Image of Libraries and
Librarians in Literature
We have established the stereotype of the librarian and she looks like the character featured in the gif above. This animated gif has been offered free by The Animation Factory and is unceremoniously titled "Librarian Shhh Quiet Please". We see the classic stereotype for a female librarian: an unattractive, bookish woman with her hair in a bun, wearing black horn-rimmed glasses who only pauses from contemplating the novels on her bookcart long enough to shush the viewer. This same character is featured in additional images at the Animation Factory through a keyword search. The other gifs tell more about the stereotype: the woman wears long-sleeved blouses over floor-length skirts with sensible shoes. Other library gifs include a filing cabinet and a bookcart. The general public still views librarians in this antiquated manner as noted by the absence of barcode scanners, computers and other modern conveniences.
Images of this bygone era remain with us all, perhaps because we are not vocal enough about the disparity between reality and fantasy. Few champions for improving our image in the library field exist within the industry so we often rely upon others to do it for us. Perhaps those who put us in the limelight most are authors and illustrators who feature such characters in their novels and art. Illustrators vary in view from the stereotype to friendly and more progressive characters. See the bibliography of Children's Fiction about Libraries or Librarians in Literature Literature section of this project. In regard to adult fiction, do all authors portray librarians as either retired women who discover dead bodies and investigate murders at the drop of a hat pin or as old maids who are avid romance readers but have yet to discover their true love? Yes, some of these stereotypes still exist in modern literature, but there is a definite trend to modify the stereotype.
The Image of Libraries and Librarians in Literature List provides a list of recent fiction which primarily feature a library professional as the focus of the story, whether the character is a cataloger, an archivist, a reference librarian, a children’s librarian, or a retired librarian. A few of the titles feature authors and references to libraries were substantial enough to include them in the list.
The Selected Resources List below provides bibliographies of literature that feature librarians. The resources are in a variety of formats and provide further discussions about the image of librarians in adult reading level literature.
Fiction Reading List
Burns, Grant. 1998. Librarians in Fiction: A Critical Bibliography. McFarland.
Cart, Michael. 2002. In the Stacks: Short Stories about Librarians and Libraries. Overlook Press.
Alderman, Ellen and
Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. Can a journalist's novel be libelous?
('Primary Colors' by Joe Klein). Columbia Journalism Review, 36(2):55-57.
BookBrowser. 2001. Sleuths By Occupation: Librarian [online]. Bloomington, IN. Available at: http://www.jcl.lib.ks.us/is/ra/librarians.htm. Accessed 2 December 2001.
Cobrinik, Laura. 2000. Librarians As Characters In Fiction: Biographies, Poetry and the History of Libraries, including textbooks. in Marginal Librarian. [online]. McGill Library and Information Studies Student Association. Los Angeles, CA. Available at http://www.gslis.mcgill.ca/marginal/mar7-3/Librarians%20As%20Characters%20In%20Fiction.htm. Accessed 21 November 2001.
Johnson County Library.
2001. Librarians In Fiction. [online]. Johnson County Library:
Bookmarks & Bibliographies. Shawnee Mission, KS. Available at
Gunn, James. 2001. Librariaes In Science Fiction. [online]. University of Kansas, English Department. Lawrence, KS. Available at: http://falcon.cc.ukans.edu/~sfcenter/library.htm Accessed 4 December 2001.
McCurley, Marsha. 2000. Bibliomysteries Web. [online]. Los Angeles, CA. Available at http://www.bibliomysteries.com/. Accessed 27 November 2001.
Parnell, Stephen. 1991. Literature, libertines and Lenin's wife: Famous People and Libraries. [online]. University of South Australia Library. Adelaide, South Australia. Available at http://www.library.unisa.edu.au/papers/famouslb.htm. Accessed 8 December 2001.