In one of my classes our professor had us read and respond to an opinion piece by Francine Fialkoff, Editor-in-Chief of Library Journal, entitled “The Image Thing” about the image of librarians. The following is my response:
On this issue of “librarian image” I find myself wanting to have my cake and eat it too. That is to say, I do want to be taken seriously, I do want not to be stereotyped as a fuddy-duddy boring type. Last weekend I mentioned to an old acquaintance (a professor of South Asian Studies and Culture) that I was enrolled in library school and found myself getting a bit flustered when her reaction was, “You?!? Want to be a liBRARian?” with a slightly disgusted look on her face. I realized that her image of a librarian was that of someone dry and dull and with no social life, someone mousy. I reassured her (and myself) that becoming a librarian would not relegate me to such a fate.
And yet, on the other hand, I find myself frustrated that librarians are getting bogged down by image issues. There are so many pressing concerns in librarianship, it seems like this issue of “image” should be the least of our concerns.
So, basically what I’m saying is that my belief is that we should really get over this whole image issue while acknowledging that we too are human, and that the whole image thing will at times get under our skin. When that does occur, the proper remedy is humor — whether that be going out and buying a “shushing” doll or indulging in some library-humor on YouTube.
Examples of humorous YouTube clips: (taken from http://www.ala.org/ala/acrlbucket/is/iscommittees/webpages/emergingtech/techtips/spring2007.cfm)
1. University of California, Merced http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=UCMerced+library&search=Search
* Tutorials and funny clips.
2. James C Kirkpatrick Library CMSU http://youtube.com/watch?v=i6WGPRWQy7A
* A silly and yet resourceful overview of the library building and all it has to offer.
3. Williams College http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwCUtpbUWgk
* Public service librarians at Williams College are depicted as a band of bibliophiles who “escaped to the Williamstown underground” and survive as “librarians of fortune.”
Also, it’s good to keep in mind that there are also numerous portrayals of librarians as uber-hip and with-it information professionals with cool side-interests and a thirst for knowledge that various articles (in the NYT, in the San Jose Mercury News for example) have been spreading. More than once, upon telling a new friend that I’m enrolled in library school I’ve gotten the, “Oooh! It’s so “in” to be a librarian now!” response too!
I guess you lose some coolness points but then you gain others. At any rate, again, the main point is not to let issues of image sidetrack us from more urgent concerns in Libraryland.