Thursday, 10 May 2012

Me and librarian stereotypes

Can't decide if to laugh or be cross at lazy librarian stereotypes - so thought I'd have a little ramble on the subject.

Let's start with clothes.  I have rarely met a librarian in real life wearing a twin set; although I am very partial to cardigans  - the library where I work being either tropical or frigid so clothes that can easily (and decently) be removed are de rigueur.  The librarians of my acquaintance do not dress as one - just as well as several are men.  Although strangely, in recent years, when shopping I have been attracted to items of apparel for their very 'librarianishness' - my favourite black Gap pinafore being such an example - must try to control this instinct.

Now what about going 'shush' ?  Actually caught myself doing this yesterday  in an ironic sort of way - suspect the students just thought I was doing it in a tight-arsed-librarian sort of way.  It just seemed inappropriate to bellow 'Be quiet, this area is for silent work!' hence the need for 'shushing'.  Tool of the trade - nothing more, nothing less -generally doesn't give us a big thrill to do it.

So we are either completely sexless or hiding raging passions beneath our very modest twin sets - the repressed librarian suddenly turning into a sexy minx.  A certain person (who will remain nameless) told me how he finds librarians alluring, just a little bit scary and likes it when they look at him over the top of their specs  (um - good reason to investigate laser eye surgery?)   Have resolved never to waive his fines again - obviously needs to realise that what he takes for flattery just won't wash.  Do you hear  people saying these things about female accountants or lawyers or primary school teachers?

I suppose in past years,when generally only unmarried women worked and the single state was thought something to be pitied, we were an easy target - a profession mainly of women, the vestal virgins of books.  But I bet you even those horn-rimmed spectacle-wearing, twin set toting, pursed lips 'shushing' library gals of yesteryear won't quite as buttoned-up as people like to imagine - just think of all those books they had available to them - Valley of the Dolls, Peyton Place, endless romantic novels - life lessons between the covers.

So when you picture librarians as mousy, shy, repressed, unloved, sexless, short-sighted (actually that bit is true), loving cats more than people, wearing flat shoes at all times, having no social life, wearing boring clothes, loving books (some of the librarians I have known have actually rarely read a book), needing silence, only ever listening to classical music you can pat yourself on the back as some of these things are true, some of the time.

BUT ... the rest of the time the librarians of my acquaintance like rock music, play various musical instruments including concertinas, run, cycle, have relationships with living creatures other than cats, like fashion, don't always wear specs, laugh loudly in the library and have to be told to pipe down, adore Michael Fassbender/Ryan Gosling/Ryan Reynolds (theme going on here -could that just be anyone called Ryan?), like cake (see curated by a colleague - excellent - if slightly sick-making), get drunk and disgrace themselves (n.b. I'm not actually referring to myself- although a short while ago I found I was unable to walk in a straight line after two white wine spritzers - complete lightweight).

Have decided to stop saying rude things about accountants.


  1. I think of librarians as people with a good range of facial expressions because they work in a place where talking isn't allowed. How mobile are your eyebrows?

  2. Sadly I don't have the eyebrows of Frieda Kahlo or Brooke Shields so not always possible to assess their mobility.