by Jeff Vogt
It seems everyone has an idea about how a typical librarian looks and acts. This is an enormous challenge in our profession. The librarian stereotype is a battle that is still being fought today—a challenge that has been constant for at least the last century and persists despite many examples to the contrary.
The stereotype of the librarian begins with gender. A librarian is most likely a woman. It’s true that women do dominate the profession. Age is another factor. The average age of a librarian is 45. According to many authors on the subject, the stereotypical attire for a librarian include black dresses or skirts, baggy pantyhose, eye glasses, and of course long grey or mousey brown hair pinned up in a bun. There is little accuracy or basis for this stereotype. There is no dress code in the profession. However, the stereotype of an older woman as a librarian has a long history. Unfortunately most television and films reinforce this stereotype.
What can we do about changing this stereotype? One suggestion is changing the title. Since librarian work includes more resources than books perhaps the name is now outdated. Suggestions for a new title include “Director of Information Resources, “Information Services Manager”, and “Services Coordinator”. During the past eight years as a school librarian, I have had three different titles. When I started the title was “Library Media Specialist”. That title was changed a few years ago to “Teacher Librarian”. Last year when I worked in two elementary schools my title was “Media Center Teacher”.
Another suggestion would be to do what would not be expected from a librarian. As librarians, we should all go against type. We should drive fast cars. Be the life of parties. Maybe there should be a hot new reality show about us. I think I would watch that show.
However, the best type of action would be to lead by example. We should dress and act professionally. We should do our job to the best of our ability. Our profession needs more diversity. Fortunately more men are entering the profession now due to increasing technology. Younger librarians are breaking the stereotypical look with hipper clothing, tattoos, and piercings. Napa Valley Unified School District has Teacher Librarians and Library clerks that represent three different generations.
Unfortunately, the stereotype isn’t going to change overnight. However, we could change the public perception one library patron at a time.
Jeff Vogt has been a Teacher Librarian since 2005. He currently covers four middle schools in Napa Valley Unified School District including American Canyon Middle School, Harvest Middle School, Redwood Middle School, and Silverado Middle School. Jeff currently holds a multiple-subject credential and a School Librarian Credential. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Library and Information Science program at San Jose State University.