While some of our greatest writers and thinkers were busy debating about whether or not good art can come out of the pandemic, a Duke librarian was quietly creating a Kraftwerk-adjacent library instructional video that would put Duke Libraries on the electronic music map.
Let’s back up a bit, though, and meet Jamie Keesecher, a collections manager and public service specialist with the Duke Music Library. Keesecher began putting the project together after the library was inspired by the Nashville Public Library’s success with “Curb Side, Baby,” an instructional parody video of “Ice Ice Baby” that amassed 162,335 views—and successfully introduced curbside pickup to it’s Nashville audience.
As students and faculty began trickling back to campus in August, Keesecher, who has both a masters and a PhD in music composition, decided to create an instructional video of his own about Duke’s contactless reserve system. While taking care of his 3-year old daughter, Naima, he began mixing beats.
“How can I get the book and things I need? / Also periodicals, CDs and DVDs,” the song begins, sounding more like Louis Cole than something you’d hear on the Duke University Libraries YouTube channel.
At 1:14, the song goes completely off the rails. It becomes a transportive device, a time-machine to clubs and late nights out, to a dark, pulsating crowd far away from periodicals and CDs and DVDs, even as the safety protocols seep deep—then deeper, then deeper still—into the metaphorically dustiest recesses of your brain. (Keesecher, who says he became “lost” in the project, says that at one point he had to pare the songs’ saturated beats down).
Keesecher says that the song’s addictive librarian-cyber-pop stylings were influenced by watching education videos with Naima.
“She ended up watching children’s shows on Netflix, you know, more TV than we probably would have been comfortable with in pre-pandemic times,” Keesecher says with a laugh. “A lot of those shows that she watches are full of kids’ songs that are educational or instructional in some way.”
The video was uploaded to YouTube on August 14 and became viral enough within Duke circles for Keesecher—who, not seeking synth-pop fame, had uploaded the video under the pseudonym MicrOpaqu3—to have his cover blown by library colleagues. Shortly thereafter, “Library Takeout” was made available on Spotify and Apple Music.
Yesterday, the Duke Chronicle ran a feature on Keesecher and the video made its way to the front page of Reddit, where all viral sensations are born. On that platform it has traveled particularly widely, appearing on 43 subreddits, including r/electronic music, r/NotTimAndEric, r/Libraries, r/TameImpala, and r/nextfuckinglevel, among numerous others.
The animations were also thanks in part to Naima, Keesecker says, who let him borrow her colored pencils so that he could draw the inspired stick-figure drawings.
He also brings credit back to the subject at hand: the well-developed library takeout system.
“I’ve received a lot of attention for the song and video,” Keesecher says, “But the whole thing is only possible because of the library staff who worked so hard over the summer to make library takeout service a possibility. Without them, it would just be a meaningless song that had no bearing on real life.”
If you’re looking to curate a Spotify Duke Libraries playlist, the next video that automatically queues on the channel after “Library Takeout” is a video called “Handling Special Collections.” Jam away.
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