“Gene and Bill are as funny in person as they are in their comic strip. They’ll tell you important things as they keep you laughing nonstop with their unique perspectives on libraries, books, customer service, or whatever else you can convince them to talk about.”— Nancy Pearl

“Our 2014 staff day was our most successful yet, and Gene and Bill were the staff’s favorite part!”
— Derek Wolfgram, Deputy Director for Community Libraries, Santa Clara County Library District

“You received the highest scores for both Quality of Presentation and for Instructor Effectiveness of all the presentations at our All Staff Institute Day. More than 100 staff members want you to return next year, and many want you here every year going forward! I think it is safe to say that the CPL staff admires your wit and your humor, and are grateful that you are so insightful about their daily work.”
— Joan Levey, Project Coordinator, Chicago Public Library

“The Unshelved keynote was the perfect wrap-up for our conference. Our attendees stated over and over how much they loved finishing with a humorous presentation that sent us back to our libraries recharged with energy and enthusiasm.”

— Rita Ennen, 2012 North Dakota Library Association Conference Chair


We love making people laugh on the web and in person. We’ve delivered professional keynotes to conferences, universities, library systems, and corporate gatherings in over 40 states and internationally.* Our peculiar insights into librarianship and customer service leave attendees smiling and talking among themselves. They depart energized, validated, and uplifted. We’d love to speak to you and your group, wherever you are.

With each keynote we offer a breakout session — these are less formal talks, and sometimes we also offer early versions of new keynotes we’re working on. Information on how to hire us is below information on the talks and breakout sessions.

Keynotes for Professionals

We currently offer one keynote for professional gatherings

Tough customers got you down? Let us teach you how to stop worrying and learn to enjoy difficult people! In this keynote we focus on the Unshelved approach to customer service: the customer is seldom right. Most customer service interactions can be enjoyable if you have the right frame of mind. Or, failing that, at least you can have the last laugh. (~ 60 minutes)

This keynote speaks to customer service experiences beyond the reference desk, and is suitable for all library employees, even those who only deal with internal customers.

Breakout Sessions

If you’ve already hired us to do a keynote we’re happy to throw in one of these for free if it doesn’t add to our travel time:

See You in the Funny Pages

Before your event, attendees submit their best work stories. Gene and Library Comic artist Willow Payne will pick their favorite and create a Library Comic comic strip based on it. At the event we’ll share the runners up, with some insight into why some were better suited for comic strips than others, then unveil the winner and the comic. Signed prints will be provided for the winner and their library. (This takes about 10-15 minutes.)

If you’d like a longer breakout session, after the presentation of the signed prints, Gene will host a Library Storyfest. He’ll share some of the crazy library stories he’s survived, along with a few of the sad and happy ones, and encourage attendees to do the same. (~ this takes an additional 45 minutes.)

Graphic Novels from the Inside

Gene loves comics, and in this program he’ll show you some of the reasons why, with moments that demonstrate the unique power of this amazing medium. (60 – 90 minutes)


The following talks are retired or semi-retired, but let us know if you’re interested in one.

If you work in libraries you know that sometimes you have to laugh or else you’ll cry. In this 50 minute classic Unshelved talk we deliver the laughs as we take you on a tour of the Unshelved comic strip. The staff and patrons of the Mallville Public Library are instantly recognizable, and give your audience a unique opportunity to gently laugh at themselves and the people they work with on both sides of the desk. We deconstruct some of our greatest hits, and Gene tells some of the true-life stories that inspired them, as well as a few he had to leave out. (~ 60 minutes)

This speech has garnered standing ovations at dozens of state and regional library conferences, library schools, library staff development days, and corporate customer meetings. It is appropriate for all kinds of librarians: public, school, academic, and special.**

These days, we’re all trying to make sense of daunting amounts of information. How can people find what they need to know? Why do they expect it faster and faster? Why don’t they seem to care where information comes from? Why do they believe they don’t need libraries anymore? And why are libraries trying to give these folks what they want instead of standing up for what a library should be? In an entertaining and highly opinionated keynote, Gene makes the case that now, more than ever, traditional libraries have a vital place in our communities. (~ 60 minutes)

How To Ban a Book

We imagine that you have invited us to teach your group how to do a better job banning books from libraries. We give a thorough, detailed, and helpful training. We’ll tell you why to ban books, which books to challenge, who at the library to work with, what kind of approach you should take, and how to anticipate (and work around) a library’s standard response. We’ll also teach you the different types of secret censorship and how to use the library’s collection development policy to your advantage. (~ 45 minutes )

We are longtime opponents of censorship, and in this talk you will gain a deeper understanding of who you’re up against in the fight for intellectual freedom.

How to Hire Us

For keynotes at professional gatherings such as staff days and conferences, we charge a speaking fee plus expenses (economy travel, accommodation, meals), which we do our best to minimize.

For more information, references, availability, and a price quote, please contact Gene with as much detail about your event as possible. We book strictly on a “first come, first served” basis, so email sooner rather than later.

We look forward to hearing from you!

-Gene and Bill
the Unshelved guys

* Canada
** All librarians are special


* Alaska Library Association (twice!)
* Arkansas Library Association
* Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services
* Association of Rural and Small Libraries
* Benedictine University Library staff
* Beyond Hope
* Book Expo America (nine times!)
* Bumbershoot
* British Columbia Library Association
* California Library Association (twice!)
* Cartoonists Northwest (three times!)
* Central Oregon Regional Libraries
* Chandler Public Library (AZ) (2022)
* Charlotte Mecklenburg Library staff
* Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo a.k.a. C2E2
* Chicago Public Library staff
* Colorado ILL Conference
* Comic Con International (twice!)
* Connecticut Library Association
* Contra Costa County Library
* Dayton Metro, OH Public Library staff
* DeKalb County, GA Public Library staff
* Delaware County, PA Library System staff
* Emerald City Comic Con
* Enoch Pratt Free Library, MD staff
* Fairfax County, CA Public Library staff
* Florida Library Association
* Fort Worth, TX Public Library staff
* Georgia Council of Media Organizations
* Google
* Graphic Arts Guild, Boston chapter
* Graphic Arts Guild, Seattle chapter
* Greene County Public Library (OH) (2022)
* Hancock County, IN Public Library Staff Day
* Howard County Public Library (MD) (2022)
* Humanities Washington
* Illinois Library Association
* Illinois School Library Media Association
* Indianapolis-Marion County, IN Public Library staff
* Indiana Library Federation
* Indian Prairie, IL Public Library District staff
* Ingram Library Services
* Jacksonville, FL Public Library staff
* Joplin, MO Public Library public &amp;amp; staff
* LACONI trustee banquet
* Las Vegas-Clark County, NE Library District
* Library Association of Alberta
* Kansas Library Association (twice!)
* Kitsap, WA Regional Library staff (twice!)
* LA County Public Library staff
* Manitoba Libraries Conference
* Maricopa County Library District (AZ)
* Maryland Association of School Librarians
* Massachusetts Library Association
* Massachusetts Library System
* Medical Library Association (Pacific Northwest Chapter)
* Michigan Library Association (twice!)
* Minnesota Library Association (twice!)
* Mississippi Library Association
* Missouri Library Association
* Missouri Association of School Librarians
* Military librarians
* Monroe County Public Library staff
* Montgomery County-Norristown, PA Public Library staff
* Nebraska Library Association
* New Hampshire Library Association
* New Jersey Library Association
* New York Comic Con
* New York Library Association (twice!)
* New York School Library Media Specialists
* Norfolk, VA Public Library staff
* North Dakota Library Association (twice!)
* North Carolina Library Association
* Ohio Library Council (twice!)
* Oklahoma Library Association
* Omaha, NE Public Library staff
* Oregon Library Association
* Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools
* Pacific Northwest Library Association
* Palm Beach County Library System (FL)
* Pennsylvania Library Association (twice!)
* Pennsylvania School Librarian’s Association
* Pierce County, WA Library staff
* RASP Reading Series
* Redwood City, CA Public Library staff
* Rhode Island Library Association
* Santa Clara County, CA Library District staff
* Seattle, WA Public Library staff
* Schaumburg Township, IL District Library staff
* Simmons College Library School
* South Dakota Library Association
* Southeast Florida Library Information Network
* Spartanburg, SC Public Library staff
* St. Catherine University students
* St. Charles (IL) Public Library staff
* St. Charles (MO) City-County Public Library staff
* St. Louis County Public Library supervisory staff
* Tennessee Library Association
* Texas Library Association (lots)
* Texas Woman’s University students
* Three Rivers, IL Public Library staff
* Timberland Regional Library staff (three times!)
* Toronto Comics &amp;amp; Art Festival
* University of California San Diego Geisel Library staff
* University of South Carolina students (twice!)
* University of North Carolina students
* University of Washington students
* Utah Library Association
* Vermont Library Association
* Virginia Beach Public Library staff
* Virginia Library Association
* Walla Walla Rural Library District
* Washington Association of Library Employees (twice!)
* Washington Library Association (twice!)
* Washington Library Media Association (three times!)
* Wilderness Coast, FL Public Libraries
* William F. Laman Public Library System (Arkansas)
* Wisconsin Library Association
* Wyoming Library Association