On Oct. 12, first-year Sam Carpenter had just left his international relations class in the Bryan Center when a drawing of a red keytar drew him to a Chronicle newsstand. Paper in hand, he watched Duke librarian Jamie Keesecker’s “Library Takeout” video, featured in a story on the front page, and posted it to Reddit.
By the end of the day, Carpenter’s post had soared to the front page of Reddit. “Library Takeout” went from around 20,000 views to more than 400,000 on YouTube. As of early Tuesday, its view count was more than 784,000. The official Spotify account tweeted a link to the song, calling it the “greatest library-focused track ever made.” Keesecker’s hit now has almost 100,000 streams on Spotify.
“Being on the front page of Reddit is like—it’s hard to think of a higher honor… It’s kind of like the Billboard Top 10 of DIY-ers,” Keesecker said.
Carpenter stopped trying to pay attention in computer science lecture once his post took off. Instead he spent the time refreshing the page, happy to watch what he called the “unfiltered goodness” of “Library Takeout” spread to the masses. It hit him just how far beyond Duke his post had traveled when he got a message about it from his sister living in California, who had stumbled upon the post completely on her own.
“I don't know if anything else can fill my soul the same way Library Takeout does,” Carpenter said.
Keesecker’s video inspired comparisons to YouTubers Bill Wurtz and Louis Cole in the rapidly growing comment sections, even prompting one fan to post a drum jam tribute to the song.
“Library Takeout” is licensed under Creative Commons. Janelle Hutchinson, the library’s lead designer and photographer, said the video is a great example of Duke Libraries inviting people to be exploratory and feel freedom to create.
“We are in the business of sharing stuff for free, including sick beats,” added Aaron Welborn, Duke Libraries director of communications.
Keesecker said he was most thrilled that his video seems to have inspired others to start creative projects. He’s also glad he can close the laptop on his internet fame and spend time on yard work outside.
His three-year-old daughter Naima, who drew animations beside him and was featured in articles about the video, didn’t seem any more enthralled by the picture of herself in Duke Today than by any old picture of herself on her parents’ camera rolls.
“I keep telling her that someday I'll explain to her how famous she is exactly,” Keesecker said.
Normally the library staff would be dancing in the hall to “Library Takeout” on repeat, Library Giving Coordinator Megan Crain said, but instead they’ve been giggling and quietly screaming in Zoom meetings.
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Crain, Welborn and Hutchinson run the libraries’ social media together. Welborn said their thousand new YouTube subscribers were sure to be disappointed when their normal content resumes.
Keesecker said some fans have taken it upon themselves to leave comments on other libraries’ videos, saying things like “this song doesn’t slap at all” or “this is not nearly as good as the Duke Library Takeout song.”
“I feel kind of guilty,” he said. “Maybe I'll reach out to those libraries and be like, ‘I'm so sorry that I can't control our fans.’”
Associate Librarian Elena Feinstein watched emails from some of those fans pop up in the firstname.lastname@example.org email inbox as the video racked up views.
One fan wrote to the library from southwest of Amsterdam, “Thank you for your amazing instruction video about the library takeout. Unfortunately… I won't be able to put the video into practise. But you made [me] laugh out loud and that was exactly what I needed today. We're facing more restrictions as numbers of daily covid cases are rising rapidly here. Luckily, the public library is still open.”
“Library Takeout” has brought people joy in the pandemic, but it has also taught them how to request books. The very functional nature of the video is part of what makes it even more of a treat. It doesn’t hurt the library social media team that hundreds of thousands of people around the world have gotten their message.
“Mission accomplished,” Crain said.