When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when you're feeling confused in the Age of Information Overload, simply turn to Mr. Library Man. Then you won't feel so bad.
Q. Dear Library Man: Is it your ambition to become the powerful Librarian of Congress?
A. You caught me. These 21 years at a junior high library in west Modesto have just been a stepping stone in my scheme to dominate the library universe.
Q. Library Man: Since you're in your third decade as a librarian, how will you know when it's time to retire?
A. Not so fast, whippersnapper. I haven't yet reached my peak, but just in case, I've asked my wife to watch for warning signs. For example, if I start using anthropomorphic punctuation, those things called emoticons :-), then it could be time to retire. If I use the word "persnickety" more than once a year, that could be it. Or if I ever ask my wife to wear matching outfits with me, it's over.
Q. Hey Library Person: Does being a librarian automatically make you a member of Oprah's Book Club?
A. Nice try. If you think you can trick me into saying something snarky about Oprah, you're wrong. In fact, if anyone sees her, tell her I've read her latest selection, "Pillars of the Earth," all 983 pages. I'm serious.
Q. Mr. Library Man: What are these "manga" books that are so popular with kids these days? Should we be afraid?
A. "Manga" is just the Japanese word for comics (or "whimsical pictures"). Age- appropriate manga is harmless except it must be read backward while standing on your head.
Q Yo, Librarian: Now that your Library Man bit is catching on, when can we expect the merchandising -- Library Man T-shirts, coffee mugs, key chains and other swag?
A. I'm offended by your question. Mr. Library Man refuses to tarnish his image by peddling schlocky commodities, but if you know a good agent please pass along my contact information.
Q. Library Man: I've heard that some public libraries, like those in Jackson County, Ore., are now being run by private, for-profit companies. Can this be good?
A. Hey, you're not for socialized literature and information, are you? Why shouldn't Halliburton or Blackwater run our libraries? They're champions of democratic principles, diversity and intellectual freedom.
Q. Dear Library Man: Since you work in a public school, aren't you really a school media specialist or something?
A. The preferred title is biblio-hero.
Q Librarian: Aren't school textbooks as good as library books?
A. Excellent question. Textbooks are written for and adopted by committees of officials who carry clipboards with lots of statistics, so the wonderfulness is guaranteed. Experts now realize that learning inspiration happens only when all students across the state are on the same page of the same textbook on the same day, following the same scripted instructions. Not surprisingly, when average Americans are polled about their favorite books, or which books have had the greatest impacts on their lives, the vast majority pick state-mandated school textbooks. (Luckily my teacher colleagues and superiors appreciate sarcasm.)
Q. Mr. Librarian: Have you ever seen the Monty Python skit "Gorilla Librarian"?
A. Sure, that's the one with Graham Chapman's classic line: "I don't believe libraries should be drab places where people sit in silence, and that's been the main reason for our policy of employing wild animals as librarians."
Barker is the librarian at Mark Twain Junior High School. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.