Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Stroking the Male Ego

If there’s anything I’ve learned with this blog, it’s that you can’t please everyone, which is why I don’t even bother. Not pleasing people gives them something to complain about, and people love to complain. If people didn’t love to complain, social media would wither and possibly die.

Some of the complaints and criticisms I understand, but some of them I don’t. For example, one of my lessons from last week was:

Unless you’re a middle class white librarian, and probably a male librarian at that, don’t do anything that might get your attitude labelled as “adversarial and incorrigible.” Some actions might include: not smiling enough around people who think you should smile; talking when someone else would rather talk; continuing to talk when someone else has interrupted you repeatedly; talking; questioning anything.

Someone left the following comment regarding that lesson, and I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be ironic or not: “It isn’t pleasant being a male librarian, so I don’t understand where this is coming from.”

Where to start on this one?

First, apparently for a lot of people it isn’t pleasant being anything, including a librarian, regardless of their gender or anything else. The phrase that captures this best on the internet is “adulting is hard.”

What can one say to that? If adulting is hard, maybe you’re doing it wrong? No, that’s just mean. Life is a meaningless wasteland of anxiety and dread and we’re all better off dead? Nah, too nihilistic. There are meds for that? There we go. That’s the social answer.

Based on the internet memes I could find, the most popular solution to the problem of “adulting” is coffee, followed way down in popularity by wine and Jesus. If you’re Catholic, you can combine those last two but you might still want some coffee because it’s not like your work is going to keep you alert.

So it’s not pleasant being anything. Thus, it’s not necessarily pleasant being a librarian, either. The only people who ever seem remotely excited about being librarians are people who are interviewing for librarian jobs, and most of them are just pretending.

Which brings us to, “It isn’t pleasant being a male librarian,” a comment made by, presumably, a male librarian. Okay, not pleasant. Join the club of people for whom work isn’t pleasant. But the next comment? “I don’t understand where this is coming from.”

Oh my word. Are you listening to yourself? No, more importantly, are you listening to anyone else? If you’re a man in the workplace, the answer to that is probably “no.”

If you’re a male librarian, you could be an exception. However, I would be very surprised if there are any male librarians who have been repeatedly interrupted by women while talking in meetings.

I would also be equally surprised if there are female librarians who haven’t been interrupted repeatedly by men while trying to talk in meetings.

How often have men said something in a meeting or presentation, been ignored, and later a woman said the exact same thing and was greeted with approval? And how often as the reverse happened?

The same behavior in the workplace might be interpreted from men as assertive and independent, but from women as “adversarial and incorrigible.”

He calls them like he see’s them. She is an aggressive bitch.

Where does this come from? Really?

Oh, sweetie. Can I call you sweetie? How about honey? Or just generally refer to you dismissively because that’s how I’m used to dealing with people who aren’t of my gender and nobody has ever called me on it, especially if I’m with a group comprised only of my gender?

Can I invade your personal space?  Can I talk over you if I feel like it? Better yet, can I be promoted over you even though I have less experience because I’m perceived as more competent because of my gender?

Are you familiar with the term “mansplaining,” sweetie? Do you have any idea why so many women understand that term intuitively? Maybe once you do you won’t ask “where does this come from,” because it comes from life.

Ask a sampling of professional women you trust enough to tell you the truth, and then just shut up and listen. It’s hard to do, but if you really try you might succeed.

I’m not saying it’s easy to be a man, or white, or middle class. We can all agree that it’s not easy being anything. But we should be able to agree, unless we’re really blinkered, that it’s at least a little less hard to be some things than others.

In professional workplaces  and pretty much everywhere else in the United States, it’s easier to be a man than a woman (not even getting into the whole transgender issue), white than a person of color, from a middle class background than a working class background, etc.

Libraries are somewhat different than some other professions, in that there’s a better chance than most that women won’t be the minority in an administration, at least these days. But, in general, libraries exhibit the same sorts of prejudices of society at large.

So, male librarians who feel put upon when anybody suggests you’re not perfect, instead of me having to explain why someone might write what I did, maybe look around and figure that out for yourself.

Or not. Chances are, nobody’s going to call you out on this sort of behavior again anyway, so why bother.

But you might be saying, “AL, other men might be like that, but not me! I’m woke!” In that case, don’t worry your pretty little head about it because I’m not talking about you.

If I’m not talking about you and you still feel offended, why are you so sensitive? Maybe it’s just that time of the month.



  1. anonymous coward says:

    what a load of horsecrap. You took a cheap potshot stereotyping 49% of the world’s population and a small minority of your professional coworkers to prove a bad point.

  2. “However, I would be very surprised if there are any male librarians who have been repeatedly interrupted by women while talking in meetings.” I’m guessing you navigate a world full of surprises.

    • I’ve been interrupted by women many times. Both genders are fully capable of being jerks.

  3. “Girl, Interrupted” is a go-to media piece these days, but what a different experience I’ve had in the narrow world of the library. Perhaps it’s geography, or the status of the institution…The few male librarians I’ve known (few because they never comprise more than a low single-digit percentage of the staff I’m on) definitely skew towards being reserved or guarded, in contrast to my female co-workers who feel mostly free to opine on anything.

  4. Librarian Man says:

    “However, I would be very surprised if there are any male librarians who have been repeatedly interrupted by women while talking in meetings.” Oh my word, we have a female librarian where I work who will bully her opinion over anyone, male or female. She makes a disaster of many meetings. I think all the male librarians here are too nice, or have just given up trying to interrupt her or even stop her from interrupting them.

  5. White guys, we get it all handed to us..... says:

    Fools, being a white-male librarian rocks. Not only do I do wonderful things for people, but I get paid to chat-up the ladies! What a racket! Sure we talk to much in meetings, but that is something we specifically do to drown-out the horrible, poorly-thought out ideas my peers love to share.

  6. mud fence says:

    So now I have to deal with the guilt of Man Privilege as well as White Privilege. Where will it end? Oh, the injustice of it all!

    • Poor thing. Dealing with guilt, instead of actually having to deal with being NOT white or male.

    • Guy Fawkes says:

      I know plenty of non white people that have had just as much success in their lives, more so even, than the ‘privileged white men’. So I hope you’ll forgive me when I don’t believe in your snark.

  7. Not a special snowflake says:

    In my library, gender or ethnicity doesn’t matter one bit. What matters is that you are one of the director’s favorites (AKA suck-up). Anyone who asks a question (even if it’s a clarifying question), disagrees with a decision, or voices any comment other than “what a great idea!!!” is considered to be negative and critical. The low staff morale is caused by these negative people. Funny how these negative people are the only ones showing up everyday on time and doing their job to serve our community to the best of their ability. Meanwhile, the favorites show up when they feel like it, call in sick repeatedly, and general laze away the day drinking coffee and chatting up the other favorites. Despite all that, we non-special snowflakes genuinely love our jobs. Go figure.

  8. Lighten up AL. I’m female but didn’t think Zaru’s comment was offensive at all. He merely pointed out that males in traditionally female professions can face unfair assumptions, attitudes, or expectations, too. Male nurses have the same problem.

    For example, if you are a female who wants to be an elementary school teacher or a children’s librarian, nobody will think anything of it, but if you’re a male who wants to work with young children, you face the automatic fear that you’re a child molester creep. Dealing with agitated, out-of-control patrons or patients will likely be assumed to be a job for you, and quite a few female coworkers will resent you because they assume you are paid more than them (which may, or may not, be true), and if you are they will assume it is because of your gender and not because of your skill set (i.e., male librarians often gravitate to the information technology side of things, and if you’re the person who keeps the website updated and the network running, maybe you should be paid more).

    The whole argument is divisive, and bashing male librarians, white librarians, musically inclined atheist vegan librarians, or any other demographic does not help to make our workplaces a more pleasant place for everyone to spend eight hours a day. I am sick of competition over who has it worse than who. Let’s just make it better for everybody.

    • I agree with you wholeheartedly, Nikki! I, too, wondered what was so offensive about Zaru’s comment. We most likely didn’t take offense because we saw the comment for what it was. Being a woman in a male-dominated profession isn’t a picnic, nor is being a man in a female-dominated profession.

      I also feel compelled to point out that I had a job a few years back where I was paid more than my male boss (he was director and I was assistant director). When he told me, I could tell it smarted, but I pointed out that I had more experience, so I deserved it, and he agreed. Of course, he was the one who hired me and agreed to the wage, but that’s beside the point.

    • Spot on. I’ve seen mothers have a meltdown at the thought of a male elementary teacher. A library director who refused to interview men for professional positions and other male librarians she could tell them what to do because they were her son’s age. The ability to disrespect others isn’t regulated by gender.

    • Male Librarian says:

      To Nikki, and those who spoke up in agreement, thank you.

      I’m one of those rarities, a male librarian who works with children in a public library. I’m not here to say it hard, in general, I don’t. I would even say that there are some perks to being a male librarian, but there’s one glaring challenge that I often face, and comes up in direct interactions with children. (A large part of my job!)

      I’m very aware of how I act and what I do with the children in my library. One of my female colleagues feels quite comfortable in picking up a willing child and setting them in her lap during a storytime and singalong, or in giving hugs to the children, just as an example. These actions are perfectly natural, but as a male librarian I’m keenly aware that they also can give off the wrong impression to my adult patrons, and so I strive to have almost no physical interaction with the kids as a result.

      It’s a shame that the public perception of men and children is so negative, because I do feel like the chilling effect that generates does limit my actions with the kids and makes some parents more hesitant. It’s also a concern that’s almost always present in my mind. I have to consider carefully how anything I do can be perceived, because after all, one misunderstanding and my career in youth services, and possibly libraries as a whole, is over.

      That being said, I love my job and getting to help the kids in my community and some parents are very supportive of me. It would be difficult to find a job I like more.

  9. I don’t have the balls to call any of you out, but just because sexist/racism/ableism/etc don’t exist in your workplace doesn’t mean that they don’t exist in anyone elses workplace. Just because you have food in your pantry doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there scrounging for their next meal. I don’t understand how people can’t see this. Great, you know a woman who talks over men – how many men have you witnessed/experienced talk over someone? Compared to this one woman? C’mon, people.

    • anonymous coward says:

      I would like to point out that you’re arguing to go with a stereotype over personal experience.

      Think about that for a while.

    • Neither stereotypes nor personal experience tell us whether these comments are right or wrong. That takes data. Anonymous Coward, the plural of anecdote is not data.

    • anonymous coward says:

      PW- unfortunately with something so subjective -relying on self reporting- there is no such thing as reliable data.

  10. AL, I’ve been in the workplace for 40+ years (not always as a librarian), and agree with you 100%. Thanks for writing this.

  11. Anonymous coward, I am speaking from personal experience. I, too, work in a library, and I see this sort of behavior daily (both directed towards me and others). Just because you don’t see it does not mean it is not happening.

    • anonymous coward says:

      Sure- but just because you experience it doesn’t mean it’s a ubiquitous practice that allows you to paint an entire gender with a large stereotypical brush. Individuals are responsible for their actions- not the groups people put them in.

    • pointless librarian says:

      @Anonymous coward

  12. Wow, one of my comments generated an entire article in response. It’s amazing that AL could pull all of that from my, what was it, two sentences? Should I tell you race and ethnic background, too, so you can trot out some tired stereotypes about those as well?

    But I should thanking you, AL, for proving my point: This profession is uncommitted to things like diversity and service. I don’t feel part of a real profession or community (and not only because I’m male). How do we expect to treat the people and communities we serve when we can’t even be civil to each other? Just another nail in the coffin of this field.

    • Wow, Zaru. I defended your previous comment (and stand by what I said), but this one kind of offended me: “This profession is uncommitted to things like diversity and service”. Not true. I’m a professional librarian, very much committed to both diversity and service. I’ve hired people of both genders (if anybody was trans they didn’t make me aware of it), all races, and ranging in age from 26 to 63. I think your problem is not with librarianship specifically, it is with the general coarsening of American culture and discourse. Lack of civility is not unique to librarians, nor are we immune to the problem. Communication difficulties and lack of respect abound in American society. Think long and hard before leaving the profession (if you are considering doing so) because the grass is not likely to be greener in another field. I do thoroughly agree that bashing each other and making scapegoats doesn’t help, but neither does tarring the whole field with the same brush.

  13. Michael S says:

    Sorry, but unless I’m missing some larger deleted comment or something, that post (“it’s not pleasant being a male librarian”) did not deserve this kind of response. It’s utterly disproportionate.

    (For what it’s worth, male librarianship has not been terrible for me so far. It’s not perfect, especially compared to the experiences some of my female counterparts have had, but I wouldn’t call it unpleasant. Still think this post was over-the-top, however)

    • Michael S says:

      Argh, stupid caffeine withdrawal. The way the second bracketed sentence is written, it looks like I’m implying that female librarianing is perfect, which is exactly the opposite of what I intended!

      What I meant to say in the bracketed sentence is that my experiences, while not perfect, have on the whole been better than those reported to me (and those I’ve seen) by my female counterparts.

  14. Guy Fawkes says:

    I admit I’m sick and tired of this “privilege” excuse. That’s all it is nowadays. People don’t want to own up to their mistakes or that they aren’t putting any effort in it and say they are passed over due to someone else’s “privilege”.

    • White guys still getting it all handed to us..... says:

      Librarians bashing people for their race and gender – you got to be special person and hypocrite to rationalize that and then claim you are a professional librarian. If I may play into the that – quit cowering like a little girl and stick-up for yourself and stop letting men walk all over you. Or do you need a man to show you how to do that?

  15. i agree with you 100%. Complaining kills every ambition and vision. Thanks a lot for the Article.

  16. against the grain says:

    This smugness is strong in this blogger…One of the loneliest positions in the world is to be a white male librarian in a progressive library system. Before you say, grow up and/or move on to other jobs let me ask you a simple question. If you find it hard to defend institutions that are not welcoming to say, women, people of color or progressives why should we defend those institutions who act similarly but with different targets? If you can’t defend one you should have not problem criticizing the other

    • politically incorrect librarian says:

      Try being a male librarian of color. You have to deal with stereotypes about both race and gender. And no, other than public libraries, they are not interested in diversity. It is just white middle-class virtue signalling. I rarely see men of color in academic libraries because unlike most White men and White women, people of color (men and women) didn’t have the luxury of getting 1-2 worthless graduate humanities degrees before discovering that they couldn’t get a job, and so then went and got an MLIS and applied for library jobs as a fall-back position. Usually those of color had to fight tooth and nail just to earn the MLIS/MLS.

    • Supremly pc evergreen alum white-male says:

      “Usually those of color had to fight tooth and nail just to earn the MLIS/MLS.” Please explain this statement, it makes no sense. First, MLIS a super-easy path to obtain, no one qualified should actually struggle; my undergrad degree was much more difficult to obtain. Second, are you actually saying that library profs have an issue with people of color? The fun part about all this, I couldn’t care less about race or gender in the workplace, at play, or anywhere else. Yet I am the one getting bashed for my race and gender! When my coworkers are jerks, it does not occur to me what color they are or what gender they call themselves, they are just jerks. When people on this blog get abused, they note the race and gender. Our profession weeps. See, white males, we do know it all.

    • politically incorrect librarian says:

      @supremely pc.
      I don’t think the MLIS/MLS is necessarily the hardest degree, but it depends on WHERE you went to school and what TRACK you followed. I imagine that your curriculum was just merely skills training . . . in which case, I would never hire you. I also took graduate courses outside the normal curriculum to supplement what I was interested in . . . sooo, I and some like me were willing to take risks and didn’t mind theory. However, back to your post . . . umm, I didn’t apply to this particular job, but I saw that the person who got it was a white male, who had TWO master’s degrees and a Ph.D. all in humanities (and not from a top-tier school – what was he thinking?), and after his Ph.D., got his THIRD master’s degree which was the MLIS. He didn’t get his first real job until his late 30s (kind of weird?). Now you tell me if any person of color would have had the time, money, or cultural acceptance to follow this kind of track.

    • anonymous coward says:


      That time seems like a definite problem of financial ability, not of ethnicity. It’s a mistake, IMO, to conflate the too.

      Also, OF COURSE library degrees are easy to get. I took every class I could to prepare for library leadership, and the hardest was easier than the basics of my undergrad degree. I’ve worked with people who have attended schools all over the country and have gotten the impression they were all similar. Luckily, I don’t care about where people went to grad school when I make hiring decisions- I base it off experience, ability, and customer focus.

  17. Cut Both Ways says:

    Some of the men who work at my library are jerks who only want to hear the sound of their own voice and for everyone to march to their orders. They need to learn about listening and inclusion.

    Some of the other men who work at my library are good listeners, and they hear about how the improvements men in general need to make, and they observe the jerk men ignoring those calls to action, and so they overcompensate with sheepishness and acting like doormats.

    One of the extremes is not getting the message. The other extreme hears it too well.

  18. Thanks AL, for drawing attention to an issue and getting everyone talking! Gender (and racial) inequalities very much exist in our society, no matter how much we want to pretend otherwise. Librarians who claim there is no data to support this need to put their research skills to work because it is everywhere from reputable sources (and I don’t mean internet message boards). That said, I think the librarian profession doesn’t follow the trend as much as other professions because it is so heavily comprised on women. That said, male librarians are still more likely to be administrators, tenure track academic librarians, or other high-profile positions. Perhaps this is why female librarians still make 94 cents to every male librarians 1 dollar (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey.
    But as a female special librarian who works is a predominantly male field, I can tell you that the struggle is alive and well for women in the US workforce. And STEM fields are some of the worst. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to serve on a company team taking steps to improve diversity and inclusion. If that makes me a special snowflake, then I’m proud to be a snowflake librarian!

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