Do You Speak Geek?

Are you a book geek? A gaming geek? Do you geek the library?

If you read this column, chances are you are one or several of these. And if so, this is your week to speak out, to reach out, and to geek out.

Sometimes it is said that geek is the new chic but honestly, nerd-baiting is still a popular pastime in some circles. A few weeks ago, there was yet another case of deliberate public mockery of someone who can readily be called a geek.

Bullying and cyberbullying get a fair amount of critical attention these days. But is it somehow still okay to pick on the weird kid? No. It’s not.

A world-champion player of Magic: the Gathering (a card game I illustrated at least three dozen cards for, in my day) was held up for ridicule in a public forum for which the author gets paid every time someone clicks the link. Geeks are all over the Net and easily aroused, so making them mad is… a good way to increase your paycheck. That’s why I am not linking it, but honestly, that’s not the key story here anyway.

Instead of allowing this event to escalate into a flamewar of negativity, author and game designer Monica Valentinelli saw an opportunity to make something positive happen instead. She put out a call to createSpeak Out with Your Geek Out for the week of Sept 12-16. For this week, geeks are enjoined to share their passionate enthusiasms in a positive uplifting way. If what makes your geeky heart thrill is your collection of Star Wars action figures or if it’s heirloom vegetable gardening, if it’s old-style Dungeons & Dragons games or family history and genealogy — this is the week to talk about it, to wear your geekiest t-shirt, and to celebrate your fandoms. But most of all, to write about it, on blogs and Tumblr, in LiveJournal and Facebook, to tweet with the hashtag #speakgeek.

To quote from the Speak Out website: this is about “being empowered to be who we are in the happiest and most positive way that we possibly can. To inspire others to share in what we love, to mentor those who want to learn, to support those who are afraid to be themselves. I look at Speak Out with your Geek Out as a way to be part of a community that blows the lid off of negative stereotypes on both sides of the equation. We’re not geek elites. We’re not victims who’ll take the bait. We are something new. We are Geeks who Speak.”

Quite rightly, she refuses to limit what “geek” means here. Narrow stereotypes are for tearing down, not building up.

Why am I writing about this crazy fringe topic here in the hallowed pages of Library Journal? Because OCLC’s “Geek the Library” is a community-based public awareness campaign “to inspire a conversation about our incredible public libraries and their urgent need for increased support. We hope you tell people what you geek, how the public library supports you and your community, and that everyone in your community benefits from the services your local library provides.”

The emphasis is my own, to make sure you don’t miss my point. Sound familiar? Consider their tagline: “Whatever you geek, the public library supports it all.”

I have long maintained that my particular brand(s) of geekery and my passion for libraries complement each other. Here is a chance for me to enjoin you to engage similarly. Find an opportunity to Speak Out with Your Geek Out for yourself. Blog, tweet, converse, and update your status with the things that you are a fan of, that make you silly-happy, that enthrall you like nothing else.

Next, talk to your geeky patrons, the anime-readers and the Halo players, the Potter fans and the Twilight fans alike. You don’t have to embrace everyone’s brand of geek personally, but you can — I think you should — support them in their enthusiasms for what they love. Not merely by passively not-disapproving, but by being positive and supportive. Maybe the overweight guy who checks out Star Wars book would really respond to you saying “Hey, I had someone else asking about which are the best authors writing in this universe — maybe you can tell me?” Maybe the elderly birdwatchers would relish the chance to tell you more about the varieties stopping in as autumn progresses. Maybe that tall, dark, handsome fellow would be glad to talk to you about which play he’s auditioning for this week.

Tell the teen girl who hides behind long bangs in her face about Speak Out with Your Geek Out. Maybe she needs to know there are others out there who managed to grow up happy and successful despite finding more friends on the written page than in the school yard — maybe because of the friends they found on the written page. Tell her she will find a whole tribe of others who love books the same way she does. Tell the boy shuffling through his Yu-Gi-Oh! cards that he’s got lots of company out there, and that the games he’s playing today prepare him to take on the world — and win — tomorrow.

This is a solid and powerful way to connect with your patrons — something most of us do with greater or lesser success and willingness. In this case it’s timely too.

Frankly, my fellow librarians, this should be a no-brainer for us to embrace. OCLC makes it crystal clear, it’s part of our job to support the entire community. Even the geeky ones.

Marian Call has even granted her work as an official anthem for the Speak Out with Your Geek Out week: “I’ll Still be a Geek After Nobody Thinks it’s Chic.” How geeky is that?? The music is perfect, and the lyrics are priceless. Give a listen. Take it to heart.

Game on and geek out!



  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for linking to Geek the Library. I wish I could participate with my school libraries – why does all the really cool library action happen in the US?
    Anyway, I get a lot of geeky kids here and I’m happy about it. I bought some RPG sourcebooks a while ago and it was a success, which made me (a passionate gamer) personally happy.

  2. Ms. Joneser says:

    I am a total nerd – have been all of my life. Now I find that it is somehow “cool”. Wow. I really am a late bloomer!