Perpetuating The Librarian Stereotype

I came across two interesting things today while reading Library Journal (LJ). First, an article entitled “Librarian Strives To Be Named Supreme Couch Potato” where a librarian from Conde Nast Publications named Stan Friedman watched sports for more than 29 hours in Times Square, winning the ESPN Zone Ultimate Couch Potato Competition. I commend Stan’s fortitude, and really appreciate sports, but attributing his win to “savvy bladder management,” a skill he developed over a 12 year time period while conducting research as a librarian doesn’t make us look like the super cool cats we really are.

Second, an editorial written by LJ Associate Editor Raya Kuzyk entitled, “For All The Good That NYTimes Coverage About Hip Librarians Did Us…” describes a new web series about to debut named Erik the Librarian Mysteries from writer Brent Forrester (The Simpsons, King of the Hill, The Office), “that chronicles the romantic adventures of a dorky librarian.” If Mr. Forrester needs any proof that librarians aren’t “dorky,” he need look no further than Ms. Kuzyk’s headshot.

Most librarians are ordinary people who just happen to have superb organizational, and research kung fu. We are a diverse group, with varied interests. We generally don’t look like school marmes, in fact, some of us are even men (this can be a real mind blower). We like to have fun and take part in all the stuff that people do to have fun. In fact, most of the librarians I know are damn good musicians, and also play professionally. Some of us even have tattoos!

I’m an eating, shitting, drinking, fucking, librarian… I’m not proud, I’m real.

~ by Woeful on January 8, 2008.

29 Responses to “Perpetuating The Librarian Stereotype”

  1. […] January 8, 2008 Filed under: blogs, library — mrschu81 @ 5:09 pm Tags: library Perpetuating The Librarian Stereotype « @ the Library […]

  2. “shitting” “fucking”… you should watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsnB2SWzgjI

  3. Well, at least the research is done for a patron-base of very appreciative 20-somethings who work for the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Wired and The New Yorker. I’m comfortable with the coolness factor which comes with that; rather than how we might “look” in the media.

  4. I though you might appreciate that Effing! It’s actually an homage to Billy Bob Thornton a la “Bad Santa.”

  5. Stan! Is that really you? Either way, thanks for commenting. Hell, I probably wouldn’t care either if I was the one who won $5,000 worth of primo TV viewing swag. Alas, my bladder is the size of a walnut so that would never happen. BTW, I love the trophy!

  6. C’est moi, Woeful. Keep up the cool blogging!
    Problem with the trophy is that you have to change the potato every few days or it oozes all over the place.
    Cheers,
    Stan

  7. LMAO!! Dude! I have friends who would absolutely LOVE to have that trophy… They’re not librarians, but they really dig the tube!! It’s a fantastic conversation piece.

  8. I don’t know, I think the hipster librarian stereotype is just as insufferable as that of the dumpy librarian. (It attracts people to the profession who shouldn’t, because now the MLIS is a cool degree to have.) It’s useless–a shallow attempt to dispel the other stereotype. Instead of articles about librarians in the style section, I’d much rather see the word “librarian” in an article with some substance.

    Depictions of librarians in popular culture are fairly benign. They may seem negative at first, but there’s rarely anything truly objectionable to them. (I don’t find anything wrong with being nearsighted, old, uncool, frumpy, quiet, etc.) It’s when I see depictions of the shushing or censoring librarian that I freak out and start posting links to the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights.

  9. I’d much rather be considered hip than Jurassic, even though they both miss the mark. Why do you automatically assume that the “cool” kids (whatever that means) will be detrimental to the profession?

    Sadly, the problem with substance is that the masses don’t want it. Forcing it on them doesn’t work, and when they stop coming we die a slow death. The fact of the matter is that in today’s ADHD culture nobody has any attention span whatsoever anymore. People don’t want substance, they want Danielle Steel, and Brittany Spears… And the Style Section. They want 30 second soundbites, while they’re multitasking a dozen different things including, but not limited to receiving a grande latte enema!

    It seems to me that if we want to thrive in this brave new world, we need to attract the cool kids, and what better way to do that then by having some of them on staff? We might not like the way things are, but it’s what we have to work with. We need to pander to the masses, in order to be able to provide the substantive stuff that we really desire. To pull this off, we need a 3 Ring Circus of slick marketing to draw fresh meat into the information grinder.

    Let them eat cake! And the rest will have their substance.

  10. I didn’t mean all the hipsters are not passionate about librarianship, just that I’ve met many who chose Library Science for the wrong reasons and it shows. (Of course, there are plenty of people who become librarians that aren’t making us proud.) The hipster library worker is the stereotype I fall into, but I don’t think my sweet bike has any significant impact on the library.

    “To pull this off, we need a 3 Ring Circus of slick marketing to draw fresh meat into the information grinder.”

    That is the creepiest, funniest thing I’ve read all evening! Haha! But I don’t think we need the “cool” kind of fresh. Library Science isn’t in a period of decline, but transition. I think we’re taking it in stride. (Unlike when we let the DMCA compromise the public’s interests.)

    For the record, I am not arguing with you, haha! ;)

  11. I think I’m hip and cool but I’m pretty sure nobody else does.

  12. LOL… Amen. You make good points, I actually had to think about what I was writing around here for a change… I try to do as little of that as possible to save my strength for work.

  13. You seem pretty cool to me, grindchopblend.

  14. The perception of librarians as ‘unhip’ and ‘jurassic’ has not changed much as we move from the old perceptions to the new, ‘hip’ crap that the NYTimes style section (and other rags) perpetuates. It’s also come up in a lot of blogs over the last year or more. Is it too much to ask that librarianship be seen as an (omigod) a real profession?

    For myself, I can say I’ve always been hip even before getting my MLS and I don’t have a tattoo, nor am I a kewl slacker dude. (my collegues really think otherwise tho’….)

  15. Hi Angsty! Do you really think that being viewed as cool or hip denigrates a profession? I think that working for the fire department is pretty cool, yet I doubt that anyone would say that working for the fire department isn’t a, “real profession.” The fact of the matter is that every profession has a stereotype. Look at all the TV shows about journalists, lawyers, doctors, and cops (CSI anyone?)

    It’s all a steaming mound of buffalo crap. The police, doctors, lawyers, and journalists I know nearly puke every time they walk by a TV during primetime. I used to be a photographer and I can tell you for a fact that NOBODY has used a red light in a darkroom since the 1930’s! Yet they always use a red light when someone is developing prints… It’s a stereotype.

    Lastly, of course you’re cool, everyone who reads my blog is cool!! :-)

  16. Hey Woeful, I guess I object to librarians seen as the usual dumpy, repressed spinster librarian stereotype as opposed to the ‘cool, hip, urban, young’ hipster librarian of today. Like there’s no middle ground. But yeah, you’re right: the stereotypes manifest themselves no matter what the profession. Yep, buffalo crap it is (lol!). Thanks! you and your blog are cool, reading it makes me feel a bit less ANGSTY!

  17. Thanks!

    We’re really not any more stereotyped than anyone else, we just notice it more because it hits so close to home. I guess what I’m getting at with the hip/cool thing is that people watch CSI, Boston Legal, and Gray’s Anatomy and think it’s cool to be a cop, or lawyer, or doctor, it might be for the wrong reasons but that’s OK. It’s positive exposure for these professions and that’s a good thing, even though the reality is something entirely different. We now live in a World where perception is in many ways more important than reality…

    LOL, imagine being a cop and seeing all the cop shows on TV and picking them apart. Since cop show seem to make up about a third of what I see on the tube, that would suck! We see librarian stereotypes here and there and it gets to us, cops and attorneys see them every day, and with shoes like Law & Order, they see them 24/7.

  18. I’m cool…I’m Hip…right? I drink, I fuck, I have mad research skills and I can deal with 30 screaming children of varying ages is 10 seconds flat. I don’t really know where that puts me on the scale of school marm vs. hipster.

    Nice post, Woe, seems to have interested a lot of your readers…

    -K

    (I added you on myspace)

  19. I think that doing what we do, using what we have to do it with (alchemy) makes us all pretty cool… And yes K, you’re exceptionally cool! See you on MySpace :-)

  20. Exceptionally cool? Well thank you, sir…Back at ya.

  21. Spinster librarian is ok, when you know she’ s going to drop the act in a porno.

  22. Thanks, K.

  23. I didn’t know librarians were so hard done-by. My heart goes out to all librarians.

  24. Thanks for the support!

  25. Here’s a stereotype I noticed you didn’t cover – I’m not a librarian, but a library clerk, (well, at least until someone wakes up and offers me a recording contract cause I’m a darn fine singer) and find that the biggest stereotype I come across is that we’re all hot women in tight business suits, with glasses and a bun, wearing spiked high heels, and all we need to hear is “bow chicka bow-wow” type music to take down our hair and become super sluts. I’ve had to tell many a man (on the internet) that we library workers of all types wear pants and tennies, most are over 50, and as for myself – I’m 31, 5 feet 3 inches tall, and 230 pounds. Hardly a hot slut.

    I guess there’s a lot of library porn out there. *sighs*

  26. We’re a diverse group Jami… Thanks for commenting!

  27. Yeah, well, I can’t resist. Being that we both work in a library. Though I’m just a clerk and hoping to get out of it someday.

    Actually I found you by searching for more information about the book I just read, Free For All. I’m glad that Orange County isn’t the only place that has weird library patrons. Pedophiles and alcoholics and lazy parents, oh my!

  28. I love Bad Santa.

  29. Hi Iris, I do too! ;-)

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