I Heart Librarians

If you’re feeling underappreciated, see this academic librarian love-fest in Inside Higher Ed. The author touches on the gendered nature of librarian work and wonders aloud about how men feel about being in a predominantly female profession. I’ve found that although male librarians often tell people they became librarians for the girly reason of “helping people,” the real reason is that they’re in it for the power. Who among us hasn’t felt the surge of testosterone after sitting at the reference desk, taking on all comers, and summoning up the skills to answer any question, from any discipline? Last night I answered a question about the ecology of the Pine Barrens. Now for a humanities librarian, that’s a rush.

2 thoughts on “I Heart Librarians”

  1. Personally, I found this more a series of unfortunate re-commitments to outdated stereotypes of librarians than a “love-fest.” Let’s set aside the comments about the place of men in a “female” profession (see also teacher – my former profession – and nurse – my father’s most recent profession) and consider the limited view of the librarian as guardian of books. While I’m sure this author meant well, he/she seems to have a woefully limited vision of the range of professional activities in which the academic librarian engages, and this is a very real problem in a time when we are constantly required to educate our users (and our supporters with the purse strings) about the very wide range of those activities, including those that take place off the familiar reference desk.

  2. It is an appreciation of librarians, though admittedly we academic librarians spend very little time talking about the importance of books and no time keeping track of them (since we have able support staff to manage our subsystems and be traditional “keepers” of books) – but I think one can draw one important piece from this tribute: we are the uncelebrated, non-territorial keepers of the Commons. We defend access to all sorts of ideas and make sure they’re available even if they aren’t on the test. No other department has as “pure” a service mission as that.

    Maybe we’re misunderstood, but at least I think we’re appreciated.

    For a really interesting take on the outsider’s view of what’s going on in libraries today (albeit public libraries, and a few years ago) read Sally Tisdale’s “Silence Please: The Public Library as Entertainment Center” Harper’s March 1997, 65-74 and Juris Dilevko’s analysis “Why Sally Tisdale is Really Upset about the State of Libraries: Socio-Political Implications of Internet Information Sources” in Journal of Information Ethics Spring 1999, 37-62. The “stereotypes” we deride and consider ourselves above are sometimes exactly the things that our users, our deluded, romantic users, treasure – and find when they go to Barnes and Nobles.

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