You Don't Look Like a Librarian

A Librarian’s Perspective: Pop Culture’s View is Still Relevant

I admit it; I’m hyperaware of anything having to do with libraries, librarians and pop culture. I look, I listen, and I’m deeply appreciative of all the things I get sent via email and social media. Many folks ask me, “Why are you still going on about this? Surely it doesn’t matter anymore!” and I’m here to tell you–it does.

Recently, Karen Glover wrote a great Backtalk article chock-full of pop culture and librarianan for Library Journal, titled “What Popular Culture is Telling Us About Libraries and Why We Should Listen.” I loved her discussion of the library as a mysterious, possibly dangerous place. And if that’s the case, then what is the librarian but a master of the mysterious and dangerous? Ms. Glover also discusses the theme of “Library as Place,” which I believe truly the library is evolving into – it’s about so much more than books now! And the wielder and protector of the mystery, the danger, the adventure, the wonder–is us.

She references personal favorite Rex Libris, a comic book series about a no-nonsense librarian superhero, who’s been around since Alexandria; Buffy the Vampire Slayer, about whom nearly every librarian knows; The Sandman, award-winning graphic novels by Neil Gaiman, whose Library consists of every book an author never finished except in dreams; Warehouse 13, a SyFy TV show about steampunk supernatural super-archive and the agents who run it; National Treasure, a great campy adventure movie where research and libraries power the search; and The Walking Dead, a TV series where libraries and those who know how to use them truly are powerful people.

While Ms. Glover’s primary focus in her article is on the library, I think every example she gives can also be taken as a nod to the librarian, even those specifically about the Library as Place. What is it that is invaluable in making the library a wonderful location, where “the atmosphere and ambiance is even better”? It’s the amazing people that work there.

About Ruth Kneale

Ruth Kneale is the Systems Librarian for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope in Tucson, Arizona and the author of You Don’t Look Like a Librarian: Shattering Stereotypes and Creating Positive New Images in the Internet Age. She was the Librarian and Webmaster for the Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii, and the Gemini 8m Telescopes Project. Kneale has written on computer topics for Information Outlook and Computers in Libraries, and publishes a regular column about librarians in Marketing Library Service called “Spectacles: How Pop Culture Views Librarians.” She started the website You Don’t Look Like a Librarian! ( in 2002, and a companion blog called Random Musings from the Desert ( in 2006.

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