Do you know what annoys me more than librarian stereotypes? Librarians doing things they claim are breaking those stereotypes. That’s the biggest librarian stereotype of all.
The most popular way to do that seems to be by producing a calendar with pictures of librarians supposedly breaking stereotypes. Last year it was the men in the stacks calendar. That one shocked the national media by showing that some librarians are men. What the national media didn’t realize was that there really are only 12 male librarians in the entire country, and they all posed for that calendar.
This year, it’s yet another tattooed librarian calendar.
That’s right, I said another, because in 2009 we had the tattooed ladies of the TLA. That would be the Texas Library Association for those of you not in the know. And in 2010, we had the tattooed librarians of the pacific northwest.
Disproving the received wisdom that Massachusetts and Texas don’t have much in common, we now get the tattooed youth librarian calendar from the Massachusetts Library Association. Come on, MLA tattooed youth librarians, couldn’t you have thought of something more original? By this point, a calendar with tattooed librarians pretty much is a stereotype.
You might have clicked on that LJ article about the calendar and wondered why I’m talking about stereotypes. Instead, take a look at this news article about the calendar.
According to the article, the calendar is “a chance to shatter stereotypes of stodgy librarians and showcase the diversity of the men and women working in the field, organizers say.”
Of course it isn’t.
Some librarians are just obsessed with stereotypes. According to one tattooed participant, “If you watch TV or anything, and they have a librarian on, it’s always white hair and glasses, shirt buttoned up to your neck and sensible shoes. Certainly those people are still out there, but I don’t know any of them.”
Is that true anymore, though? What are some relatively recent librarians in TV or movies? Anthony Head in Buffy? Noah Wylie in The Librarian series? I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I never seem to see any librarians at all. Unless librarians start solving crimes they’re not going to show up much.
Another of the participants said “it was the reputation reboot aspect of the calendar that prompted her to participate.”
Since tattooed librarian calendars have now become a thing, is there a reputation to reboot? You know what reputation reboot I’d like to see? Librarians as smart people reading book or fighting for justice or being superheroes or solving crimes. Is “tattooed librarian” really a reputation worth cultivating?
Yet another said, “”I think it gives a whole different perspective of what librarians are in this generation and this day and age.” Can yet another tattooed librarian calendar really give a new perspective?
Some people just object to tattoos. They think that’s how people from primitive tribes decorate themselves. One of the librarians said “she’s heard the occasional criticism before from people who don’t approve of tattoos.”
“You kind of get the gamut of people who are like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool!’ to people who literally think you shouldn’t be hired if you have visible tattoos,” Boc says. “But if you wore the same necklace every day, you could really say the same things about that. Why is that any different?”
I’m pretty sure wearing a necklace and having a tattoo are different things. At the very least, the necklace comes off more easily than the tattoo. Oh, and you could change the necklace depending on your outfit. On the other hand, for a lot of people, that tattoo is always going to say “drunken sailor.”
But the annoying thing isn’t the tattoos. If librarians want to tattoo themselves all over, that’s fine. The annoying thing is the constant refrain that doing so somehow “shatters stereotypes.”
That’s a tired expression and just not true. People who use libraries know what librarians look like. People who don’t won’t buy this calendar anyway.
For the next promotional calendar, maybe we could have something more original, and without the stereotype-busting nonsense. I think a crime fighting one would be popular, and then the librarians could sell the TV rights and make a lot more money.
Fighting crime with science…library science. That would be a great slogan for a TV show.