Image of Libraries in Popular Culture

November 7 , 2001


Next Meeting (Virtual) 11/11/01 @ 1pm to discuss "Until the End of the World" ?

Meeting place and time to be determined to discuss: Smarty Girl: Three Librarians on Film Greatly Exaggerated Death of the Library And ?

Minutes 11:00AM - 1:30PM:

Logistics of virtual meeting were worked out. We will all sign up for Yahoo IDs and meet in chat room "Library Image" in the Business & Finance --> User Groups chat area. Heather will take web honchoette responsibility for the asides page, so send her anything you find that may be of interest.

Webpage update, much discussion of how-to and what-to.

Article "Gender Issues in the Workplace"

It seems that men are perceived as more "computer competent" than women. They are called on to perform certain technological or brawn-necessary tasks. Men face an image in librarianship that is completely ingrained in everyone's mind, it is very difficult to overcome. "Gay male librarians" is the image, although the percentage of gay men in the profession closely matches the general population percentage of gay men. Psychologically, the profession may draw in more effeminate males, but they may not necessarily be gay. Maybe this stereotype comes from the fact that the profession tends to be very tolerant of alternative lifestyles. The LGBT (?) section of ALA shows that the profession not only tolerates, but supports LGBT individuals. If change is to be made in the image, it has to happen from within. The image seems to build on itself, because men in the profession feel that they are seen as the stereotype and it feeds on itself (maybe they start to act like the stereotype?).Women also have image problems in the profession. A woman may feel that administrative aggressiveness is put upon her by the organization. It seems that women that work hard to rise through the ranks are often described negatively using terms such as "ballbreaker". What does this say about women in authority positions? Librarians contribute to their own oppression.

Article "The Old Stereotype of Fusty Men..."

This article was a disappointment. It features a wonderful title that seems to fit within our topic exactly, but upon reading we found that it was mostly about library funding. Misleading.

Article "Librarians Adjust Image in an Effort to Fill Jobs"

Maybe it isn't the librarian image that is changing. The profession is being taken over by people who are younger and active. It might be that society as a whole is changing, not just librarians. It seems that libraries are using this "new image" to try to recruit (or steer) people away from the web industry. In about 10 years, most of the older generation of librarians will be retired, so the stereotype may change drastically at that point. Students of library science even tend to be stereotypical about the profession upon entering library school. They usually don't know about the variety of issues and career opportunities that exist within the field.

Article "Changing the Librarian Stereotype"

The ideas that are presented to combat the stereotype will not work. These suggestions are to make image changes on a personal level between the patron and the librarian. The stereotype is bigger than the personal level, most people who know a librarian don't think that all librarians are 83, wear glasses and a bun.

Article "Last Librarian"

This was a very interesting article that looks at the future of "Our Profession". It is predicted that females will be replaced by males as the profession becomes more reliant on technology. An excellent point is made in this article about our image. In the future, we will have no image. It might be important for us to embrace and learn to love the image of librarians, because someday, there might not be any such image. The new ideas of an information professional are all very sterile. They take a lot of what is interesting about librarians and get rid of it. We should be afraid that we might lose our identity. No identity is worse than the image that is currently seen in popular culture. We are not as lucky as doctors. We have no George Clooney "ER" type association that doctors have, but we shouldn't complain. At least people know that "Our Profession" exists. They might not know that we need to get a Master's degree to do it, and they might not even know what it is we do, but they know that we are there.

Article "Behind the Bun, or Batgirl Was a Librarian"

The issue of the FBI trying to recruit librarians as spies is a frightening idea. A lot of imagery of the library is presented in this article, "womb-like", "holy place of mystery and secrets". Class distinctions are brought up in this article. Librarianship is not a career choice for the upper-middle class. NOTD. But, "we control access to knowledge". ?


Most people don't actually know a librarian on a personal level. This makes introducing yourself as a "librarian" a fun endeavor in social situations. It was also mentioned that people have a hard time making the distinction between techs and librarians. Librarian salaries were discussed at length, comparisons made between different systems in the area. It is almost time to start looking for jobs!