Tag Archives | You Don’t Look Like a Librarian

Ruth Kneale on Shattering Librarian Stereotypes

I’m back with another on-the-spot interview with one of our ITI authors at Internet Librarian 2013. This time it’s Ruth Kneale, author of You Don’t Look Like a Librarian: Shattering Stereotypes and Creating Positive New Images in the Internet Age

In this interview with John Bryans, Ruth discusses how some librarian stereotypes are fading away, but we still have a way to go on how librarians are portrayed in movies and popular culture.

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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!

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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.

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