Starting up a new week of author interviews, today we look at archivist stereotypes for The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Perceptions and Presentations of Information Work on ACRL Press.
Terry Baxter is an archivist with the Multnomah County Records Program in Portland, Oregon
Q1: Provide a brief summary of your chapter
It’s not just librarians with image problems! Archivists have them, too. Dusty, musty, shy, introverted – we’ve heard them all, gentle readers. This chapter discusses the image of archivists through the lenses of archival activism and community archives. While it focuses on the role of archivists and archives in Portland, Oregon’s queer community, most of the issues and conclusions are extensible to other archivists and communities across the United States.
Q2: What do you think is one of the most pressing issues regarding the librarian (/archivist) stereotype?
One of the most pressing issues regarding the librarian stereotype is the dearth of qualified tattoo artists to meet the demand of ink-crazed librarians. JK, librarians! We archivists value diverse representations, too. I actually think my chapter reflects more on archivist stereotypes than librarian ones. Librarians have been very good at transitioning from an obsession with the stuff to one with people. Archivists are getting there, but perceptions about them still lag behind.
Q3: What sparked your interest to write this chapter?
I believe that everyday people often shy away from archives and archivists because of the misperceptions they have about them. But archives are powerful tools of change and need to be in more diverse hands and used for more diverse purposes. We archivists should always be breaking down barriers to the creative use of archives and figuring out ways to make our records and ourselves more accessible to people.
Q5: Who is your librarian role model?
I have two. The first is Cheryl Metoyer. She gave a presentation in 2004 that fundamentally changed the way I have approached my work. Much of the literature around archival activism and social justice is grounded in theory. While that’s important, Cheryl’s depiction of the role of the heart and beauty in the work librarians do has been a guiding star for my own work in archives. The second is my mom, Pearl Baxter. She was my high school librarian at a small boarding school in Penang, Malaysia. In my high school summers, I learned how to reshelve, repair, select resources, catalog – all in the name of “keeping me out of trouble.” My mom was uncredentialed, but it was from her that I learned that libraries and librarians created vital spaces for interaction – with others, with ideas, with our own selves.
Q5: Tell us something fun about yourself!
I have been blessed with a mostly fun life. One thing that people might be surprised at is that right in the middle of a 28-year career as a professional archivist, I owned a construction business with my brother. It failed after a couple years, but it was fun while it lasted and I learned new things and met new people. If you need a new deck …