory from  Margaret Scoggin, YA librarian at the 58th Street branch?  Image ID: 1151159

5. "Thee Ecstatic Library" / Comet Gain

Esoteric musical choices are a necessity in this post as I'm steering clear of library clichés, as mentioned, so I have to take what I can find. It appears that most of the songs in this selction are by acts you probably haven't heard of. Some are new to me too. Oh well. We're here to experience new things. Comet Gain, a British indie band founded in 1992,  recorded this song for their 2011 LP "Howl Of The Lonely Crowd." I love the idea of a psychedelic library, where everyone is ecstatically happy, high on the new things they discover. I'm not sure that's what this song is about , but that's not my problem. The song says "Music will save you again and again." Which is a good thing. Where can you find music? In the library. So logically the library can save you again and again. And it does. If you think about it.

6. "At the Library" / Green Day

All life happens in the library. Green Day is not a band I am very familiar with despite their being much the most well-known act in this post. This song seems rather jolly. I say seems... the protagonist, too shy to talk to the girl he has a crush on, sees her leave the library with her boyfriend. But he's not bitter. He hopes maybe they'll meet again someday. Maybe that'll be in the library?  He's already in the right place to kill time. This song is from the group's 1990 release 39/Smooth. You can read about, and listen to Green Day using materials held by The New York Public Library.

About Green Day (Musical group)

By Green Day (Musical group)

 "So This is Love"
Many songs are about finding love in the library... Image ID: 1252869

7. "French Navy" / Camera Obscura 

Spent a week in a dusty library
Waiting for some words to jump at me

I was sure Scots twee legends Belle and Sebastian would have written a song about libraries and librarians, but it seems I may have been wrong. Perhaps a keener fan will know? Fellow countryfolk popsters Camera Obscura do, and seem to have had more luck with love in the library than Green Day, as described in the song French Navy, taken from their 2009 LP My Maudlin Career. Sitting in the library. Looking for some inspiration. Suddenly! Love happens! We can't guarantee love will happen in your library, but if you don't go looking for it, you never know what you might find. More microfiche? Not sure how much work these love-struck folk are getting done, but hey, what better place to meet people? 

Camera Obscura (Musical group)  

8. "Swinging London" / The Magnetic Fields

I read your manifestos and your strange religious tracts.
You took me to your library and kissed me in the stacks.

Hmm. Perhaps I am being unrealistic expecting to find lots of songs about collection development, the Dewey Decimal System, and Library of Congress subject terms? Yes. I am.  Whether the narrator in this song was taken to a public library I'm not sure. I hope so. This is another sweet song that involves a library. That people are going to libraries is what matters. Use it or lose it people! This is one of The Magnetic Fields more electronic sounding songs.

Magnetic Fields (Musical group)  Performer

Stack maintenance
Librarians preparing to provide reference at a poorly lit rock concert.

9. "Library Card" / Frank Zappa 

Library bar-code, PE label
Student must carry this card at all times,
And present upon demand for identification
This card are not while currently [enrolled pony]

You may be liable for any unauthorized use of this card prior to notifying the used card office
In writing, of possible unauthorized use due to loss or theft
I agree to comply with all library regulations
And to assume responsibility for all use made of this card

Wow. This ain't no Carpenters. Possibly not a song about library cards. I sense something more sinister is afoot. "Students must carry this card at all times" suggests some kind of authoritarian dystopia, as if the library card has ceased to be your free pass to a world of knowledge, and has become a means of control by the state. Perhaps it's a critique of education? Of Western teaching? I'm not sure. Hmm. Too surreal for me. You can make your own mind up by using your New York Public library card to request materials by and about Frank Zappa: there's lots to choose from. By the way, if you are worried about privacy issues and your NYPL library card you can review The New York Public Library's Privacy Policy.

By Zappa, Frank

About Zappa, Frank

10. "Lisa Librarian" / Velocity Girl

I'd heard of this song from my bandmate, the drumming librarian whose name is Lisa. This is the first time I've actually heard this tune. I was thrown because I thought Velocity Girl, out of Washington, D.C. (1989-1996) had a female singer. Which they did usually, one Sarah Shannon. But this is a chap. I clearly need to listen to more Velocity Girl. The recording is a sort of shoegazey meets Pavement affair. Like most shoegaze music, it's quite hard to make out what the words are from the muffled singing, but...

I'd like to tell you something
But I have to think of something first

I want to visit you at work
It is all quiet
It is so quiet at work

These are the best lines in the song, and the most pertinent to libraries. Our hero needs some inspiration to help him think of something to tell the librarian. How about an icebreaker first? He could borrow from Robert Forster. "What do you have by Hemmingway? Can you recommend a book by Genet? Brecht? Chandler? James Joyce?"  I'm sure Lisa, like Karen, will make the right choice. 

Comments

Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

"Love in the Library"/Jimmy

"Love in the Library"/Jimmy Buffett "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors"/Moxy Fruvous

Lazy Librarians Son

The Foxymorons - Lazy Librarians Son https://youtu.be/CsJcY-P-EX0
Excellent subject and great article! A quick look at my iPod also reveals the Icelandic indieshamblers Seabear and 'Libraries': "And I don't believe you live in a library That sails the sea Sleeping with a book-blanket out at sea Like you told me" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf-Ce9846hU Surprised as a Broadcast fan you didn't choose The Book Lovers!

Sweet Librarian by Railroad

Sweet Librarian by Railroad Jerk. This is my favorite.

Brautigan gets a mention

Monnone Alone / My Overdue Library Fines https://monnonealone.bandcamp.com/track/my-overdue-library-fines

Apologies to Mr. Monnone.

I am ashamed to admit I missed this one. I say that because I actually know Mr Monnone. I'm sorry, Mark!

How could you leave off "Marion the Librarian" from "Music Man"?

Lilting music, bouncy underscore- this is Meredith Wilson at his best: ".....If I fell, and I busted my whatcha-ma-call-it, I would lie on your floor unnoticed, till my body had turned to caaaaa-rion. Madame Librar-ion."

oh wow!

oh wow!

Library-related, at least

The hero of "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967" on John Mayer's "Born and Raised" album uses his "will to work hard / and a library card" to successfully design, build, and launch his own one-man submarine. :)

My Morning Jacket - Librarian

https://youtu.be/U5Es1flO_2M

Library songs

Tom Chapin's Library Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjyg-6Sd91A

Library Songs

YES!! Tom Chapin's Library Song is a great one! For younger kids. You're never too young to learn songs about the Library! :)

My Morning Jacket - Librarian

My Morning Jacket - Librarian https://youtu.be/U5Es1flO_2M

My Morning Jacket "Librarian"

My Morning Jacket "Librarian"

Marion The Music Man

Marion The Music Man

"Librarian" / My Morning Jacket

"Librarian" / My Morning Jacket

From the movies.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7N9C2JS9mWc

Libsongs - Songs about libraries, librarians and reading.

I started a playlist a while ago. It's slightly more generic, because it includes songs about reading in general. Anyway, quite a few titles should be on topic here ) https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCB8DE6A0D13AA628

Songs about Library School

I did two songs making fun of library school. [They, ummm, haven’t exactly become classics yet.] I’ve Had Enough of This Library Stuff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0qGze5CBDo The LIS Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmTMAlzoXPI I know I’ve seen one or two pretty funny raps about Melvil Dewey on YouTube . . . .

Library Girl by Reina del Cid

Library Girl by Reina del Cid https://youtu.be/wPSV8CsshnM?list=RDwPSV8CsshnM

Lunch Money - "I Love My

Lunch Money - "I Love My Library" https://lunchmoneymusic.bandcamp.com/track/i-love-my-library

Library Songs

Here's one I love: The Librarian by Honor Finnegan https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=y6JrWYbp500

Library Magic

From The Head and the Heart https://youtu.be/eduL4-8cYHM

Overdue fines from the Decemberists

In the second half of the song "California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade" by the Decemberists, the singer says "I figured I had paid my debts to society/ by paying my overdue fines/ at the Multnomah County Library"?

Adam Benitez - Uncatalogable

Adam Benitez has a bunch of library related song on his album "Uncatalogable". What about song titles like "ILL from hell", "Do the DDC" and "Cumbia de la biblioteca" - you'll find it on Spotify.

Library songs

Great to see Karen on there! I will head over to New Zealand to suggest For the Love of Ash Grey by The Verlaines. You took me down to Alexandria, showed me where the library stood...

Good call, Darren. Love The

Good call, Darren. Love The Verlaines!

Rock Library Rock

Great list Philip Id like to add this song Rock Library Rock. It contains the line "you can put my books in the Dewey order..." amongst others . I know, as I wrote it ! Here's the link to the band and CD. https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/store/music/album/the-barnstormers/gonna-get-my-gun-ep/8d6kgwzwcrmt

Here's another twenty for you

These are some more songs for you, often a more evangelical or protest nature. You'll see I've added your suggestions too :-)

MJ

Do you know that Michael Jackson song 'Liberian Girl'? It has THE BEST worst film clip. I digress. SO many people pronounce 'librarian' as 'liberian' so I have simply adopted that song as being about my profession. Sing 'Librarian Girl' and sing it loud!

Librarian song

Haunted Love - "Librarian" - naughty patron comes to a sticky end... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GDT6oVCdCE

Hefner - "The Librarian"

Hefner - "The Librarian" Piano Magic - "I am the sub-librarian"

Wrapped Up In Books

I think the closest Belle & Sebastian has come is 'Wrapped Up in Books' which is more bookstore than library - and in their song 'Cat with the Cream' contains a library lyric: Praying for the cat with the cream Praying for the cat with the cream I studied you in history I studied in the library In days of old when knights were bold They'd settle it with sword and shield In days of old when knights were bold It's settled by the king

Librarian songs

My wife's name is Karen, and she's a librarian, retired. And I play drums. We laughed.

Joe Uveges!

I'm not sure this would hit anyone's top ten list but this slightly ribald librarian song and it's folksy patter always makes me grin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB4HvVEMFig Sweet Librarian (mentioned upthread) is also a Librarian Mixtape Staple of mine.

Ask the DJ by Mr Hudson and

Ask the DJ by Mr Hudson and the Library. Scores for song, band name, and having seen them play a gig in a public library. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z-Guka6yIg

Ten Songs about Libraries

I remember this as a public service announcement on television. We had a copy of the sheet music in our branch's vertical file years ago. (I work for NYPL.) https://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/library-song/index.htm

Seems like she forgot all about the library

like she told her old man now...

Belle & Sebastian does have

Belle & Sebastian does have one called "Wrapped Up in Books," and the music video is set in a library. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBU-MxydbWQ

Song about being a "Librarian"

This song is by Jonathan Rundman has always been my favorite: https://jonathanrundman.bandcamp.com/track/librarian

I second that.

I second that.

And don't forget "Libraries

And don't forget "Libraries gave us power" from the Manic Street Preachers' glorious Design For Life https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TfEoVxy7VDQ

A new underground one from 2016!

"At the Library" by Chica Non Grata is a community project by 10 musicians, young and old. So catchy! https://soundcloud.com/chica-non-grata/at-the-library

YouTube Plalist

Thank you NYPL! I've saved them in a YouTube playlist so I can listen to 'em all while I work https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_ApfHoY9NEXSSViEVkz1HgbZOj64lpWG

My Morning Jacket

The Librarian by My Morning Jacket

Who knew?!

Who knew there were so many great library songs?! Saved to a "bookish" playlist. Thanks!

"Library Magic" by The Head

"Library Magic" by The Head and the Heart is a gem!

Reference Librarian song

Here's a bragging blues I wrote: "Reference Librarian" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWWIHAOiaho&list=PLK0tYVGyTwrLIDrMqrJbPGh4oygoH4ijz&index=4

a whole list of songs about libraries/ians

hope there are some new ones from already listed!: https://kcls.bibliocommons.com/list/share/205694124_broo/401189687_songs_about_libraries

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