Elizabeth Skene
Elizabeth Skene

24 Awesome Librarian Tattoos

Elizabeth Skene
Elizabeth Skene

1. Card Catalog Sleeve

Elizabeth Skene has what might be the most awesomely complete librarian sleeve around, featuring a skull sitting on top of a book, with a graduation cap next to a card catalog with a banner reading “Peace and Knowledge.” There is also an open book with pages coming out and turning into birds. Let there be no doubt here: Elizabeth loves libraries. Tattoo by Frank William of the Chicago Tattoo Company.

2. Shhh

The folks behind 8 Bit Library, a librarian blog, wanted to encourage librarians to show their pride in their work, and thus they started Project Brand Yourself A Librarian. A lot of people joined in, including Lauren Comito, who got this lovely silhouette of a woman shushing noisy patrons.

While it seems like the icon merely represents the stereotypical librarian, it actually has far more meaning to Ms. Comito. After discovering that big budget cuts in her library system would mean she would be laid off, she created the image as a protest that library supporters won’t be silenced in the fight to keep their local branches open. She made hundreds of tees and organized a protest that resulted in most of the branch’s funding being restored. After that, it seemed only fitting to get the icon tattooed on her body. If you like the image, you can buy one of the shirts bearing the icon, which will also help support the fight to keep NYC public libraries open for years to come.

3. Super Librarian

Tattooed Librarians and Archivists reader Michelle is a high school librarian who wanted to get something to represent her career. She chose a superhero librarian and based the design on the old-school DC character Mary Marvel and had it inked by Chris Cockrill of Avalon II Tattoo. I think the world could use a few more super librarians, don’t you?

4. Library Icon

Flickr user infowidget also participated in Project Brand Yourself a Librarian by getting the classic library symbol tattooed on her inner wrist.

5. The Book Tree

Here’s another “Brand Yourself” participant, this time tattooed by Anne Marsh of Nemesis Tattoo. Flickr user bookishJulia got the library icon underneath the roots of a tree that has sprung from the pages of a book.

6. Dewey Decimal Number

Flickr user Cardamom is so proud of her role as a children’s librarian that she got the Dewey Decimal number for books on operating libraries for children. Of course, only those well-versed in the decimal system numbers will actually get that reference without having to look it up.

7. Harry Potter Dewey Decimal Number

Great White Snark reader Becca is a full-time librarian who loves Harry Potter. How much does she love the series? Enough to get its Dewey Decimal number tattooed across her back in the iconic font, colored Slytherin green.

8. Egyptian Goddess

Just looking at this piece you’ll recognize it as a librarian tattoo, but what makes LiveJournal user Oh Chris’ tattoo by Kristen at Artisanal Tattoo really great are how many details he has hidden inside the design. For example, the hieroglyphics are phonetic transliterations for the names of his family members and the two open books have images symbolizing his favorite childhood books – The BFG and Jabberwock.

9. Librarian Skull

Prefer your ink a little more hardcore than most of these librarian tattoos? Then, you’ll probably approve of Jason Puckett’s tattoo by Ron Hendon of Midnight Iguana Tattooing that features a bespectacled skull with “crossbooks” and a “librarian” banner.

10. Voodoo Reader

Jim McClusky is a librarian in Washington, so obviously he thinks reading is pretty darn important, even if you’re only a poor little voodoo doll. Artwork by Mary J. Hoffman, tattoo by Curtis James of Anchor Tattoo.

11. Tarot Card

Flickr user whatnot’s friend Diane got this great librarian tarot card featuring a bee-keeping skeleton. I don’t know what makes this skeleton a librarian, but I definitely love the artwork.

12. Where the Wild Children Are

Heather Warren of the Philadelphia Free Library has this amazing children’s literary sleeve featuring characters from famous titles such as Where the Wild Things Are, The Little Prince, Matilda, The Giving Tree, and more. Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing spotted her work, done by Bird of the Black Vulture Gallery, and was kind enough to share it with the net in general.

13 and 14. Beautiful Book Goodness

Reader Melissa Deemer shared her ink with other fans of our At the Libraries column.

As you can see, both her library shield and her open book pieces are absolutely stunning. She also has a delightful “Dewey Ale” design featuring a stein bearing the Dewey digits for “beverage technology.”

15. There’s Not Much More to Life Than Books

Anyone who reads profusely has had someone, at some point, tell them “there’s more to life than books”—but, as any fan of The Smiths can tell you, “not much more.” This wonderful Smiths-inspired design was sent to Tattooed Librarians and Archivists by a library technician and MLIS student who works at a Bay Area high school and got the piece as a 31st birthday present. The artwork was done by Dan Gilsdorf at Tattoo 13 in Oakland.

16. Shhhhhh

If there’s one thing everyone has heard from a librarian at one point or another in their childhoods, it’s “shhh.” And while some librarians try to discredit this stereotype, others embrace it—including this youth services supervisor who works in a New Jersey public library. This cute piece, submitted to Tattooed Librarians and Archivists, was done at Tattooville in Neptune, New Jersey.

17. The Dewey Cutter

Reader Kati Donaghy shared this great Dewey tattoo with us in the comments of our first librarian tattoos article, calling it her “spine label.” She pointed out that her choice of numbers even includes a Cutter number—a code that allows librarians to arrange books alphabetically by the author’s last name. That’s important because it means she was not only able to include a Dewey number for “Biography in the library's role in culture,” but she was also able to include her own Cutter number that means “DonK.”

18. A Naughty Librarian

A Tattooed Librarians and Archivists reader submitted this great pinup tattoo that she got to celebrate earning her Masters of Library and Information Science. It seems particularly fitting that the pinup librarian also has tattoos.

19. Public Library Pride

Tattooed Librarians and Archivists reader Amy is a librarian at a small library in the Florida Panhandle. As you can tell, she’s a big fan of public libraries—especially the one where she works.

20. Where the Reading Begins

One librarian submitted this great Shel Silverstein tattoo to the Tattoo Lit Tumblr, which is dedicated exclusively to literary tattoos (though most of the contributors are not librarians). The site is operated by the group who put together the book The Word Made Flesh, which I highly suggest checking out if you just can’t get enough great pics of literary tattoos.

21. Read or Die

Another submitter to the Tattoo Lit Tumblr shared this old school style tattoo depicting a skull atop a pile of books. The tattoo was a celebration of that person’s educational choice as he or she is a library science student specializing in rare books and manuscripts.

22. Much Ado About Books

A Master of Library Science with a concentration in Archives Management sent this Much Ado About Nothing quote tattoo into Tattooed Librarians and Archivists. She got the tattoo from Moose Tattoo and Piercings of Vermont and chose the line because she wrote her undergraduate thesis on the play.

23. Alphabetical Awesome

Reader Elizabeth Wisker writes, “I have a degree in library and information science. Here's my alphabet tattoo... pretty sure I’ll love it when I’m 95, and here's hoping I live that long.”

24. It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

How do you say goodbye when you leave your old job? Even if you have only positive memories of the position, chances are you probably still won’t get the logo of your old company tattooed on you, but for librarian Dan Lee, permanently inking the Broome Public Library’s logo into his skin was the perfect way to end that chapter of his life.

Special thanks to Tattooed Librarians and Archivists, which features all sorts of fantastic ink from librarians, archivists, curators and similarly employed individuals. While we try to focus on librarian tattoos based on the careers of a librarian, the site provides a great look into all types of tattoos people in the industry choose to get.

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iStock
18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
iStock
iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
11 Things You Might Not Know About Johann Sebastian Bach
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images

Johann Sebastian Bach is everywhere. Weddings? Bach. Haunted houses? Bach. Church? Bach. Shredding electric guitar solos? Look, it’s Bach! The Baroque composer produced more than 1100 works, from liturgical organ pieces to secular cantatas for orchestra, and his ideas about musical form and harmony continue to influence generations of music-makers. Here are 11 things you might not know about the man behind the music.

1. PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT WHEN TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY.

Some people celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 21. Other people light the candles on March 31. The correct date depends on whom you ask. Bach was born in Thuringia in 1685, when the German state was still observing the Julian calendar. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the dates by 11 days. And while most biographies opt for the March 31 date, Bach scholar Christopher Wolff firmly roots for Team 21. “True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700,” he told Classical MPR, “but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid.”

2. HE WAS THE CENTER OF A MUSICAL DYNASTY.

Bach’s great-grandfather was a piper. His grandfather was a court musician. His father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter, and kettledrum player. At least two of his uncles were composers. He had five brothers—all named Johann—and the three who lived to adulthood became musicians. J.S. Bach also had 20 children, and, of those who lived past childhood, at least five became professional composers. According to the Nekrolog, an obituary written by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "[S]tarting with Veit Bach, the founding father of this family, all his descendants, down to the seventh generation, have dedicated themselves to the profession of music, with only a few exceptions."

3. BACH TOOK A MUSICAL PILGRIMAGE THAT PUTS EVERY ROAD TRIP TO WOODSTOCK TO SHAME.

In 1705, 20-year-old Bach walked 280 miles—that's right, walked—from the city of Arnstadt to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear a concert by the influential organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He stuck around for four months to study with the musician [PDF]. Bach hoped to succeed Buxtehude as the organist of Lübeck's St. Mary's Church, but marriage to one of Buxtehude's daughters was a prerequisite to taking over the job. Bach declined, and walked back home.

4. HE BRAWLED WITH HIS STUDENTS.

One of Bach’s first jobs was as a church organist in Arnstadt. When he signed up for the role, nobody told him he also had to teach a student choir and orchestra, a responsibility Bach hated. Not one to mince words, Bach one day lost patience with a error-prone bassoonist, Johann Geyersbach, and called him a zippelfagottist—that is, a “nanny-goat bassoonist.” Those were fighting words. Days later, Geyersbach attacked Bach with a walking stick. Bach pulled a dagger. The rumble escalated into a full-blown scrum that required the two be pulled apart.

5. BACH SPENT 30 DAYS IN JAIL FOR QUITTING HIS JOB.

When Bach took a job in 1708 as a chamber musician in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he once again assumed a slew of responsibilities that he never signed up for. This time, he took it in stride, believing his hard work would lead to his promotion to kapellmeister (music director). But after five years, the top job was handed to the former kapellmeister’s son. Furious, Bach resigned and joined a rival court. As retribution, the duke jailed him for four weeks. Bach spent his time in the slammer writing preludes for organ.

6. THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS WERE A FAILED JOB APPLICATION.

Around 1721, Bach was the head of court music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Unfortunately, the composer reportedly didn’t get along with the prince’s new wife, and he started looking for a new gig. (Notice a pattern?) Bach polished some manuscripts that had been sitting around and mailed them to a potential employer, Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. That package, which included the Brandenburg Concertos—now considered some of the most important orchestral compositions of the Baroque era—failed to get Bach the job [PDF].

7. HE WROTE ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COFFEE JINGLES.

Bach apparently loved coffee enough to write a song about it: "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" ("Be still, stop chattering"). Performed in 1735 at Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, the song is about a coffee-obsessed woman whose father wants her to stop drinking the caffeinated stuff. She rebels and sings this stanza:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

8. IF BACH CHALLENGED YOU TO A KEYBOARD DUEL, YOU WERE GUARANTEED TO BE EMBARRASSED.

In 1717, Louis Marchand, a harpsichordist from France, was invited to play for Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and performed so well that he was offered a position playing for the court. This annoyed the court’s concertmaster, who found Marchand arrogant and insufferable. To scare the French harpsichordist away, the concertmaster hatched a plan with his friend, J.S. Bach: a keyboard duel. Bach and Marchand would improvise over a number of different styles, and the winner would take home 500 talers. But when Marchand learned just how talented Bach was, he hightailed it out of town.

9. SOME OF HIS MUSIC MAY HAVE BEEN COMPOSED TO HELP INSOMNIA.

Some people are ashamed to admit that classical music, especially the Baroque style, makes them sleepy. Be ashamed no more! According to Bach’s earliest biographer, the Goldberg Variations were composed to help Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling overcome insomnia. (This story, to be fair, is disputed.) Whatever the truth, it hasn’t stopped the Andersson Dance troupe from presenting a fantastic Goldberg-based tour of performances called “Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.” Sleep researchers have also suggested studying the tunes’ effects on sleeplessness [PDF].

10. HE WAS BLINDED BY BOTCHED EYE SURGERY.

When Bach was 65, he had eye surgery. The “couching” procedure, which was performed by a traveling surgeon named John Taylor, involved shoving the cataract deep into the eye with a blunt instrument. Post-op, Taylor gave the composer eye drops that contained pigeon blood, mercury, and pulverized sugar. It didn’t work. Bach went blind and died shortly after. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to botch more musical surgeries. He would perform the same procedure on the composer George Frideric Handel, who also went blind.

11. NOBODY IS 100 PERCENT CONFIDENT THAT BACH IS BURIED IN HIS GRAVE.

In 1894, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Leipzig wanted to move the composer’s body out of the church graveyard to a more dignified setting. There was one small problem: Bach had been buried in an unmarked grave, as was common for regular folks at the time. According to craniologist Wilhelm His, a dig crew tried its best to find the composer but instead found “heaps of bones, some in many layers lying on top of each other, some mixed in with the remains of coffins, others already smashed by the hacking of the diggers.” The team later claimed to find Bach’s box, but there’s doubt they found the right (de)composer. Today, Bach supposedly resides in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church.

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