September 4, 2009

From one stereotype to another

I'm a little torn. On one hand, I think it's great that the librarian stereotype is being re-vamped; instead of shushers with buns, we are now considered techie hipsters with tats. But that's also the problem: librarians are still being stereotyped.

One of the reasons I was so enamored with the profession when I began library school was that there were so many different kinds of people with many different interests. It's part of what makes the LIS discourse so varied and interesting.

Two recent articles prompting me to write this are today's CNN article, The future of libraries, with or without books, and the write up about the roller derby librarian, Tiny librarian is hell on wheels, also from CNN. Of course, the NYT article about the Williamsburg hipster librarians can also be credited for being in the back of my mind, but that came out right when I started my program.

I've been thinking about if this is really a good thing to be thought of as being mostly urban, young, technologically inclined, and pushing out the "old-school librarians" (CNN). What kind of impression does this give a younger patron (at any kind of library)? That they might only want to ask for help from a librarian who fits this description or they won't get as good of service? What kind of impression does this give an older patron? That if they aren't up on technology they might feel intimidated?

Another problem with this stereotype is it falls heavily on those who are white and middle-class. Granted, that seems to be who makes up the majority of the profession (myself included), but pushing this image discredits the diversity we do have and the diversity the profession is trying to acquire.

To depict LIS professionals as being varied in appearance, age, class, race/ethnicity, and areas of specialty would probably benefit the profession more than jumping from one narrow stereotype to another.