A kind reader who knows I love all things hip librarian sent me an article entitled Young, Hip Librarians Take Over, which has to be the most inaccurate news headline since “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
Some of the inaccuracy is clear in the article itself. “Aspiring librarians…said they’ve seen a leveling-off of employment possibilities in the past year as libraries across the country are reducing hours and staff…. And younger librarians are now competing with unemployed librarians with years of experience for a coveted position.” Not finding jobs and competing against much more experienced librarians are hardly signs of taking over.
In the article, we are introduced to a young hipster librarian and comedian who supposedly “is part of a new group of young librarians who are busting stereotypes about who is a ‘typical librarian,’” and who advises that libraries can stay relevant to young library users by hiring “younger, more hip librarians.”
There’s a bit of irony in this, because the young hip librarian quoted seems to have never held an actual job as a librarian, and is in fact a recent LIS graduate searching for a library job. Thus, she at least has not been taking over libraries, and at 36 is young by comparison with the average librarian but hardly young compared to young people using libraries.
I waded into the librarian’s blog and quotes ready to mock, and there are things to mock, I suppose, mostly the idea that being young and hip constitute job qualifications for librarians. Anyone who thinks that’s what it takes is going to have a hard time finding a job.
However, leaving aside the mistaken ideas on youth and hipness in libraries, this librarian undoubtedly does do something well that most librarians tend not to do well: promote herself. The image she’s promoting isn’t one I find especially appealing, but it’s worth pointing out that of the several thousand attendees at ALA Midwinter, most with actual jobs and years of experience, this woman got her picture and quotes prominently displayed in that news article.
She’s the young, hip librarian looking for a job who advises libraries to hire young, hip librarians, and she’s the one readers pay attention to. The other librarians quoted just seemed like filler.
She’s also has a sense of humor, which is something many librarians sorely need. So, while she’s not my type of librarian, if she gets a job and gets seriously immersed in the profession rather than images of the profession, I could almost see her on the library star circuit one day. It’s pretty clear from most of the librarian “stars” I’ve seen that self-promotion is much more important than knowledge.
But my advice to her and all the other young hip librarians is to tone it down a bit if you want to get jobs and succeed as librarians. Really, no one cares if you’re young or hip, as should be obvious by the sorts of people libraries hire. Nobody even cares how you look, as long as you don’t smell too bad, and the only problem with smelling bad is that malodorous librarians are hard to distinguish from the homeless.
It’s the traditionally low aesthetic standard of librarians that allows the tattooed and hip to become librarians, not the hipness itself. It’s not because of your trendy, shopworn clothes, nose rings, and tattoos that libraries will hire you while most employers won’t. It’s that libraries will also hire the frumpy guy with Asperger’s if he can catalog well.
Just being young and hip in itself means nothing. People respect you if you’re smart and do your job well. If you’re dumb or suck at your job, don’t blame tattoo-less, oldster librarians for disliking or firing you.
Despite the fact that I adore all the hipster librarian news articles for their irrelevance and blatant falsehoods, it really would be better for you to take the obsession with the opinion of others necessary to even care if you’re considered hip and think about what other people actually want.
Libraries want smart people connecting library patrons with information and services. Show them you can do that, and you’ll have a better chance at getting a job, whether you’re hip, a hippie, or just have big hips.
Self-proclaimed hipsters are concerned with style, but most librarians are concerned with substance. Pretty much any style is fine as long as the substance is there, and if the substance isn’t there, no amount of style will help.