The two hours of crash practicing is grueling, joked the librarians, yet they do it for the crowds. For almost every year over the past 20 years, the Fairfax City Regional Library librarians whirl their book carts in the name of patriotism as they march in Fairfax City's Independence Day Parade.
The librarians, members of the Fairfax City Regional Library Precision Book Cart Drill Team, usually rehearse two hours before the parade starts. At 8 a.m., they can be found in the library's parking lot, polishing their three routines.
Their enthusiasm has earned them second place in the novelty category for this year's parade.
"We have a lot of fun, and the most fun we get is the response from the crowd," said Suzanne Levy, a reference librarian in the Virginia Room.
Although no one quite knows when it started, the Fairfax City librarians have been marching on Independence Day since around 1982. The tongue-in-cheek idea came from former staff librarian Joyce Sibley, who enjoyed the quirkiness of the Gross National Parades that used to occur in Washington.
While they have not marched every year, the library staff has had a drill team perform in almost every parade since the team's founding.
"If we don't participate, they wonder where we are," Levy said.
The drill team sticks to three routines that are easy to pick up for both new and returning library staff. One involves two lines of library carts creating two oval formations.
The crowd's favorite routine is when the librarians twirl their carts as they march.
"We do it as the spirit moves us," said Levy, who is charged with blowing the whistle announcing each routine.
The drill team's longevity has earned it both local and national recognition as an expert in book cart parade routines. They have trained librarians from other county branches, and they have gotten calls from around the country from librarians seeking drill team advice.
In 2003, parade judges awarded the drill team first place for novelty and second place for the Mayor and City Council Award.
Besides the routines, the librarians decorate their carts in festive Fourth of July themes. They also wave to the crowds and encourage them to read.
Although this year's parade is over, the librarians intend to keep marching in future parades. As for why they do it, librarian Elaine McHale pointed to an experience where a little girl approached her in the library and asked McHale if she was in the parade.
"She was just so delighted. It was so cute," McHale said.