About a week ago, I was interviewed by Kara Jesella who was writing a story for the New York Times. She told me she was writing about how librarians are becoming more tech-savvy and how they are using technology in libraries. While talking to her, it became clear to me that she wasn’t particularly interested in what I was saying. I’ve been interviewed before, and it’s usually pretty obvious when you’re not giving them the quotes they want for the article they’ve probably mostly already written. When I saw the article on Sunday, I was very relieved that I wasn’t quoted anywhere in it (my friend Jessamyn, who is way too cool for that article, unfortunately was).
The basic gist of the article, “A Hipper Crowd of Shushers,” (if the title wasn’t bad enough) is that these days, librarians are more than bun-wearing spinster book-lovers who hate to have their quiet and orderly library disturbed by human beings. Librarians can be hip, though still in a geeky tattoo of the federal depository library logo, trendy granny glasses and mixed drinks classified by Dewey numbers kind of way. And shockingly, librarians aren’t just women… there are “guybrarians” out there too. And we’re not just about books anymore, we’re also “about organizing and connecting people with information” (I guess I have to wonder when the profession wasn’t about these things). It felt to me like the author hadn’t been to a library in a long time, had never known a librarian personally prior to researching the article, and thought she was making an important discovery in finding that librarians are not how they’ve been portrayed in movies since the 1930s. I should have guessed the article would be more like this when I Googled Ms. Jesella last week and found a whole bunch of article she’d written for the style section (though her book on Sassy magazine — one of my faves growing up — sounds pretty cool). Just when I was thinking of subscribing to the Sunday New York Times again (after a lapse of 8 years) I am again reminded of how completely out of touch they usually are. That’s money better spent on the Wii Adam and I have been wanting to buy for our anniversary next month.
I strongly agree with
Sophie Brookover Melissa Rabey who argues that by embracing the New York Times’ portrayal of librarians, we are only trading one stereotype for another. Just about every profession has been stereotyped by Hollywood and some stereotypes have stuck more than others. Few members of any profession are as painfully aware of and as uncomfortable with that stereotype as librarians are. It goes back again to the collective self-esteem thing. Like any profession, there are all sorts of people who decide to get involved in it for all sorts of reasons. People from all walks of life end up in this profession and the vast majority of them do not fit either the Hollywood stereotype nor the New York Times stereotype.
Perhaps I should write an article that exposes the fact that not all journalists fit the stereotypes portrayed in Frank Capra films and replicated in so many others throughout the years (like The Hudsucker Proxy):
the energetic, opportunistic reporter who would do anything for a scoop; the cynical big-city newspaper editor committed to getting the story first, even if it means strangling his reporters to do it; the tough, sarcastic sob sister trying desperately to outdo her male competition; or the morally bankrupt, ruthless publisher who uses the power of the press for his or her own ends.
I’m glad we have hipster librarians and tattooed librarians. I’m also glad we have baby boomer librarians, conservative librarians, techie librarians, activist librarians, librarians who are veterans, librarians who have come from other professions, librarians who are into sports, librarians who watch the same junk reality TV I watch, and much more. We all bring different ideas and experiences to the table and I’m damn proud to be a part of such a diverse and dynamic profession.
For some others views of this article, check out Karen Schneider (yeah, where are those $50K library jobs in NYC?!?!?), Gothamist (you mean my kindergarten teacher didn’t sleep in the gym?), Eric Childress, and Informationatrix.