As if I needed any further proof of my stereotypical-librarian-ness, this month’s Media Watching page in the CILIP Update mentions a new book on the market, You Don’t Look Like a Librarian: Shattering Stereotypes and Creating Positive New Images in the Internet Age, by Ruth Kneale, complete with picture:
If you’ve read this far, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the back of my head looks almost exactly the same (as far as a I can tell by not actually looking at the back of my head) as the picture of what is meant to be a stereotypical librarian on this book cover [the one not in the frame in case it isn't obvious]. The only difference is that I actually live up to the stereotype even more than the lady in the picture, as I can mainly be found wearing not a suit jacket but a cardigan! However, I can say that I don’t often have a pencil lodged in my hair, although it has been known.
As if looking like a librarian wasn’t enough, I’m also quite a shy retiring type who really isn’t all that good with people. I like quiet, order and the smell of old books. My interests include reading (although not sure this can really be classed as an interest, it’s just something you do), knitting and gardening. I have my books and CDs shelved in alphabetical order of author. I listen to my mp3s in alphabetical order of song title. I like cats. I’m generally quite dull and predictable.
Sometimes I wonder whether I’m letting the side down in some way by perpetuating the look and ways of a stereotypical librarian. Should I try and look cooler? Should I try and be a bit more odd-ball, a bit edgy, or just a bit louder? I don’t want people to think that all librarians are like me, because they’re not. Librarians are, in fact, possibly one of the most interesting and diverse groups of people you could ever wish to meet. Many of them are quite extrovert and loud and would possibly rather eat their own cats than shush anyone or wear their hair in a bun. Some of them are even male.
I don’t think there is much I can do about my embodiment of the librarian stereotype. I’m not going to change into an information ninja overnight (if ever), much as I admire such people. I don’t like stereotypes, so I like to see them being broken. I like the fact that librarians are challenging the stereotype in so many ways, but I’m also glad that there’s room for people like me in the library world. Stereotyping is unhelpful and generally leads to bad things. Librarians are people too! Information professionals of the world unite!
Now, where’s my cardigan?