Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Canadians Fighting Stereotypes

In addition to all sorts of bad things happening to their government libraries, some Canadian librarians have also fallen victim to the most popular and risible genre of journalism about librarians, the Stereotype Busting genre.

As usual, the article lives up to the stereotype of journalists thinking everyone who works in a library is a librarian, since I think two of the four “librarians” profiled aren’t actually librarians. On the other hand, if journalists actually knew what they were talking about, then we’d lose half the fun of reading them.

I found this one kind of weird. It begins by bringing up the two stereotypes the author believes are stereotypes, the old shusher and the sexpot. That alone is odd, because the sexy librarian isn’t a stereotype so much as a fantasy. Maybe a stereotypical fantasy, but still a fantasy.

The other weird part of the opening is the last sentence, saying that regardless of whether she’s a shusher or a sexpot, the librarian is “always, always a woman.” Thus, one might expect a lot of me to counter the stereotype.

Apparently, profiling one man and three women belies the absolutely true stereotype that the vast majority of librarians are women.

There’s also three white people, which should help dispel the absolutely true stereotype that most librarians (definitely in the U.S., and I’m assuming in Canada) are white people.

There’s one woman of Asian descent, so I guess there’s a little diversity. Little diversity, another librarian stereotype. The article isn’t doing so well so far.

The article I mostly found amusing, and everyone seemed game to play along. The accompanying photo spread I found slightly disturbing.

Out of thirteen photos, the man gets three more or less full body shots, which show he was either artfully posed by the photographer or that he naturally lists to the left. Two of the shots are almost identical, except that in one we get a better look at his argyle socks. Another stereotype busted.

But check out the other photos of the three women. All of them get full body shots, so that’s three photos. One also gets a closeup on her face and, oddly enough, her hands. Another gets a closeup of her neck.

I suppose those photos were designed to show off their jewelry, but the focusing on the isolated body parts for the women but not the man is odd. No, wait, it’s not odd. It’s stereotypical of men.

That still leave us with four photos to go, almost a third of the spread. Those photos are devoted to shoes, well, footwear, shoes and boots. The footwear isn’t on any feet. It’s just sitting on display on a table or something.

In keeping with the current journalistic trend to get rid of photographers and have reporters take their own pictures, the journalist is also the photographer.

I’m not quite sure what point he’s trying to get across, perhaps that some librarians wear unusual looking shoes. But what comes across to me is that he’s a shoe fetishist. I ran across one of those once, a man who collected women’s shoes and fondled them a lot, and he was creepy as all get out.

So between the closeups of women’s body parts but not men’s, and the glamor shots of shoes, I don’t think the librarians are getting very far away from some other stereotypes, especially the belief that women are there to be fashionable and look good for the man’s admiring gaze, wherever that gaze happens to dwell.

And since that kind of thing doesn’t happen to professionals in a male dominated profession, we’re right back where we started.



  1. I believe you to be willfully misreading, and misrepresenting this article. It is clearly an article about librarian fashion, not librarians in general. It’s in style section. It’s interviewing 4 librarians about their style and shopping habits, not attempting to present a qualitative study to address diversity in the North American Library world.

    The females interviewed specifically refer to particular items such as shoes and jewelry, which is why I imagine there are photos of said accessories… and the man’s shoes aren’t in close up as the ones made mention of in the article are some wingtips that he can’t afford yet. The multiple shoes belong to a librarian who specifically says that she enjoys buying many shoes: the ‘fetish’ is hers.

    I rarely comment, but my pet peeve is quoting material out of context (knowing that most readers won’t check the reference) and then taking one element of an event or piece and running with it.

    I also find it problematic that in an a piece where you seem to be trying to show your superior mindfulness of diversity and awareness of the patriarchy, you also manage to slip in a shaming comment about another individuals’ sexual proclivities…

    • Arthur Wendt says:

      Very well said. Get ready for this bloggers two modes of defense. 1. “you silly thing, don’t you get the joke?” 2. Used when really cornered, “but some of my best friends are….”

  2. What? No tats???

  3. Guess what? In Canada we’re actually pretty diverse! I feel like you’re suggesting that the article is somehow pandering by including an ethnically diverse librarian. It’s not. It’s called Canada.

    Guess what? You can look white and still be ethnically diverse! It’s kind of a Canadian thing. We kind of don’t assume folks aren’t ethnically diverse because they look white. Most of the folks I work with look pretty darn white and yet quite a few weren’t born in Canada and/or speak more than one language due to one of their mother tongues not being English.

    Guess what? We actually hire dudes in Canada, too! Maybe not 25%, but I work in medium-large size library that has 5 men on staff.

    Guess what? Actually reading an article and looking at things like “photo credits” will tell you things like how many photographers and journalists are involved in the creation of an article. Kind of like a stripped down MARC record. In this case, a wee litle bit of reading tells you that there were THREE photographers and one journalist. The journalist is not the photographer. . . not sure how you got there.

    “And since that kind of thing doesn’t happen to professionals in a male dominated profession, we’re right back where we started.” My librarian (yep – a lot of us use the term loosely; I’m a librarian, but not all of my smart, talented, capable colleagues are) friends and I work near a firehall and a bunch of very nice firemen . . . so I beg to differ. Oh wait, was that a stereotype? I guess that kind of thing can happen in a male-dominated profession after all.

    • Frog the Librarian says:

      While Canada is an ethnically diverse country, the profession here is as white as in the US. And as female.

  4. Colleen Brown says:

    The Annoyed Librarian exemplifies the worst stereotype about Librarians in this blog post – that we are serious, stodgy and just not all that approachable. Maybe if she were to spend time with any of the four people featured in the article, she might learn how to lighten up.

  5. Couple of issues…..first of all, lighten up! We in the new library world are ready to smile at old stereotypes, and I believe that is the drift of the article. I love your quickness to focus on who is and isn’t “librarians”, fulfilling another stereotype that librarians are a closed, class-filled lot (they aren’t). Can’t we all just get along?
    Also, check your facts. The photographers and journalist, are, in fact, different people in this case.

  6. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and we need a diversity of opinions in our worlds.
    In this case I was surprised and annoyed by the negative comments about a light, effective and fun article about fashion. The reasons for my annoyance have already been eloquently addressed by others. I will simply add my support by saying “ditto”.
    • It’s about fashion.
    • We are not the ones hung up about the term “librarian”. Most of the public refer to all library staff as librarians and that’s okay.
    • People who work in libraries are forward thinking, innovative, customer-focused and approachable… and yes, some are very fashionable. Let’s celebrate that!

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