I just saw someone post this picture, and I just had to share it as I absolutely love it. For some reason, librarians have managed to create an image of being either a scary, strict woman with her hair in a tight, immaculate bun, or a meekish, geeky woman with low self esteem and who is, most importantly, BORING.
But why is this the case? I certainly dont fit either of these steretypical characters, and neither do any of the many librarians I know! Possibly this was the case in the era of card catalogues 50 years ago (and to be honest I am not entirely sure it ever was!) but it certainly hasnt been for some time, and this image needs to be changed, even if just for my ego and self image as a librarian!
Popular culture has not helped the librarian in this respect - I love J. K. Rowling, but I cannot thank her for her steretypical portrayal of Madame Irma Pince the librarian of Hogwarts, who is described as a thin, irritable woman who looks like an underfed vulture.
Firstly, why does the librarian image even need to be of a woman? There are many, many men working in the profession, and one famous (but fictional) male librarian that comes to mind is Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although a rather stereotypical bookish character, his seemingly infinite amount of knowledge, affinity for magic and hobby of killing vampires in his spare time makes him the very opposite of the strict frumpy woman wearing unnecessarily large glasses shouting “ssshhhhhh!!” in the library.
“He’s like Super Librarian, y’know? Everyone forgets, Willow, that knowledge is the ultimate weapon.” (Xander Harris in Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
It is only through popular culture that this image is most likely to change. The image we should be aiming for, at least as a starting point, is that of Evie Carnahan played by Rachel Weisz from The Mummy. She is a beautiful, sexy and of course extremely intelligent librarian, who is courageous enough to fight a mummy risen from the dead. She creates the impression that there is not much she isnt capable of, and of course, in addition to beauty and sexiness, we also want to add competency to our ideal librarian image.
We need less of the severe, frumpy and absolutely boring librarian characters who seem to have no life but that of their libraries, and more of the young, intelligent, and possibly attractive men and women to be portrayed in fiction and films alike; including librarians who do have lives outside of their jobs. Librarianship needs to be perceived as a ‘cool’ and modern profession. Its very nature is changing with developments in technology, becoming more and more digital and online, displaying its ability to evolve and adapt with modernity, and the image of the library profession needs to do the dame, (or in fact, completely change). If we accomplish this, then one day we can be proud of our profession, and like Evie Carnahan proclaim,
“I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell; but I am proud of what I am. […] I am a librarian.” (Evie Carnahan, The Mummy).