Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Rounding Up

Every time a major conference comes along, I seem to get overwhelmingly backlogged on the “professional” reading I do to keep up with the tremendous pace required of the Annoyed Librarian. Thus, maybe it’s time for a roundup.

The silliest thing I read recently was this headline: This Librarian Is Smashing Stereotypes, One Tattoo at a Time. I saw the headline and thought, not again! Aren’t librarians tired of other librarians claiming to smash stereotypes for whatever reason? Since the stereotypes have lasted so long, there’s not much smashing going on anyway.

After reading the interview, I concluded that our tattooed librarian was definitely not to blame. She’s a library circulation clerk with a new MLS and she was interviewed by someone mostly interested in her tattoos. That’s about it. Since the interviewer mentioned nothing about stereotypes, I can only conclude a bad editor created the headline. Go away, bad editors!

Some of you might have seen the Search for America’s Most Glamorous Librarian. Besides the pointless obsession with fashion in relation to librarians, that one was noticeable to me because it sort of linked to my post on reasons Lady Gaga isn’t a librarian.

Instead of linking to my post, it linked to someone who basically reposted my entire blog post. It was one of those, “I normally don’t like the AL, but…” pieces. In this case it was, “but I don’t mind copying her entire blog post when I feel like it.”

Do other professions have so much attention focused on the look of the professionals? Or is it because 85% of librarians are women? Tattoos, glam, hip fashion? The only profession I can think of is the entertainment profession, so maybe librarians and Lady Gaga have more in common than I thought. Looks and sex. No one has any “hot lawyer” fantasies that I know of.

Another thing I’m not sure what to think about is Portland, Oregon’s street librarian. A woman is peddling a box of books around Portland and checking them out to homeless people.  Apparently Portland has a lot of homeless people on the street, a problem solved where I live by cold winters.

It gets books to people who might appreciate them and might inspire some librarians, but the need for this indicates such a social failure in so many ways that I can’t help but be depressed about it. It reminded me of the story about the Columbian man who carries books around on a burro for rural children to read. That’s the sort of comparison that doesn’t say much good about America.

In the information news, Google is trying yet again to compete against Facebook by offering yet another social media product: Google+. I guess the failures of Orkut and Buzz weren’t enough for them. Librarians used to fear Google because people searched Google rather than asking librarians for information.

I’m not sure Google is even that great for search anymore. It seems to be floundering around trying to compete in areas where people have pretty much said they don’t want Google products. IBM is a century old now and still plugging along. I wonder if there will still be a Google in 90 years.

Though it has nothing to do with American Libraries, I think I’ve found the next case that the Office for Ineffectual Freedom should take up. A Michigan man is suing the state because the prison he’s in doesn’t allow inmates to have pornography, which he claims is a violation of his rights.

“Such living conditions have been used as a method of ‘psychological warfare’ against prisoners, in order to both destroy the morale of inmates and break the spirit of individuals,” he wrote. Maybe he should have thought of that before he started robbing banks and assaulting people, but that’s just me being judgmental.

He also says the lack of porn gives him “a poor standard of living, suffering from both sexual and sensory deprivation.” From my vast knowledge of prison life gleaned by watching the old HBO show Oz, sexual and sensory deprivation are probably the best option in prison.

However, the ALA Council could pass a resolution on this. The ALA Prisoner’s Right to Read declaration, adopted  by the ALA Council just last year, clearly states that “Material with sexual content should not be banned unless it violates state and federal law.” In this case, it doesn’t, since state libraries allow at least Penthouse and Playboy.

Therefore, the obvious thing is for the ALA Council to pass a resolution that this poor Michgan prisoner be given some porn, and the OIF can make bold statements about how important porn is for the intellectual freedom and masturbatory fantasies of prisoners. This is the sort of intellectual freedom cause that lets the ALA make national headlinesI

At the very least, the ALA president could send the guy some porn. I suggest this, and maybe the past few years as well.



  1. That was a very nice post

    I am about to become a librarian in Namibia a country in Africa. There is just a lot of challenge that we are facing. I am doing my internship at a special library. I have to make a library campaign for the staff to use the library. I don’t know how to go about it. I am welcoming all the suggestions.
    Thank you

  2. I want someone to write an article about a librarian smashing stereotypes simply because he’s a man!

    Seriously, another good post that I mostly completely agree with.

    On another note, have you seen Little Free Libraries?

  3. @Frieda: Buy a donkey!

  4. Frieda – I have a Namibian friend who is looking to help some people at a public library in the north of the country so I am collecting some information for her – their reference service is not good. I’d be curious about your experience – if you want you can contact me via my website.

  5. Jt- Yes i would like to contact you. just post a link for your website. than i will definitely do that.

  6. joneser says:

    Guess I’ll never be cool, or smash any stereotypes. I refuse to get a tattoo.

  7. You seem to talk about pornography in almost every post now – I think you may have a problem. Others may publish crap on smashing stereotypes but you are now doing the same for porn.

  8. Techserving You says:

    Okay, I only skimmed this, but I had to comment on the first parts of the post because the topic is one which drives me up the wall. NO, other professions are not obsessed with their image. In another life I was in law school and got some sort of free ABA magazine for young lawyers. Yes, there were articles on professional dress, because most new lawyers are new to the world of professional work in general. That was the extent of the focus on image. The focus was on looking professional, not on how others perceive lawyers. Would the ABA have a talk on attorney image at their conference, the way the ALA did in 2010? Doubtful.

    Along these lines, that stupid column in American Libraries called “How the World Views Us” (or something like that) which basically reprints ANY and EVERY instance of someone else mentioning the word “library” is so ridiculous and so desperate. Some librarians get all excited if anyone else even recognizes the existence of libraries or librarians. It’s pitiful.

    And this whole tattooed librarian thing (in general, not just that piece) is obnoxious. I’ve written this before, but we seem to be replacing one stereotype with another. Can’t we just try to be a normal profession with the normal range of people? Nerdy, average, hip, cool, outdoorsy, whatever? It’s ridiculous and desperate to try to paint librarians as “hipsters”. It also excludes just as many people as the traditional stereotype does. I’m a normal person who looks normal… attractive but not stunningly gorgeous… healthy, fit, normal weight, wear normal clothes from a variety of stores… not someone anyone would assume from appearance to be a librarian, not someone anyone would call a “hipster,” just a typical early-mid 30s woman one would assume was some kind of a white collar worker. That’s it. We can probably “smash stereotypes” by looking NORMAL and blending with the rest of the population. We don’t need to embrace weird or consciously try to smash stereotypes.

  9. Techserving You says:

    To clarify… ALA had a talk on librarian image. (Obviously.) It was called “Not so Extreme Makeovers.” I did not attend that section so it’s unclear about whether it acknowledged that many librarians have no style and look like homeless people, and aimed to “fix” the problem, or whether the focus was more on librarian image, but either way, there is a problem that a section like that was needed.

  10. Techserving You says:

    Just one last random comment only very marginally related to librarian image…

    About 10 years ago, in one of my earliest library jobs (a paraprofessional position at an unnamed Ivy League university) a colleague commented to me that there are virtually no librarians of normal weight. He didn’t mean they were all fat – he pointed out that most seemed to be either freakishly skinny, or obese. “Freakishly skinny” does not mean supermodel-esque, but rather unhealthily thin, often with a grey pallor… not just old ladies and men, but younger women who look like little old ladies.

    Now, having worked at several libraries and attended several ALA conventions, this seems to be true. Has anyone else noticed this? It is true that if you take a cross-section of the general US population the majority will be fat. This is something somewhat different.

    And has anyone noticed the large number of handicapped librarians? I am by no means knocking handicapped people, as I have one in my immediate family. But the number of people in wheelchairs or with canes or riding around on rascals (motorized scooters) seems disproportionately high. Why would this be? Why is the make-up of a cross-section of librarians not similar to that of other professions?

  11. Dear Techserving you,

    um, what?
    I’ve worked at a bazillion libraries: academic, special and have also worked as a contractor inside public libraries. They all come in different shapes, sorts, sizes, plumbing, flavors, and income brackets. Seriously, your unnamed Ivy League must have a sickly bunch; thankfully they were all rounded up and kept in one spot. Hopefully they are getting the medical attention they need?


    one of the tan, skinny ones

  12. A Canadian librarian says:

    @ПАН БІБЛІОТЕКАР (or Mister Librarian) in a East Slavic (Ukrainian) version:

    Be nice and polite. I am quite sure that your professors taught you that, as well.

  13. Dear Annoyed Librarian, We owe you a sincere thank you and apology. First, thanks for mentioning the search for America’s Most Glamourous Librarian in your post. We got a nice lift from that. Lots of new visitors and participants. Plus a circle of new friends who are willing to talk about silly+serious things that matter to our profession…beyond our image problem. (And it is a problem.) After reviewing the link that annoyed you, we can see your point. Although that link makes attribution and comments on your post, we should have burrowed down further and linked to YOUR original post. To be honest, we did not search beyond the post we linked to originally. Now that we have, please accept our sincerest apologies for failing to notice the obvious. We’ve updated the link with your post and plan to make that correction public in a future post. As for the topic, I guess we’re still in different camps. I’ll never tire of talking about ways we can avoid being shoved aside and discounted. You asked if other professions had the same obsession with appearance or what I would call professional attire. Probably not. Perhaps they haven’t needed to. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

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