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Nerd or Geek?

Apr - 23 - 2006
Nicole C. Engard

Library Juice has an interesting comparison between these 2 types of people (Nerds & Geeks).

Well there is a definite difference; in fact there is little overlap between the two groups, although there are a few characteristics in common.

I find the list of characteristics that follow this comment very interesting – and would like to know where this nerd (his word) librarian did his research :)

Typical traits of a geek:

  • Very techie
  • Identifies with science
  • Into science fiction, fantasy, and/or cyberpunk literature
  • Possibly into live action role playing games
  • Possibly into BDSM
  • Possibly into graphic novels/manga, etc.
  • Knows how to program a computer and does it often
  • Has a blog
  • Interested in popular culture
  • May or may not have done well in school

Typical traits of a nerd:

  • Reads a lot: philosophy, serious literature, science, history, academic subjects
  • Unusually excited, passionate, worried and/or earnest about intellectual matters that most people find boring or irrelevant
  • Got straight A's in school
  • Not interested in popular culture, except possibly in a truly anthropological sense
  • Prone to injuries associated with excessive or intense reading

Nerds and geeks both:

  • Are bad dancers
  • Are bad at sports
  • Have trouble getting a date, even with other nerds/geeks

Now – what am I? You’d guess geek right? Well I’m apparently an anomaly – I’m both – and at the same time I don’t fit into the mold of most of either.

  • Very techie
  • Into science fiction, fantasy, and/or cyberpunk literature
  • Knows how to program a computer and does it often
  • Has a blog
  • Reads a lot: philosophy, serious literature, science, history, academic subjects
  • Not interested in popular culture, except possibly in a truly anthropological sense
  • Prone to injuries associated with excessive or intense reading
  • Are bad dancers
  • Are bad at sports

But I think there are a lot of other librarian characteristics that are missing from Rory’s list. What about obsessively organized – and not just at work – but in their home life? What about a thirst for knowledge (which I guess could fall under “Reads a lot”)? What about a desire to help others? Aren’t these important characteristics?

I read this post giggling a bit – and I’m not sure if it was meant to instill that reaction or if it was serious. If it was all serious – we have a big problem.

I think librarianship is an intellectual profession, and I think bibliographic knowledge is more important to our ability to serve patrons and students than knowledge of technology. I think that the current advance by the geek front within librarianship is succeeding in replacing an important intellectual knowledge base – that is, a store of bibliographic knowledge combined with knowledge of the principles of librarianship – with a technical knowledge base that is already quite well-established by other professional groups, namely web designers and programmers. Thus, it seems to me that the success of the geek army in the battle against the nerds may end up being a losing battle for the profession of librarianship as a whole

(emphasis added by me)

Battle? Army? Why must it come to that? Why can’t we teach each other? Why can’t the techie librarians teach the nerd librarians and make their lives easier with computer programs and databases? Why can’t the nerd librarians educate the techie librarians in the way of “bibliographic knowledge” so that in the end we have a race of super librarians?

The reality is that the patrons are changing – they want things quicker and easier – they don’t want to open that book and browse the index (like I love to do). I’m not saying this is right – I’m just saying that we have to adapt – we have to provide a searchable index and we have to know how to use it or our patrons are going to turn to less reliable free search options. We need the combination of skills (nerd & geek) in order to provide reliable resources for our users – without alienating them (which is what we’re doing if we say “If you were like me you’d know how to use the book”).

The problem is – Rory is right – there is a divide – and that’s what we’ve all been talking about again and again. In my opinion (I guess this is a geek trait) I’m tired of talking and I’m taking action. I’m out there teaching the techie things and I’m heading back to school to learn the book stuff. In the end I plan on being one of the super librarians (my term) – wouldn’t you rather be called super than nerd or geek?

3 Responses so far.

  1. elfie says:

    Hm, I have some characteristics from both sides… Honestly I don’t think you can draw a proper non-inclusive list. I’d have to say I’m a Geek, except really I don’t know that much about technology… Of course I could be normal… but somehow I don’t think so. Maybe they need to create a third category? hee.

  2. Bob the Chef says:

    I don’t completely agree with the above characterizations, and I certainly don’t believe that anyone in their right mind would use either term pridefully to describe themselves (sorrowfully or as an honest appraisal, yes).

    Both geek and nerd are pejorative terms which suggest, at the very least, the presence of serious deficiencies in an individual. Take the term “geek”, for example, which originally meant “fool” and in its Dutch variant (as the word is of Germanic origin), still retains a similar meaning. At some point, the term, close to its present meaning, made the transition from pejorative to complementary, within geekdom. Privations were then exalted as virtues. This phenomenon is not unique; feelings of rejection from some community often lead to the formation of new communities. In the case of more militant geeks, the wholesale negation of the essential values of the “rejecting community” is a sort of Coue method which functions to repress the underlying feeling of inferiority. Inevitably, this approach leads to even more bizarre behavior, often necessarily at odds with the perceived establishment, which is conflated with social phenomena in as many ways as Texans can prepare corn or BBQ or whatever the hell it is that they prepare in countless varieties.

    Geek, intrinsically, is someone with the following characteristics (note that these are not exclusive to the geek; some are shared by grandiose, ambitious, pompous snobs as well): an intellectual cretin or pseudo-intellectual lacking common sense (in the true sense); a gadget whore; trivial in personality; closed-minded; prideful and arrogant; boring and annoying; short-sighted; stunted psychological development.

    The geek will doubtless feel great offense at the mere suggestion that they exhibit any of these privations. The reaction is to be expected, since the geek’s lack of understanding of these privations, coupled with the lack of self-awareness (and the willingness to conform to an archetype projected by the community) renders him/her blind to the obvious, namely, that they suck, and instead of dealing with the suck, they praise the suck, and distract themselves with something else. You can always count on a geek to maintain the contradictory lust for illusive Hollywood characterizations of anything “brainy” along with a zeal for dabbling in its real analogue.

    The need to identify with “geekdom” per se implies at least some of these characteristics. However, some identify with geekdom because of a misperception of what it means to be a geek. We can brush this off as the success of geek propagandists.

    Nerd, to me, is a nebulous term. At best, it describes a socially incompetent individual with some niche interest. I am unable to elaborate further, but the meaning is pejorative and suggests someone unpleasant, smarmy and unctuous, very much like the geek.

    I personally would prefer to destroy the visages of geekdom and nerddom, and characterized traits in other people, as well as myself, in a more sophisticated fashion, and not the brain-dead labels above. It only serves to encourage eugenics (although admittedly, the reproduction mechanism for geeks is unknown to science, which presents such endeavors with a serious problem).

  3. WOW

    That pretty much was the geekiest nay nerdiest comment ever!


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