Home > Librarianship > The Librarian Stereotype War

The Librarian Stereotype War

Currently there’s a war going on between the “traditional stereotype of a librarian,” aka shy quiet ugly old maid with glasses, and “the new stereotype of a librarian,” aka tattooed digital-savvy hipster.

To both sides, may I just say: enough already!

To the librarians/whoever who are pushing the young, hip librarian stereotype: You are just making us look desperate.  You are making it look like we know we’re irrelevant, and we’ll do anything to try to keep our career in vogue–even getting a tattoo!

To the general public who still believe the old maid librarian stereotype: You are just demonstrating how few real librarians you’ve ever known.  You’re also missing out on all the intelligent, sexy librarians.  Think Tina Fey for an example.

To everyone: Librarians are people just like anyone else.  As is the case with most stereotyping, some of what is being said is true, but not all of it.  Yes, librarians can tend to be a bit *gasp* nerdy.  We are the purveyors of knowledge, so that’s not surprising.  However, we’re a bunch of individuals.  We have our own personalities.  For every hipster librarian there’s a librarian who can’t stand hipsters invading her farmer’s market.  For every grouchy older librarian there’s an older librarian leading a high-tech storytime.  The only thing that I think could be said to be universally true about librarians is that we love educating ourselves and we love providing you with the resources to educate yourself.

Finally, to my fellow librarians: Can we please just stop debating about the library’s image and what a librarian is and just go out into our community–whether a city, a hospital, or a university–and do what we do best?  No more debate will be needed when our community is well-aware of our existence and that *gasp* librarians are people.  Who’d have ever thought it, eh?

  1. September 8, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Hear hear! Also, I have to say that by and large, librarians are pretty fun people as well. You can’t really go wrong with a room full of librarians in terms of interesting & thoughtful conversation between people who are aware of current events and care about the communities they serve.

    • September 9, 2009 at 8:09 am

      This is true. Librarians do tend to know an awful lot of random facts, which makes for interesting conversation. Also lots of pwning at trivia.

  2. October 1, 2009 at 6:07 am

    I’m sorry, I’ve got to disagree with this. I know what you mean, but…

    If people don’t respect us, they won’t want to learn from us. And, loads of librarians or other Information Professionals are retiring and bot being replaced, because people aren’t being attracted into the profession. That’s why our image is important.

    That said, I don’t have any tatoos and I think Old Maids are fine to be both old and maiden, as long as they provide good service!

    • October 1, 2009 at 9:05 am

      So creating a stereotype will make people respect us? *face-palm* to you, good sir.

  3. October 1, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Haha, no I’m not saying we should *create* stereotypes at all! Just that the existing ones matter, if they interfere with our ability to get through to our users…

    I should have made myself clearer – I’m not on either side of the war you mention. I’m like the UN, moving in and ineffectually trying to restore peace while telling both sides they are wrong…

    • October 1, 2009 at 9:25 am

      Ah, my apologies for misunderstanding your point.

      It *is* a good point that stereotypes can get in the way of reaching users. Yet another reason we should get rid of them, eh?

      • October 1, 2009 at 9:29 am

        Yes quite – we’re in full agreement about that!

        (But I have also started thinking recently, there’s a complicated sub-plot about how we can’t possibly ask the librarians who really are old maids etc to have personality transplants or whatever, so what do we do about that? Dunno, really – tough times… Getting rid of the stereotypes = good. Getting rid of the stereotypical librarians = complicated, eh? )

  4. October 1, 2009 at 9:53 am

    thewikiman—Bwa-ha-haaaa! I do hope we can maintain a place for the folks who actually fit the old librarian stereotype (as long as they’re actually good at their jobs of course).

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: