A Kind Reader forwarded an email about some new cutting edge research by a couple of librarians. It’s the sort of research that will be sure to increase their chances of tenure.
As with so much research done by librarians, it consists of a rigorous and scientific survey at Surveymonkey.
Before you click through and take the survey, or just not bother to like I did, here’s the main part of the email. The email wants
to request your participation in a study to examine librarian dress codes and the value of a professional code. We hope that results of this research will help the perception and open a discussion of whether the library profession should have a standard dress code that is endorsed by the American Library Association. Our research will also discuss if business attire will lead to increased salaries and increased professional status of librarians. The results of this survey are intended for publication.
Speaking personally, that’s just what I think we’ve been missing: a “standard dress code” endorsed by the ALA. Or maybe not.
I’ve gone on the record for years arguing that the ALA should stay away from non-library issues. Now I think I’m going to have to add that it should also stay away from sartorial issues.
Partly, I fear that the average fashion sense of librarians might become part of the standard dress code. I don’t want to wear sweaters with pictures of kittens on them, or big baggy dresses.
But mostly I just don’t like the idea of a “professional code” devoted to dress. For one reason, it’s not anybody’s business but mine how I dress.
For another reason, librarians, in their own way, have style. It’s not always a good style, but it’s definitely a librarian style. There’s a librarian look, or a series of librarian looks, and none of them involve taking off glasses to turn into a sexpot.
That’s why you can usually tell who the librarians are. I think that’s a good thing, especially since I know how to avoid the look when i want to go incognito.
But the key part of the research, and I suspect the motivation behind it, is the question of whether “business attire will lead to increased salaries and increased professional status of librarians.”
See, it’s not just a “professional dress code.” They’re really talking about “business attire,” so every librarian everywhere would have to look like the army of indistinguishable drones in the corporate world.
If people want to wear suits, let them wear suits. If they want to wear jeans, let them wear jeans. Must everyone look the same? The only time I’d recommend always wearing a suit is when negotiating with vendors.
One thing a lot of us like about libraries is not having to dress like corporate hacks. Besides, why should all librarians be expected to dress the same?
As for increased salaries, forget about it. The only way dressing up would benefit your salary is if you dress up for an interview at an administrative level higher than your own.
In most libraries, no matter how you dress you’re not going to get paid more, and if the whole profession started dressing up for work, the only thing it would result in is more librarian salary going for professional clothes.
And then there’s the issue of professional status, worrying about which is the mark of insecure librarians everywhere. In whose eyes do you think wearing business attire would increase your status?
If you’re at a public reference desk, would wearing a suit make you look more professional in the eyes of patrons? Or would it make you look very out of place and even less approachable?
The dress norms in academia go from power suits to casual skirts depending on the area and time of year. If academic librarians start dressing better than the professors, will they therefore get more money and respect? In case you didn’t think that was a rhetorical question, the answer is no.
I highly doubt the ALA would get involved in promulgating a librarian dress code, which would surely annoy a lot of librarians. But if it does, I’ll still dress however the hell I want and ignore the ALA like everyone else does.