Although these arguments are broadly addressed through empirical and literature-based research in the forthcoming, The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Presentations and Perceptions of Information Work, with ACRL Press, I would like to take a moment to deconstruct them here. Mob mentalities, especially when lead by people who won’t be upfront about their actual identity, are not very successful at promoting productive discourse.
The argument(s), are essentially that: articles like the Slate feature, blogs like Librarian Wardrobe, or specific individuals, showing how librarians look (*especially* if they’re one of them “hipsters”) are ruining librarianship:
This argument is hypocritical
This argument posits that these avenues claim librarianship has to look a certain way (no they don’t), and that is bad. But the very fact of saying people who look like x (hipsters, sexy, frumpy) are bad and shouldn’t represent librarianship, claims that librarianship has to look a certain way.
This argument resembles feminism’s damaging in-fighting
Feminism has already done this and hurt itself. If you wear lipstick or dress “sexy,” then you’re not a feminist, or if you decide to not work and instead have children, you’re ruining feminism for all women. The whole point of feminism’s struggles was that women could make their own choices and not be sequestered into the home, but also not sequestered into the office. Why are we taking choice out of the equation for how librarians, a profession made of 80-90% women, get to look? If someone wants to look like a “hipster,” that should be their choice, and should be taken just as seriously for their work and passion as someone who chooses to look another way. By focusing on the mechanics of “looking,” this argument in effect makes everything all about how we look.
This argument subsequently reinforces all of our negative stereotypes
Due to the way in which some individuals on social media have chosen to articulate themselves (name calling, personal attacks on librarians photographed, etc.), it shows the public that librarians may very well be judgmental, ornery, and just straight up mean. Why does it seem to be so difficult for us to support each other and be positive?
This argument conflicts with diversity
Again, if we claim librarians cannot look certain ways, that harms efforts for greater diversity. The whole point of diversity is, uh, being diverse and existing/choosing to exist in a variety of ways. Likewise, showing librarians can be a wide-ranging group encourages greater diversity.
Because we all went into librarianship for the money. This argument makes no sense. Complaining that blogs or other venues like Librarian Wardrobe promote a culture of expensive fashion, and that you can’t submit a picture because you just can’t keep up with the Joneses is ridiculous. We have had a few posts previously on how to find good/fun/whatever clothes on the cheap, because hardly any of us are making bank. Take a look through the pictures, some of the items are handmade, thrifted, bought at Target, hand-me-downs, owned for years and years. This one is just bizarre.
We (LW) are happy to engage in these discussions, in fact the reason Librarian Wardrobe exists is to do just that (along with having fun showing what librarians actually look like on a day-to-day basis), but come on, we are educated professionals, let’s act like it.
I’m all for busting stereotypes, but does anyone really believe in the stodgy old spinster librarian trope anymore? The young, tattooed, vintage-classes wearing, pink-hair-having, runs-a-book-club-at-a-dive-bar “hip” librarian has become a trope itself and I just want to…
Just a public service announcement but that’s why sites like Librarian Wardrobe exist. If you are seeing images of librarians that don’t look like you guess what? Submit something. Be the change you wish to see. The submission guidelines don’t say must have tattoos or pink hair, you have to be a librarian, or a library student, or possibly even just generally involved in libraries somehow.
I can’t guarantee that will stop other media from publishing articles featuring young white people who dress a certain way but at least there will be a place where we as a profession can say “this is what we look like, here.” But it won’t stop if you don’t DO anything about it.
Ok, the point is that the focus on looks is not as important as the focus on the COOL STUFF THAT WE DO.
Also, I’m a fucking white as shit nerd woman, what the hell diversity in libraries do I even represent? PUT A BUN ON ME AND HAND ME MY READING GLASSES.
Besides the meanness of the “you missed the point” picture (which is a pretty stereotypical portrayal in media, the “mean librarian”) I don’t see anywhere that anyone is saying “what we look like is more important than what we do” or even close to that.
Changing discourse means showing different representations in media. For the public, especially those who haven’t stepped foot in a library in a long time, they are informed by what they see and read in media. A simple google image search still shows that the stereotype of the mean, older, lady librarian persists. I’m not arguing that the tattooed librarian is the answer either though. To me, the answer is having multiple representations of what a librarian can look like. That’s what is so great about Librarian Wardrobe. There’s really a range of people who work in our field, why not show it?
As for educating people on what we do, that’s something we can all do in our jobs. Efforts to change public perception is not a one size fit all answer. Everyone can do their part to create that change.
For a good read on representation of libraries and librarians in popular culture check out: Radford, G., & Radford, M. (2001). Libraries, librarians, and the discourse of fear. Library Quarterly, 71(3), 299-329.
HECK YEAH, ANNIE! Read more about what Annie has to say on this topic in her and Turner Masland’s chapter in the Librarian Wardrobe BOOK y’all, out by this summer 2014 w/ ACRL Press. The whole book (12 author chapters) tackles these issues, with plenty of research to back it up.
It’s time. Crushes for the third year of the Librarian Wardrobe Valentine’s Day Crush Contest!
Thanks to everyone who submitted a nomination, and we are so pleased to see the excitement about this. We hope it has continued to be fun and plan to do this again next year.
Just like last time, keep some smelling salts nearby to bring you back to consciousness, here are your crushes in alphabetical order:
Victor Benitez is a librarian at the D.C. Public Library. He received his library degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—GSLIS #1! He is a first generation American, was born and raised in Chicago, is a rebel queer and a hopeless romantic.
I’ve known Victor since the first day of library school. The more I got to know him, the more I realized that Victor is a sincerely amazing individual and professional. He’s a very determined, hardworking, and passionate librarian who has consistently worked for underrepresented groups. His career IS his contribution to helping communities of color. It also helps that he’s incredibly handsome *swoon* and the most stylish librarian I know!
LW: If you could have any famous person as your aunt/uncle, who would it be and why?
VB: If I had a famous uncle or aunt, it would have to be someone wacky and wise, someone with anarchism and dance moves; wait, I just described my ideal lover!
LW:How do you make your library welcoming to underrepresented groups?
VB: I’m still learning how to make my library the most welcoming place for everyone. I try to always be respectful, humble and patient. I advocate for fair policies and equal spaces for everyone. I challenge myself to be analytical, constructive and caring to all my library customers.
Nnekay FitzClarke is a high school librarian at St. Ignatius College Prep. in San Francisco and founder of Libros Libres, a free traveling bookstore.
"This lady has style to spare. From long braids to stunning twists, her hair is seriously next level. She’s professionally chic at work donning colorful cardis and cute boots. She is the co-founder of an Oakland non-profit, Libros Libres, the Traveling Free Bookstore. Funny, smart, a mega-babe, and a great dancer! I mean, come on, what’s not to crush on? Lastly, Nnekay is a kick-butt high school librarian and a great friend."
LW: Describe your dream item of clothing.
NF: My dream item is a cardigan- warm, comfy, stylish, and so many different types to choose from!
LW: What is your favorite part of working as a high school librarian?
NF: I love being able to connect with the kids and witness their transformation into little researchers.
LW: Tell us a little bit about Libros Libres!
NF: Libros Libres is a Travelling Free Bookstore based out of Oakland California. We provide books to communites who normally don’t have access to book stores or library branches. Currently we’re working on funding our own bookmobile! learn more at Libroslibresoakland.wordpress.com.
Alana Kumbier is the Critical Social Inquiry and Digital Pedagogy Librarian at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her professional interests include critical library instruction, digital pedagogy in the liberal arts, disability justice & accessibility in libraries, zine librarianship and queer archiving. She enjoys making zines, exploring the Pioneer Valley, and doing domestic projects.
"Alana is the smartest! She’s a radical queer intellectual who is also really nice and friendly—she has a phd but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. She is also a diabetic and a drag performer and a writer and a doer and she makes great things happen in life and the field. Her book, Ephemeral Material: Queering the Archive, is coming out soon from Litwin Books (http://litwinbooks.com/queering-archive.php). It’s about queer archives, theory and practice, and it’s hottt. Lots of us talk about how much we’d like a critical theoretical approach to underpin our practice. Alana gives us one, and shows us how to put it into practice. She is the best.”
LW: You’re publishing a new book soon, Ephemeral Material: Queering the Archive, how do you feel about theory vs practice? Your nominator asks if you like one or the other more?
AK: I don’t have a favorite, and I don’t accept the “vs” (even though most days, I’m immersed in practice and don’t have time to theorize, or don’t explicitly think about theory informing my practice — even though it’s there!). When I was working on the book, I wanted to build connections between theories of queer archives that have been circulating among cultural studies and queer studies scholars and the on-the-ground, material practices of people involved in queer archiving projects. Theorizing The Archive without attending to archival practices & material conditions is a troublesome endeavor (Jessa Lingel wrote a brilliant post about this), and it’s pretty clear to me that if we pay attention to what’s happening in queer grassroots archives, we can articulate theoretical approaches to queer(ing) archives that are derived from specific practices. On a more general level, I love theory because I love having frameworks that help me question the order of things (e.g., classroom power relations, binary gender systems, popular ways thinking about disability) in order to imagine how we can create better libraries & services for our students, patrons, and colleagues.
LW: What’s one piece of advice [you’d] give an up-and-coming radical librarian who wanted to stay radical in her day job?
AK: Find your people! That could mean finding other librarians & technologists in your organization who do social justice work and asking them how their activism relates to their daily work. It could also mean finding people on your campus or in your community who are willing to be be collaborators, and figuring out ways to do projects with them. I’m new enough at Hampshire that I’m still finding my people there, but in my last job (at Wellesley College) I loved partnering with some of the student organizations on campus. I’m fortunate to have been part of the Boston Radical Reference Collective, and I’m making (and seeking!) new librarian-friends in the Valley who are activists, zinesters and artists. I’m so lucky to be in a state where folks are interested in creating & sustaining networks of radical librarians.
Turner Masland is currently the Resource Sharing Supervisor for Portland State University’s Millar Library, where he oversees Interlibrary Loan, inter-consortial lending and borrowing as well as other services including document delivery and faculty delivery. He is really proud to work for a user-centered organization that is dedicated to service. When he’s not in the library, he spends his time exploring the Pacific Northwest.
"Turner and I met on our first day of graduate school and have been buddies ever since. Turner is a cheerleader of the first tier, willing to fight really hard to help you keep your head up when times are tough (personally and professionally) and he’s a hard-working, intelligent library advocate. He’s what art historians refer to as a gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art. Don’t let that biting wit fool you into thinking this guy is all brains; he’s also the sweetest bear of a man a girl could have as a friend and colleague. Plus he’s handsome and fashionable, so you should totally pick him as some excellent V-Day LW eye-candy.”
LW: How do you maintain that sweet beard?
TM: Be good to your beard and your beard will be good to you. Good conditioner, a good brush and some beard oil or beard balm are the essential tools. But if you want your beard to really stand out, be sure to include mountain trails and salty air into your beauty regime.
LW: What’s your favorite kind of sandwich and why?
TM: One that’s made with love. Because kindness tastes that much better.
LW: Can you give some advice to new professionals/library school students on how to be as awesome as you?
TM: If you want it - make it happen. Be prepared to hustle, to make sacrifices and be creative. Embrace ambiguity. Approach what you do with passion. And remember: the grass is always greener where you water it.
Jenica P. Rogers is Director of Libraries at the State University of New York at Potsdam, and is currently interested in interrogating the ways our information economy is breaking down and reforming now that the internet changed everything for libraries, for publishers, and for information consumers.
“My biggest librarian crush right now has to be geek goddess and any-second-now first-time mom Jenica Rogers. Did you read her posts about standing up to the predatory American Chemical Society? Imagine Robert Downey, Jr. as Ironman, only with a script by Dorothy Parker. Totally fucking badass. Want a taste of Jenica in action? Watch the video of the keynote she gave at the latest Charleston conference in she was, in her own words, blunt, confrontational, and aggressive. The video is linked from a post in which confronts some evildoer’s reaction to her keynote. Which, by the way, she connects seamlessly to those with reactionary takes on ALA’s new Code of Conduct: http://www.attemptingelegance.com/?p=2263.”
LW:You close your bio on your blog with “Some day, I’m going to take over the world.” What will our world be like when you do?
JR: Ha! That’s just pure snark and sass on my part. But I’d say that I hope to live in a world that’s kinder than the one we have now, with more compassion for everyone’s individual circumstances. And I know I want to live in a world where we’re all encouraged to dream big, empowered to try to realize those dreams, and given access to what we need to succeed. On the flip side, I have a friend who says that giving me too much power is like giving Galadriel the One Ring, so … yeah.
LW: What advice do you give to librarians who want to take a stand against similar circumstances, particularly when they might not have as high of a level position?
JR: We all have power somewhere, or can create power somewhere. Find yours, and use it. It might be small scale — talking to one person who you can convince of your worldview. Speaking to one vendor who hears your concerns in a real way. Writing one policy document that influences change. Joining an organization doing work you believe in, and supporting that work. Don’t undervalue what you have to offer. It takes more than someone standing up and being strident to enact meaningful, long-term change. You don’t have to be me, or try to be me, or even want to be me to have an impact — you just have to be you, finding the places where you too can be the water dripping on stone. (I just happen to have access to a firehose.)
(photo credit: Cindi Blyberg)
T-Kay is the human rights archivist and librarian for Brazilian studies at UT Austin. When she’s not in the library/archive, you can find her globetrotting, doing her radio shows in Austin and LA, digging for records, and searching for the perfect ramen spot. Find her on Twitter: tttkay and http://dublab.com/labrat/labrat-t-kay
“Basically, she is the coolest person ever. T-Kay works with the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) at UT Austin, which preserves the historical record of genocide and human rights violations. She’s also a dope dublab DJ in Austin (you can catch her show on Sundays). Oh yeah, and she’s got some serious fashion sense. Her bangs are also always on point.”
LW: What are some of your favorite musicians/bands/djs that you like to play during your DJ sets?
TS: Ha, depends on the context (spoken as a true archivist)! I do a radio show, Hip Hop Hooray, in Austin, TX and there I’m likely to be spinning hip hop I picked up in Brasil or Rwanda. My program, The Afternoon Love In, on dublab in LA is where I’m likely to play the vintage records I picked up in Portugal and Thailand. When I DJ receptions at our library, the Benson Latin American Collection, I’ll dig into some old school salsa, marimba music, and boogaloo. My Best of 2013 set for dublab gives a sampling of what I’ve been playing lately.
LW: What’s your fashion inspiration?
TS: street style x vintage x femme x wanderlust favorite style icon at the moment: cibo matto
LW: Tell us a little bit about your job!
TS: I serve as both Archivist for the Human Rights Documentation Initiative as well as Librarian for Brazilian Studies for the Benson Latin American Collection at University of Texas at Austin. As the Human Rights Archivist, I work with human rights organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the US to help preserve their documentation of human rights violations. This includes traveling down to the organizations to bring equipment and provide training as well as working with them to devise digitization and metadata workflows and access points for their collections. As a subject specialist, I’m responsible for collection development + acquisitions trips as well as reference and instruction to support Brazilian Studies.
Jude Vachon is a librarian, health advocate and artist/crafter who lives in Pittsburgh with her animals.
"She is the zine librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and I believe she is the founder of that collection & has had primary responsibility for building it.
She’s been an advocate for access to health care for uninsured, low-income Pittsburghers. Through the project she founded, Be Well! Pittsburgh (2005-2013), she distributed information about health care services through the Be Well! Pittsburgh website and created informational resources for community members with particular health concerns: http://bewellpgh.org/
She made an amazing zine with Lizzie Anderson, Take Good Care, which is a guide to getting the care we all deserve when we visit our health practitioners.
In January, she blogged her daily activities in domestic making (sewing, mending, cooking) for Fun-a-Day & inspired me to do some domestic projects of my own (& document them), which was a great thing in the midst of a bitterly-cold month.”
LW: What self-care advice would you offer to librarians who are also activists and/or artists? Are there any resources you’ve found particularly helpful?
JV: Self-care is so important for all of us, so thanks for asking. Learning how to do it is a process I think, and I continue to learn about it all the time. I think that the starting point is believing that we all deserve to be well, then working out our own particular needs around wellness, which are of course much broader and deeper than access to health care. I did just find a great resource for myself, by asking for suggestions on The Facebook - it’s a book called Nourishing Traditions that talks about nutrition and has lots of wonderful recipes. I like Rosemary Gladstar’s books on herbal medicine, rootsimple.com for information on urban organic gardening and radical homemaking, relational cultural theory books from The Stone Center for psychology/emotional wellness rooted in feminism and social justice.
LW: What are you prioritizing in your life (professional, activist, or artistic) now that you’ve concluded Be Well! Pittsburgh?
JV: I started a zine-making project in a homeless men’s shelter here in Pittsburgh in October 2013. It’s a one-year grant-funded project with a possibility for a year extension, so we have some time to learn and develop some processes. I’ve learned so much already from the men and from our work together. They’ve reminded me, like zine work always does, how exciting and crucial self-expression and DIY publishing is. I love busting zines out of their usual sort of scene, too. They’re an amazing tool that I want lots of different kinds of people to know about.
All winners can take the new LW Valentine’s Day Crush Winner badge to put on their blogs or elsewhere!
Badge designed by Ed Mann, designer/animator extraordinaire.
That concludes the crush post, happy Valentine’s Day!