It’s time to start featuring authors of the edited volume, The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Perceptions and Presentations of Information Work on ACRL Press! The book will be out this summer, before ALA 2014. We don’t have an exact date of release yet, but will share it when we know. We appreciate everyone’s excitement and enthusiasm about the book and are so thrilled to announce our authors and their respective chapters! We will be featuring three chapters per week up until/through the book’s release. Cheers!
Annie Pho is an Academic Resident Librarian at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
J. Turner Masland is the Resource Sharing Supervisor for Portland State University.
Q1: Provide a brief summary of your chapter
Our chapter is titled “The Revolution Will Not Be Stereotyped: Changing Perceptions through Diversity.” In the chapter, we explore: common librarian stereotypes (the matronly, mean, shushing librarian) and how they can shape how patrons view us; what diversity means in our field and what we are currently doing to diversify the workforce; and how academic libraries can better support students from underrepresented backgrounds. In particular, we are concerned about the lack of diversity and how that feeds into the perception that the library is an unfriendly place to students who are from underrepresented groups. We truly believe that dispelling stereotypes is a long process, but increasing diversity is a necessary part of that process.
Q2: What do you think is one of the most pressing issues regarding the librarian stereotype?
Annie: For me, one of the most pressing issues regarding the librarian stereotype is the lack of diversity in our field and also the lack of understanding from the public about what we do. What we are doing to try and diversify our field is not enough. Part of the difficulty is that our field focuses on recruitment, but the reality is, there’s not many jobs out there for library school grads period.
Turner: Through researching and writing this chapter, I have come to realize that librarian stereotypes can be barriers of service. Negative connotations of the library and those who work there can keep people away from a space that is designed to benefit those who visit. One way to overcome this stereotype, and provide better service to our patrons, it to promote and celebrate diversity among librarians.
Q3: What sparked your interest to write this chapter?
Annie: A lot of people wonder why we need to even discuss stereotypes and professional image at all, but as someone who doesn’t look like the stereotype, there have been times when my patrons didn’t believe that I was a librarian. It got me thinking about how people form stereotypes about librarians, how that actually affects us in our everyday jobs, and what we can do to challenge stereotypes or just change them.
Turner: During the uncomfortable and tedious process of coming out of the closet, my college library became my sanctuary. I was not ready to talk to others about what I was going through, but I felt safety in the books the chronicled the lives of others in the gay community. My goal as a librarian is for anyone who walks into the library to feel the same security that I felt in the library. That said, I think discussing diversity in a pretty homogeneous professional culture is very difficult. Being able to approach the discussion through the lens of addressing librarian stereotypes has been refreshing.
Q4: Who is your librarian role model?
Annie: In doing research for this chapter, I read about Janet M. Suzuki, who founded the Asian American Librarian Caucus (AALC) which was the predecessor to the Asian Pacific American Librarian Association (APALA). She was a community organizer and social justice activist, who fought for the civil rights of the Asian American community. Her work is inspirational, and she is definitely a role model for me.
Turner: My librarian role model is Ms. Abelson, who staffed my elementary school library. She was a survivor of the Holocaust, liberated from Auschwitz in 1945. What I remember most about her was her kindness. She was a quiet woman, but she always made the library a safe and comfortable place to visit. She was the librarian who taught me that the library can be a sanctuary, full of books and full of adventures. A safe place to explore the world.
Q5: Tell us something fun about yourselves!
Annie: I like hanging out with my cats and exploring Chicago by bike. I’m really, really excited to be participating in the Cycling For Libraries Unconference this summer in France. It’s going to be a great experience and a lot of FUN!
Turner: When I’m not having impromptu dance parties with my housemate or taking advantage of Portland’s expansive micro brewery and food cart scene, I try to get to the Oregon coast as much as possible. I’m fairly certain that my preoccupation with the Oregon coast was stamped on my unconsciousness by watching “The Goonies” obsessively as a child.