Not since then-Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown named Jacques Barzaghi director of that city’s Craft and Cultural Affairs Department has Gandalf made an appointment so intriguing as California State Librarian-designate Greg Lucas.
“I cracked up when I heard the news,” said one media veteran.
“Then I realized April Fool’s isn’t ‘til next week.”
Lucas, 55, is a longtime Capitol newspaper hack reporter, editor and blogger, trendy restaurant critic and public access TV star. Nominated Tuesday to be the 24th state librarian, a $142,968-a-year post, he is, a Brown flack said, “an independent thinker, a sharp writer and a keen observer.”
Several other adjectives come to mind, but hey, the guy deserves at least a brief honeymoon.
The man for the job: The appointment, according to the By God L.A. Times, predictably was greeted with outrage and derision by, you know, professionals in the field. Influential members of the far-flung Calbuzz Political Community and Pajama-Clad Troll Brigade, however, applauded Brown’s unconventional move, if only in hopes of witnessing a political spectacle when lawmakers whom Lucas has dissed for years take up his confirmation in the state Senate.
A voracious reader, at least when his lips are moving while perusing a book written in the phonetic alphabet, Lucas plans to overcome his lack of technical skills, Brown’s spokeshuman said, by taking classes “through San Jose State University’s library science program.” Go Spartans!
And at a time when digital technology is ever-more important to libraries, his background and knowledge of Fortran, Videotex and the TRS-80 ideally equip him to lead the library
into the 20th during some part of the 21st century. We also hear he’s learning Word.
The line of history: As every school child knows, Lucas would not be the first state librarian who lacks a traditional background for the gig; Frank L. Coombs, California’s 14th librarian, who served from, uh, 1898 to 1899, had no formal education in library science. Yet Coombs, a former Napa County District Attorney, was a strong leader who specialized in tracking down malefactors with overdue books, some as much as five years late. You could look it up.
Lucas also is likely to be less controversial than James W. Denver, our second state librarian (1853-55), who fought a duel while in office with Edward Gilbert, editor of the San Francisco Alta California. Denver shot and killed Gilbert; although dueling had been outlawed in the state, the Bay Area news hound was so unpopular that no one in law enforcement took action against the sharp-shooting bookman.
What his colleagues say: Using the crack reporting skills we honed through years of gathering instant, totally superficial reaction quotes on political stories, we swiftly rounded up the top 10 reasons Capitol hands of all stripes favor Brown’s selection of Lucas:
10-With new boss out daily for four-hour lunches, library staff now free to snooze in stacks.
9-Governor eyes general fund revenue bump from librarian’s tripling of late return fines.
8-Lucas vows to meet incessant public demand for copies of world’s shortest volume: “The Collected Wisdom of Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
7-New chief’s journalism chops portend 50 percent decrease in pompous media quotes by windbag ex-librarian Kevin Starr.
6-Fireworks loom when Ron Calderon briefly reappears to shake down Library First Lady Donna Lucas during confirmation vote.
5-Lucas vows to meet incessant public demand for copies of world’s second shortest volume: “The Collected Humor of Dianne Feinstein.”
4-State Librarian micro-targets campaign donations amid special interest bid to rename library after Willie Brown.
2-Democrats’ secret plan: major books-on-tape acquisition featuring rare boxed set of John Burton swearing for four hours straight.
1-California certain to become world’s largest repository of Grateful Dead bootlegs and CD collections.
We’re behind you all the way, bro.