Image of Libraries in Popular Culture

October 24, 2001


Next Meeting Wednesday 11/7 at 11AM to discuss:

1. Behind the Bun, or Batgirl was a Librarian

2. The Last Librarian

3. Changing the Librarian Stereotype

4. Old Stereotype of Fusty Men

5. Librarians Adjust Image in an Effort to Fill Jobs

6. Gender Issues in the Workplace

11/11/01 meeting 10am LuValle to discuss second SF movie "Until the End of the World"

Minutes 9-11:30AM:

Discussion of War of the Worlds. Web Honcho gave us all an update on the website progress. Brief mention of the librarian's note featured in the front of "Quidditch Through the Ages" by J.K. Rowling. Discussion of two articles about Rupert Giles (Cullen, John. 2000. Rupert Giles, the professional-image slayer and DeCandido, GraceAnne A. 1999. Bibliographic good vs. evil in Buffy the vampire slayer). He seems to be a positive image most of the time. Rupert was not always a mild-mannered librarian and he has a sex life. In the show, he can often be found standing up to the principal and being an activist for the students. There is a hidden part of the school library where he is able to find many arcane books that are geared towards fighting the dark forces. Although he is afraid of technology, there is a student that often brings in a laptop to look up information on the internet. One of the articles refers to the librarian character in "The Mummy" as "dizzy". For the most part those in the group that have seen the movie disagree with this assessment of the librarian. She is very intelligent and not afraid to share knowledge. She can read hieroglyphics and even identify the characters through descriptions. Although she initially releases the monster, she is also the one that saves the day, with her knowledge. Clumsy yes, dizzy no.

Discussion of Radford, Gary P., and Marie L. Radford. 2001. Libraries, Librarians, and the Discourse of Fear and Radford, Marie L., and Radford, Gary P. Power, Knowledge, and Fear: Feminism, Foucault, and the Stereotype of the Female Librarian. Does the fear of libraries come from the idea that knowledge itself is dangerous? Or is it the relationship between the librarian and the user? In this case the user fears causing disorder. The authors believe that you can't change the longstanding discourse of fear even if you act the opposite to the generalities. This type of behavior will only confirm the fear. To look at it with a Freudian theory: does the library represent civilization?

General discussion of issues. There is a certain shock value to taking librarians out of the library and putting them in strip clubs or in porn movies. Is it possible to overcome this stereotype? What can we do? Are we pornography distributors like Dr. Laura says we are? What can we do to stop children from seeing porn in the library? Lawyers live with a stereotype in spite of good PR. They are still seen in a negative light because people fear them. But what is it that they fear? Is it fear of rejection by someone so elevated? Or maybe their knowledge of the law is a reason to fear them? In the movie Party Girl, the librarian answers a reference question with "that's in the 300's". This was not meant to make a point in the movie, as the patron was able to find the specific area they were looking for with even these general directions. As librarians-to-be we find this unacceptable, but it provides enough information about the workings of the reference desk for the general public that will watch the film. We must admit that we have a higher requirement for the image than the average person. (Or maybe the public expects bad reference service so it isn't surprising.) In the same way that we are a little disappointed by this interaction in Party Girl, a lawyer will be disappointed when watching the way lawyers are portrayed on Ally McBeal.