Sunday’s New York Times Style section featured an article on hip librarians. A nice, little fluffy piece about the next generation of hip librarians who can handle a swanky mixed drink with their pink hair, various facial piercings and tattoos. As the article says, “Librarians? Aren’t they supposed to be bespectacled women with a love of classic books and a perpetual annoyance with talkative patrons — the ultimate humorless shushers?”
Yep, that’s us! Humorless book worms with outdated tastes telling people to be quiet. Seriously, thank you New York Times, for stating the blindingly obvious.
Now, I’ve been known to shush people on a regular basis (yesterday I had 50 hyper people under the age of twelve in my section. You can talk in my library, but there are noise limits. A nice “shhhhh” is a gentle reminder before I have to break out the “OIY! SHUT UP!”)
When I was in high school, I had blue hair. My nose has been pierced on two occasions, and I have multiple tattoos (none of which you can see in work appropriate clothing). I also make, and enjoy, a mean vodka gimlet.
And I don’t have a big problem with the old librarian stereotype. I enjoy the looks on faces when, after a night of painting the town red, people find out what I do. I also look damn hot in a pencil skirt and sweater.
Do you know who has the biggest problem with the image of librarians? It’s not the patrons. It’s us. The librarians.
As Margaret Edwards says in The Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts:
We have been frightened for years of the little old lady in tennis shoes, realizing our public image was too close to hers to be comfortable. In an effort to disprove any association with her, we have embraced every new advance in technology–the computer, charging machines, teletype, AV. We have done every new thing possible but have neglected the book and the individual.
She wrote that in 1969. Replace “charging machines, teletype, AV” with “iPods, computers, Blackberrys” and it’s still true today. Me think the librarians doth protest too much.
On Sunday night, Melissa from Pop Goes the Library pointed out the following:
We’re exchanging one stereotype for another.
Why are we so eager to be pigeonholed into another niche? Just as many people don’t respond to librarians because they’re thinking of the glasses, bun, and shushing, there are just as many people who won’t respond to tattoos, pink hair, and loud voices. Yet we’re so desperate not to be seen as fuddy-duddies that we’re swinging too much to the other side of the spectrum, where you have to be cooler than cool to be a librarian.
Can’t we just be, you know, librarians? Can’t the fuddy-duddies and the hipster kids all hang out together and enjoy a nice World Book? (Internet or hard copy– your choice!) And, really? All these articles about librarians being cool? It’s like all the articles on knitting being trendy– so 2002. Do we need to keep writing and reading them?
Yes, they make good fluff pieces, but here’s the problem with fluff pieces–when there is a bit of actual content, they mess it up. One of the reasons librarians are cool is because, at the moment, nerds are cool. And we’re nerdy to the max, but in that cool way. As masters of information, we are tech-savvy.
I’m not going to argue that librarianship isn’t changing. The internet, digitization, technology and globalization are radically changing the field in awesome ways. Plus, we still have our favorite books! So, when articles reduce the changes to:
Many young librarians and library professors said that the work is no longer just about books but also about organizing and connecting people with information, including music and movies.
I cringe. Librarianship has ALWAYS been about organizing and connecting people with information. Now, how we do this has changed, but this is what the field has always been about, it’s not a new trend in librarianship.
This whole article is just… old news. Librarians embrace new technology! According to Edwards, we’ve been doing that for the last 40 years. Not exactly news. Librarians connect people with information! That’s the job. That’s what we’ve done since… forever.
Librarians are awesome. We are old with buns and glasses. We are middle aged with school age kids. We are young with pink hair. We can leap tall shelves in a single bound and holy cow can we answer your questions. This isn’t news, it’s just what we’ve always been.
Also, because if you’re not going to ask, you should:
Vodka Gimlet, Awesome Style
1oz lime juice
1oz lemon juice
2tsp powdered sugar
Shake contents with ice. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon or lime slice, if so desired.
-posted by kidsilkhaze