One major subject of our group's discussions centered on whether it is possible to change the stereotypical image of librarians in our culture. We examined many different books and journal articles. Many of them commented on the negative impact of the stereotypical role of librarians in films, novels and other media. Most assert that the Old Maid stereotype is invalid and often harmful to the profession. To prove this, they often refer to a younger generation of librarians that must utilize ever growing and changing information technologies to meet their clients needs. A few individuals have taken the job of changing people's perception of libraries and librarians personally and have created websites devoted to the image of librarians. Such sites include The Lipstick Librarian, Anarchist Librarians Web, Spunk Library, Street Librarian, Bellydancing Librarian, Naked Librarian, Library Juice, Progressive Librarian, Ska Librarian, and Gothique Librarie. The impact of these websites maybe marginal, but it is worthwhile a peek into the psyche and motives behind some of these renegade librarians and try to determine if their sites are achieving a desired effect or simply another Internet curiosity.
The slogan for the Lipstick Librarian website is "She's Bold!!! She's Sassy!!! She's Helpful!!! She's . . .The Lipstick Librarians!". Obviously Linda Absher is going for humor. Designed in a retro sixties style with librarian images that look more like Donna Reed than an ALA president, the website offers mock advice, librarian quiz and a colorful bibliography. Underneath the humor, the website attempts to torpedo the frumpy image of female, cat loving librarians whose fashion sense is a few decades off. In her simulated advice column called the Lipstick Librarian explains it all for you, she tells a fashion conscious librarian that the future trends for day to day wear will continue to be heavily influenced by the sixites and seventies. Through the parody and the kitsch images, Absher makes her point, but her website appears to do more for instilling the antiquated image of librarians than reform it. Her parody does little in offering the viewer a different perspective of today's information professional.
Gail Kwak goes a step further and demonstrates that a change in image can come from a change of body. In her site titled the Modified Librarian, she explores the subject of body modification as it relates to librarians as persons and professionals. Kwak links to several personal web pages of librarians that show of their piercings, tattoos or other modifications. The tattoos range from the hip and trendy to the extensive and graphic. Some of the librarians have chosen to remain anonymous fearing reprisals from their employers and others due to the delicate nature of their tattoos location. Although Kwak does not delve into the topic of the stereotypical image of librarians on her website, but she does address it by displaying images of librarians as we have never seen them, or, some might argue, as we don't want to see them. Aside from the main attraction, Kwak links to librarian's rant pages where library professionals get to vent about issues bothering them. The question becomes whether Kwak goes a long way in demonstrating that librarians are just as diverse as many professions or if she has created just another Internet freak show.
These discussion topics lead us to the subject of whether trying to change the stereotype is useful at all. The recent growth of websites dedicated to librarians and image demostrate the desire of librarians to change the current stereotype, but it appears as though librarians are not united on how to change the image or what to change the image to.
Scherdin, Mary Jane, and Anne K. Beaubien. 1995. Shattering our stereotype: librarian's new image. Library Journal, July, 35.