Rhode Island's librarians are taking on the outdated image of their profession as dowdy sticks-in-the-mud with an effort to showcase a kind of ink not usually associated with stacks of books: tattoos.
"Tattooed Librarians of the Ocean State," a 2014 calendar that's being released by the Rhode Island Library Association features 12 librarians — 10 women and two men — and their tattoos.
"It seems to be a lot of the young people entering the profession now have tattoos. It really shows how the profession is changing. It's not your stereotypically little old gray lady with a bun anymore," said Colleen LeComte, 31, who works in the Newport and Portsmouth public libraries.
The month of May features LeComte and the ruby slipper tattoo she has on her right ankle. In the photo, she wears a pair of ruby slippers and is reading "The Wizard of Oz," her favorite book.
LeComte suggested the tattoo calendar as a fundraiser after hearing about a similar one in Massachusetts last year. Librarians in places including Texas and the Pacific Northwest have made similar calendars.
The library association is a nonprofit that serves and advocates for libraries and librarians and promotes the profession, said Jenifer Bond, president of the group and a librarian at Bryant University. She said the calendar is a way to remind people of the importance of libraries at a time when many communities across the state have cut or frozen their libraries' budgets. It's also a way to attract younger people to the profession and spread the word that cool people work in libraries.
"We're trying to give a voice to the up-and-coming generation of librarians," she said. "We're not your grandmother's library."
The calendar costs $12 and is available for sale on the Rhode Island Library Association's website.
The calendar's cover features an understated but clever tattoo: a finger raised to lips in a "hush" position. Down the finger are inked the letters "SHH."
The tattoo belongs to Emily Grace Mehrer, 25, who works for AskRI.org, a statewide reference and resource center, and at the North Scituate Public Library. Mehrer has been a librarian for a year but has been volunteering in libraries since she was 13. She organized the calendar in part because she wanted people to know libraries are evolving and aren't just places to get books.
In reality, they are hubs of technology for a community. They lend e-books, and some even let patrons borrow Kindles or other e-readers to take them for a test drive. They hold movie nights, run literacy programs and discussion groups, and have become vital community and social spaces, librarians said.
"For the most part," Mehrer said, "we don't have any cause to shush people."