How Carleton is making its librarians stars


Wow, so much for the staid librarian.

I just came across the tweet that Carleton College has librarian trading cards — and sets going back to the 2005-2006 school year. (So they’re not really new, but new to me — and the idea seems to be catching on and inspiring others.)


They look like a really snazzy, geeky version of the trading cards that police began issuing trading cards to children years ago in California as a way to build a positive image and gain their trust. Recent themes have been a bit whimsical: old comic books and anime trading cards.

I talked to Matt Baily, the librarian pictured in the first card, who said:

“They offer us a way to be accessible and approachable to students. The library can be an intimidating place … We want something that’s not threatening, that makes us approachable so that students can ask questions.”

(Hey, sounds like the reasoning that the cops used.)

Carleton’s collection has attracted attention, including mentioned in a publication by the American Association of Law Libraries. The magazine also mentioned cards by Williams College Libraries, though the Williams cards aren’t nearly as slick.

Author Bret N. Christensen called the cards “another fresh outreach tool and alternative to the traditional business card”:

Because trading cards are colorful and eye-catching, they are less likely to be simply discarded or left in a book.

… Reference and Instruction Librarian Kristin Partlo at Laurence McKinley Gould Library noted that the cards act as a great referral tool. In addition to giving the cards to students in research classes and at the reference desk, university faculty are also encouraged to distribute them to their students.

This year the theme appears to be old jazz record album covers — complete with humorous mini song lists that riff off the librarian’s subject. (Check out the label on the record):

Bailey said some librarians hand out several hundred a year at various campus events and library orientation sessions.

(Man, that’s more than I give.)

Anyone know of other Minnesota schools that do this?