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Rhode Island librarians seek to change image with tattoo calendar

By Daniel Lovering

BOSTON (Reuters) - Librarians in Rhode Island are showing off their tattoos in a new calendar designed to counter stereotypes about their profession and promote libraries as 21st century community hubs rather than mere book repositories.

The Rhode Island Library Association will publish the 2014 calendar, "Tattooed Librarians of the Ocean State," next month in an effort to change "outdated notions" about libraries and librarians, Jenifer Bond, the group's president, said on Thursday.

"We're not just book repositories," she said.

While books continue to be a mainstay, libraries also have become community centers that offer various services, access to technology and opportunities for career development and personal enrichment, she said.

The association hopes the calendar will also call attention to "how fun and rewarding the profession is," said Bond, 39, a reference librarian at Bryant University who does not have any tattoos.

The calendar features photos of 12 librarians from across the state, including 10 women and two men, displaying their tattoos along with books. Their tattoos include a dragonfly, ruby slippers emblazoned on an ankle, a ship's helm and anchor, and a book.

It was inspired by similar calendars produced by librarians in other states, including Massachusetts.

The group has received advance orders for hundreds of the calendars from customers in countries as far away as Australia, Finland, Germany, New Zealand and Singapore, Bond said.

"I thought only family and friends would be interested, not people in Australia," said Emily Grace Mehrer, a spokeswoman for the group and a reference librarian at AskRI.org, a state reference service. "I'm just really grateful."

Large numbers of children and older people tend to use libraries but not as many people in their 20s and 30s, even though libraries have plenty to offer them, said Mehrer. The calendar "kind of goes along with targeting that audience," she said.

"I never thought it would take off this way," said Mehrer, 25, who has 14 tattoos, including one on her forearm with the line "Teach Your Children," from the song made famous by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. "I just want everyone talking about libraries."

(This story has been corrected in paragraph 9 to attribute the quote to Emily Grace Mehrer and adjusts paragraph 10 by removing her affiliation, and first and middle names)

(Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

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