Are Librarians Loners? Some Stereotypes Die a Slow Death

Here’s an example of why we need to be vigilant about how we are perceived–because if we aren’t, and we don’t keep educating people about who we are and what we do, then people like Daniel Bukszpan of CNBC will. And we can’t have that!

In May of this year, Mr. Bukszpan wrote a slideshow article for CNBC titled “Jobs for Loners.” Care to guess what his first listed job was? Yep. Librarian. Here’s what he had to say: “If you’re in love with books, and you like shushing people more than you like meeting them, then a job as a librarian may be for you.

So tell me, what do you think? Is introversion the first thing you think of when you think of librarians? Or socially inept? Based on the comments floating around Facebook (where I first saw this posted), there are a lot of librarians out there rather annoyed with this portrayal. Here’s a sampling of commentary:

  • from KG: “Sheesh, another pundit who hasn’t been in a library in oh, 75 years.”
  • from KE, “Perhaps the author should have availed himself of the expertise of one his local librarians for some research assistance. Oh, wait… that might have meant walking into a library or interviewing an ACTUAL librarian.” (This was a common, common refrain.)
  • From VE, an international perspective: “It is depressing for a Swedish librarian like me to learn that people’s prejudiced views aren’t very different in other countries compared to here. I don’t mind small kids believing whatever they think I do at work… But when grown-up people, especially the influential ones, start making up their own ideas about what libraries and librarians are… now that’s where I start having issues. That is some serious sh#t that can’t be ignored.”
  • From SD: “those who have BEEN in a library in the last 10 years know it’s not AT ALL like this article makes it out to be.”
  • Finally from, LP: “Stereotypes appear to die a slow death.”

Sadly, the CNBC article did not allow commentary, nor was contact information given for Mr. Bukszpan. I’m certain he would have gotten multiple earfuls! Do you want people like this writing things like this about us in venues like that? This this is how the stereotype is perpetuated. It’s incumbent upon us all to keep fighting it!

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! (www.librarian-image.net) in 2002, and a companion blog called Random Musings from the Desert (desertlibrarian.blogspot.com) in 2006.

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