YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE A LIBRARIAN
Have you ever had someone say,
"You can't be a librarianyou
don't look like one!"? Or "Wow,
yeah, I believe you're a librarian." Sure you
have we all haveat one time or another.
Some think it's funny, some think notbut
I tell you, sometimes I just have to laugh! It
amazes me what folks will say to us, what
happens to us when we're out and about,
on TV, in bars, in comic stripsheck, they
even make comments about our eyewear!
One bonus of researching the image
of librarians over the last several years is
that folks share their stories and experiences
with me. Here are some comments
forwarded to me during the course of my
You sure fit the stereotype.
I never would have guessed you're a
Libraries are really changing, huh?
No, really, what do you do?
You have a Master's Degree?!?
I like to read, I should be a librarian
You dance really well for a librarian!
Since you have a bun and glasses, it's
a good thing you don't dress like a
What are you doing in this fi eld?
I didn't know librarians could be so
If librarians looked like you while I
was in school, I would have spent a
lot more time in the library!
Isn't that a woman's job?
You Don't Look Like a Librarian!
By Ruth Kneale
National Solar Observatory
You're not a typical librarian, are you?
I never met a librarian who rode a
Where's your bun?
I didn't know you had to go to school
to be a librarian!
You're too (young, funny, noisy,
messy, cute) to be a librarian.
You don't dress like a librarian.
You dress too hip to be a librarian.
And, here are a couple of stories I
received (as part of a survey of librarians)
and that made me chuckle:
"Several years ago, while at an ILL
conference here in Denver, I went
into a restaurant with a colleague from
a college library. After we sat at the
bar and ordered beers, the bartender
noticed our name tags (which we'd
obviously forgotten about) and asked
what sort of conference we were attending.
We said that he had to guess
and proceeded to give out lots of
hintsabout all the places one can
fi nd libraries, what we do, who we
help, etc. During the 30 minutes or so
that we sat there, he and a few other
interested customers tried to fi gure us
out, but with no luck. So, we fi nished
our beers, stood up, tossed our heads,
and said `We are LIBRARIANS!' Everyone
said something like `Wow!' and
we waltzed out."
"I have a little game I like to play
when I meet new people. I keep business
cards from friends, vendors, professionals
and I fi nd it's fun to place 5
or 6 from diverse female professionals
(including my own) and ask which
V o l 11 N o 1 S P R I N G 2 0 0 5
one business card they think is mine.
It's pretty interesting and fun. No one
has ever picked my business card because
`I don't look like a librarian.'"
I am constantly on the lookout for
things that reference or infl uence the image
of librarians and it can be a thoroughly
enjoyable pastime. There are the more
obvious images, like the Librarian Action
Figure (see Nancy Pearl's essay My Life as
an Action Figure in this newsletter); there
are also less obvious humorous references,
like articles about Ella Gunderson, a young
lady in Washington who appealed to Nordstrom
stores for a less racy line of clothing.
"Fashion watchers such as Gigi Solis
Schanen, an editor for Seventeen
magazine, told the Times Gunderson
should be pleased with the new trend
on the horizon. `If modesty is what
she is looking for, it's going to come
full force in the fall,' she said, adding
`tween and teen girls can expect
to see fuller skirts, higher waist lines
and more layering of tops. `The 50s
sexy-librarian look is in,' Shanen told
the Times, and the Britney Spears-style
exposed belly is out.'"
May 22, 2004
Just what we all wanted! The sexy-librarian
look of the 50s! Yeah!
Does anyone these days NOT have a
Conan the Librarian image somewhere in
his or her offi ce or on their computer? I
was quite surprised to fi nd an entire subculture
devoted to this particular individual
online. There are blogs, graphic art, stories,
movie excerpts, even software applications
(there's one where Conan the Librarian
pops up and insults you if the volume
on your workstation speakers exceeds a
Conan is even used in some libraries
as a cartoon to show folks how to get
library cards. Early credit seems to go to
the clever folks of William Mitchell College
of Law, who created the character for a
library talent show under the pseudonym
Hadley V. Baxendale, a pun on the famous
law case Hadley v. Baxendale. Read more
about their Conan the Librarian adventures
I was also highly amused by the
excerpt from the movie UHF with a TV
advertisement for an upcoming movie
called Conan the Librarian
admit it, aren't there days when you really
would like to be able to take a long
sword to the patrons who just keep pushing
Speaking of television shows, in
December 2004 TNT aired a made-for-
TV movie called The Librarian: Quest for
the Spear. Who didn't have fun watching
Noah Wyle save the world as the guy who
knows everything? Please don't send me
any irate e-mails about how this was a horrible
presentation of librarianshipI thoroughly
agree. Then again, I wasn't expecting
high literature or an accurate description
of our profession, and that allowed
me to laugh out loud several times during
the movie. Perhaps not at the places TNT
had intended, but still!
For those of you looking for more
of an Ooh, wow, ha ha, ouch! change in
image, you can always investigate Pierced
Eyeglasses. Although not specifi cally
intended for librarians, it certainly does
bring a different twist to the bespectacled
approach! The gentleman in this article
decided he'd rather do something different
with his eyeglasses, and being a fan
of body piercing, thought he'd combine
a bridge piercing (a piercing through the
fl esh at the top of your nose, right between
our eyesbasically, right where the
bridge of a pair of eyeglasses hits) with
lenses. You can see pictures and read his
story online at http://www.bmezine.com/
The issues surrounding the image of
librarians can be serious ones; they can
impact our job responsibilities, our salaries,
even whether we get hired or not. But they
can also be downright silly sometimes, and
Let's not forget these comments made to folks who are in library
wittily collected by Jane Gresham
and shared in the June 15, 2004 Library Journal.
I'd love to be a librarian because libraries are so quiet.
I thought about becoming a librarian, but I need enough income to
You need a graduate degree for that?
I thought the Internet put libraries out of business.
Don't you have enough college degrees now?
I think it's wonderful that you can pursue a hobby like that.
You have to go to college for that?
I don't see much purpose to libraries; I buy all my books at Costco.
I'd love to be a librarian because I'd love to read at work.
You have to go to school for that?
often the best way to deal with the situation
is to laugh about it! Being able to laugh at
yourself is a valuable tool and can often be
used to defuse a potentially sticky situation
and that's true for us as a profession
as well. So rememberwhen in doubt, look
at the funny side!
O R E G O N L I B R A R Y A S S O C I A T I O N