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Have you seen the Men of the Stacks calendar? It’s a calendar featuring 12 months of sexy male librarians, and it’s been mentioned on Oprah’s blog. If that doesn’t excite you, are you even human? If that doesn’t excite you, you should also know that Men of the Stacks is available for $19.99 (order it here), and that people all over the world, including in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands, and the U.S., have placed orders in the three days it’s been available. They’re the talk of Twitter (#menofthestacks). And, 100 percent of the profits go to the It Gets Better Project, a movement to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone. We spoke with Megan Perez, coordinator of the project (and Mr. November) about the calendar’s success thus far.
How do you feel about being on Oprah’s blog?
A lot of it hasn’t quite set in yet! There are also articles being floated around in Poland, Japan, Brazil…they’re actually writing about the calendar, which is great.
How did you decide to do Men of the Stacks?
It was a reaction to another library calendar that came out a couple of years ago, a calendar of “tattooed ladies of the library.” We shrugged our shoulders and thought, that just feeds the stereotype.There’s an entirely different demographic out there in the profession that rarely gets represented and is definitely not part of the stereotype. Even Oprah’s blog calling us “beefcake (male) librarians” indicates that people are expecting women.
In the summer of 2009, we started toying with the idea of making our own calendar to circulate among ourselves. We just didn’t get enough models; we didn’t really have our act together. A few months after that failure, one of our colleagues [Locke Jeffries Morrisey] who had worked with us on the idea passed away (the calendar is now dedicated to him). A few months later, my co-project manager, Trevor, brought the idea back up. This time we didn’t have any trouble finding 12 guys to be models.
I found a web designer, a woman I went to library school with, who agreed to do it for free. I made a mockup of the calendar and found a graphic designer, who did it for a small price.
And you’re Mr. November…
Trevor and I are both in the calendar. I’m November. I believe he’s August.
Did you get to pick your month?
We did get to pick our month! I think we claimed ours first. Most of the other guys didn’t have a preference, so we placed their photos where they would be best (July on the beach, for example).
Did you have a photographer take the pictures?
They were all self-submitted. That was one of the impediments early on — how do we get everyone together and take a photo? We were going to have a group shot. Most of these guys haven’t actually met each other. But it’s hard to get everyone together…
And the calendar is for a good cause…
We thought at first we’d donate to a national library fund that is against censorship and supports intellectual freedom. We contacted them last year, but they ultimately said no, that all fund-raisers needed to be approved by them ahead of time, among other things. As they were deciding that, we had been thinking of alternatives. I was sitting on my girlfriend’s couch writing a blog post for my own blog, my own story about how it gets better, and she walked through the living room and said, “That’s who you should be donating your money to.” All of the models were excited and happier to go in that direction. Then I found out that Dan Savage had spoken at a library conference in June. There’s a surprising serendipity there.
What kind of reactions are you getting?
I have been obsessively refreshing the site! The first day — we went live at 3:00 Wednesday — we got about 50,000 hits, and it was a 9-hour day. Yesterday we had over 60,000 hits, and today at noon we had 25,000. We’ve raised quite a bit of money in about 3 days. 100 percent of the proceeds are going to It Gets Better. The price is $19.99 and it costs $5 to print, so for each one It Gets Better gets $15.
It’s only been three days, and we have 500 fans on our Facebook page. It’s not all rainbows and puppies, though — there has been some negative feedback. People in some forums are trashing the concept of the calendar and the people behind it, and some people seem to have missed the point. They just kind of thought, it’s a bunch of librarians taking off their shirts.
What is the point, would you say?
This project has a twofold purpose: We want to rattle the stereotype of the librarian as it’s existed in the American consciousness for the last 150 years or so, and we want to do a greater good at the same time. We’re helping to serve something bigger than ourselves. This is not about trying to compete with a calendar of fireman — it’s about changing stereotypes and also supporting a noble cause, which is an anti-bullying campaign.
Where are most orders coming from?
It’s pretty widespread across the U.S., and we’re getting views from all over the world — Singapore, Northern Ireland, Turkey, Morocco… Our publish-on-demand service is called MagCloud, and they handle all the shipping and the billing; they’ll ship internationally. There are quite a few going to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.K. I see a bulk order in Japan. As for the U.S., orders are coming from all over. A lot from New York state and New Jersey, plus San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boston, Denver…
Where are the models from?
D.C., New Jersey, Texas, Florida, Arkansas…I think the furthest West we go is Arizona. One of our models is not American — he’s Filipino and is going to school in Canada.
Are you going to make this an annual thing?
People are joking about that! It makes me kind of anxious, but now we have a workflow in place, and people are asking to be in it. Our next plan is to translate the site into other languages.
Why did you decide to become a librarian?
I was living in New York — I used to live in Brooklyn. I had a job investigating cops, and it really stressed me out. I was trying to figure out my next move, and the woman I was dating said, you should work in a library again. It just kind of clicked. I had a friend who worked at the Cornell Library, and they were hiring. Two days later I had an interview and I was starting a new job in Ithaca. I stayed there for four years, then applied to library school at UNC, Chapel Hill, did my time there for two years, and then found a job at the University of Arkansas, where I was a visiting assistant professor. But I’m actually not a librarian anymore; I’m an independent contractor. I still support the mission and the vision of the library profession.
We’re making the site available in multiple languages, but we’re also planning a signing and reception the first or second week of December in New York City. We’re trying to figure out plans and sponsors now. We’re going to have to not do it in a library, because we want to have drinks!