The Linebacker Librarian

My Husband: The Linebacker Librarian

by Jaclyn Butz

JButz2Jesse Butz is 6’2, 365 pounds and looks like a football linebacker. Once, forever ago, he DID play football, but that was many years and a broken back ago…now he’s a librarian.

When people walk up to the reference desk at the public library where he works, they often stare aghast when he walks up to assist them. They always ask, Could you tell me where to find the librarian?

Once, when he went on one of his first job interviews for a librarian position, the woman interviewing him cowered behind her desk, shaking with fear and asked him to leave because he “wasn’t what they were looking for” before he could utter more than a polite hello.

I admit, I was a skeptic when he pitched the idea to me six years ago: he would leave his lucrative retail management to be a librarian. Before he could become an “official” librarian, he would need to get a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. This was the guy who had NEVER READ A BOOK until the day we met ten years ago. This was the guy who played football, baseball, and could squash a tin can with his bare hand.  This was the guy who routinely lifted my 180 pound body over his head with one arm. You can understand my dismay and hesitation at this suggestion.  But he did it.

The road to librarianship was rough: his graduate classes were filled with women. He didn’t fit the typical librarian mold, and as a former corporate manager, his ideas were often seen as too harsh and unrealistic in the library community. It was routinely assumed that he was gay throughout his quest to become a librarian, because straight, football playing dads don’t become librarians, right?!

I’m here to tell you that they do. In fact, they become really awesome librarians with incredible, innovative ideas that improve the library world.

We all have preconceived notions about what a librarian is: mine used to involve a little old lady with a stamp, checking out my books to me and saying, “Shhhhh!” when I talked too loudly in the stacks of books. Having met numerous librarians over the last couple of years, I can assure you that this view of libraries and librarians is completely false and outdated. No one stamps anything anymore, and the library is about the sharing of information and technology. Also, that weird, damp and kind of moldy smell that we all remember from our childhood library? Gone. They have humidifiers now and the temperature and humidity are carefully controlled by an electronic system to protect the documents and the advanced technology that most libraries house.

Libraries are a new breed, and so, in turn, are librarians. Anyone can be a librarian, even a 365 pound former football player.

I can assure you that my husband didn’t become a librarian for the money, and he certainly didn’t do it for prestige. He did it because he loves knowledge and truly enjoys helping people find information.

Welcome to the new world of libraries: meet your new librarian. He doesn’t wear a shawl or have gray hair pulled into a bun, but he IS the smartest guy in the room AND he can help you rebuild your website if you need to…

JButzJaclyn Butz lives in DeKalb, IL with her husband, Jesse and 8 year old twin sons. She has a degree in Corporate/Organizational Communications from Northern Illinois University and works full time as a Practice Manager at a Dental Office. In her free time, she…wait, what free time?! Mostly she does laundry and tries to keep her home from sinking into a cluttered abyss. Jaclyn is on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Jesse Butz “Linebacker Librarian” lives in Dekalb, IL with his lovely wife Jaclyn and their twin sons. He is the Head of Adult Services and Information Technology at Sycamore Public Library. Jesse has a Bachelor degree from Northern Illinois University and an MLIS from the University of Illinois. Before he was a librarian, he was a Regional Director in a retail environment. He spends his free time golfing, and avoiding the “honey do” list that his wife updates daily.

  5 comments for “The Linebacker Librarian

  1. Rob
    August 13, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Welcome to the club! 240lb former rugby player with a beard and tattoos here! :)

    Was refereeing a game once and heard a kid say: “That guy was our librarian! He’s so cool … ” (Despite the fact that I’m as nerdy as they come, I appreciated the sentiment.) But seriously, I’ve found that I’ve been a great influence and not just on boys, but on athletes of both genders; a constant reminder that there’s nothing wrong with being a jock that likes to read or who’s into ‘nerdy’ things.

  2. Pamela King
    August 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    I have been in the educational field for over a quarter of a century. I have taught everything from Headstart-3 year olds to eighth graders. The bulk of my experience is in either Early Childhood or the Library. I did not come by being a librarian the traditional way. I participated in an Alternative Certification Program. After many years and with the introduction of technology to the field I finally earned my Master’s degree in Educational and Media Design. I just couldn’t bear to sit through catalogging classes! I became a librarian so I could share the love of “story”! When people find out that I am a librarian….they are shocked because I am very talkative and social and do not fit the general public’s idea of a librarian. As a matter of fact, my first job in college workstudy job was for the library and I was fired because they said, “Pam, you are just a little bit too loud and talkative!” Go figure! Currently, I work on an intermediate level serving 7th & 8th graders. I put unique colored chalk in my hair and have set up a “Teen Library” to serve as bibliotheraphy to my urban population. I am know at The_Friendly_Librarian on Instagram.

  3. CMC
    August 10, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    I do like your husband does, and take it as a compliment when someone says a librarian is not what they expected my job to be.
    I once was sitting in the break room, discussing the finer points of a big block Chevy. I walked out, and I was informed later that after the door closed, someone said “I dont think he is a real librarian.”

    I also agree with SPL that its very interesting to see some of the things said by people who tend to see themselves as very progressive about male librarians as well.

  4. Emily
    August 10, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Let’s hear it for the non-traditional-looking or acting librarians!! It’s true that anyone who works hard and loves what they do can be a librarian. I constantly get the “you don’t look like a librarian” or “No way! You’re a librarian!? I don’t believe it!” However, I don’t think that this is just a librarian problem but a universal job problem. People come in all different shapes, sizes, looks, counter-looks that have experiences that would benefit all jobs. It’s great to see librarians and other job seekers who are qualified get the job with sleeves, and I’m not talking about cardigan sleeves. We will get to the point when it doesn’t matter, slowly but surely, because many of us help and serve the patrons, who also come in all shapes, looks, and sizes, we need to too!

  5. SPL
    August 7, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Great article. I can appreciate what Jesse’s probably gone thru. I’m a law librarian, about the same dimensions as your husband (although no one’s ever mistaken me for gay…). People have told me I don’t look or act the part of a librarian, which I take as a compliment. The biggest issue for me has been going to job interviews and dealing with the preconceptions of the people on the other side of the desk – usually very stereotypical academic or law firm librarians (of a particular gender) who are visibly aghast at the idea of having someone like me on their staff – regardless of my skills and qualifications. My experiences have show me that bias and sexism are not a qualities only exhibited by white, conservative males – female librarians, usually very liberal (in their own mind), can and will exhibit just as much bias toward anyone who doesn’t fit their idea of what or how a librarian should look like or act like.

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