No stereotypes!

You Don't Look Like a Librarian!

The stories

NOTE: If you want to know who said what, drop me an email at and I'll check with the librarians to see if they mind me giving out their names and email addresses.

I once had a 7th grade student library aide who was definitely not the
sharpest knife in the drawer.  I almost always had to undo the work
that she had done, but she obviously loved "helping" - so I used to
save the easiest tasks for her to do.  Open House night arrived, and
her mother dropped in to talk to me.  She gushed on and on about how
much her daughter enjoyed being a library aide, and crowned it all by
saying, "You know, my daughter is not very bright, so I figure when
she grows up, maybe she can be a librarian".  I SWEAR this is true - a
word for word quote.  I was speechless!

Librarians wear sensible shoes because they're smart! (on feet all day
helping others)

While wearing a GSLIS shirt saying "I am a Special Librarian", I got a
lot of responses saying "yes, you are!"

On a long plane flight, I exchanged professions with fellow travelers, who
then didn't speak to me again for the whole flight!

Male librarian often faces surprise that he's a librarian (since librarians
are supposed to be females).

I have a little game I like to play when I meet new people.  I keep business
cards from friends, vendors, professionals and I find it's fun to place 5 or
6 from diverse female professionals (including my own) and ask which one
business card they think is mine.  It's pretty interesting and fun.  No
one has ever picked my business card because "I don't look like a librarian".

The librarian who hired me for a job twenty years ago kept expressing
amazement that I had changed so much after a few years - ie, fashionably.
He CLAIMED he had hired me initially because I LOOKED like a librarian then...
I actually wore my hair in a bun for  interview, and wore a plaid skirt
with high-necked blouse! He claimed he even saw a pencil behind my ear,
but that was just his fancy! *grin* Nothing like trying to act the part
if you are good at acting!

I can say that here, in my current workplace, 66% of the librarians have
more degrees/education than about 95% of the faculty and 100% of the
librarians are equally educated to that approx. 95% and we still are on
the same administrative level (or lower) than all of the secretaries,
receptionists, mail sorters, etc.  And we are definitely looked down upon
 as less important/intelligent than the faculty (by the faculty) -- until
they need something!

Saw an ad a while ago in a newspaper for a dating service worded something
like  "Attention librarians, accountant types, plain Janes and swamp tunas"
- they promised a good time with someone who "won't even leave you for
someone more attractive and personable".

I once was told by the oral surgeon that removed my wisdom teeth that I had
beautiful teeth for a librarian!

Not a specific story, just the comment that I am almost 100% confident that
when I tell people I'm a librarian, in any situation, whether  I'm in a bar
in Tahoe with other 20 something ski bums or whether I'm among a gathering
of my father's corporate colleagues, people  are always surprised to hear
I'm a librarian.  I suspect it's my age, but could also be that I dress
appropriate to my generation and people are just used to seeing older, sort
of unhip ladies as librarians.

The very first day of my professional career, my supervisor was sick. So
I spent it in her supervisor's office, which was the head of QA at a State
mental hospital (since I couldn't get into the library). The Joint
Commission (Hospital accreditation) was coming soon so  many plans and
things needed to be copied and distributed. Since we're such whiz bangs
at the copying business, the task was mine. So, whilst occupying the copy
center in the building, a woman came in. I said I'd be a while, so if she
needed something when this portion of the job was done, she could make hers.
She asked who I was. So I then introduced myself as the new librarian.
She replied, "Oh no your not." Quizzically I replied, "I'm not?" "No,"
she said, "you don't look like one." Quickly she turned on her heals and
left. I thought to myself, "What does one look like?"

I work in a conservative firm in a relatively small town and I don't fit!
I wear clogs (no hose in a law firm - the scandal!), have long hair, wear
funky clothes...  It's fun to me because I don't think like they do so my
coworkers think I'm some kind of a radical.  Little do they know... Meetings,
committees and the like are great because I always suggest the exact opposite
of what they would expect.

When I was working in another law firm, the associates decided that they
wanted me to look like a librarian so they bought me a hair clip and horn-
rimmed glasses and ask me to wear a long dress with a high collar once so
they could see me once as a librarian!

Not really a story, but the judges who have attended conventions of the
American Association of Law Libraries with us have commented that we have
the best parties and they wish they had such good music and dancing at
their judge's conventions.

I like the fact that NPR gives credit to their librarians BY NAME at the
end of each broadcast.  It reflects the rising opinion of information
professionals in society in general.

My husband and I are in the process of refinancing our home and are using
a mortgage company on the other side of the country.  The person with whom
I am dealing needed some information from me which I was not able to get to
him for several days.  He said he needed this information before he could
commence the refinance paperwork so I said "would it help if I tell you
I'm a librarian?"  He said "you are?  Well, then I'll get started right
away.  You can always trust librarians."

When I attended my first professional meeting I received a surprising
number of comments about my nails.  My nails were fairly long and
painted candy apple red, but they were well manicured and certainly not
"claws."  Nevertheless, several people told me to tone them down if I was
looking for a job.  I thought it was funny that they were too long for a
 librarian, but fine for an assistant district attorney!

I think it's pretty cool being a younger male librarian because it shows
that being a librarian encompasses a wide array of individuals and
personalities.  I see myself as adding diversity to the profession.

Several years ago, while at an ILL conference here in Denver, I went
into a restaurant with a colleague from a college library.  After we
sat at the bar and ordered beers, the bartender noticed our name tags
(which we'd obviously forgotten about) and asked what sort of conference
we were attending.  We said that he had to guess and proceeded to give
out lots of hints - about all the places one can find libraries, what
we do, who we help, etc.  During the 30 minutes or so that we sat there,
he and a few other interested customers tried to figure us out, but with
no luck.  So, we finished our beers, stood up, tossed our heads, and
said "We are LIBRARIANS!"  Everyone  said something like "wow!" and
we waltzed out.

In a recent job interview the President of a Catholic College commented
that he was concerned that I was so gregarious (or appeared to be) that
I might be lonely (?) bored (?) working in his quiet, lonely little
library.  I didn't get the job. The librarian who did get the job was
much more 'traditional', though bunless, librarian.

It is a common occurrence that if I happen to wear my hair up and have on
my glasses and not my contacts I will get comments from my attorneys like
"You look like such a librarian today!" Is that supposed to be a bad thing?

I think that after over 100 years of trying to influence people by
substance over style, we should try using style to get attention - we
know we have substance so we can keep respect, getting attention has
been a problem.

People always seem to be fascinated with the "naughty librarian"
stereotype. I have had chunky modern glasses and occasionally wear
my hair up and people (men) usually want to see me take my glasses
off and take my hair down.

Are librarians may at this point be more sensitive (and intimidated)
to our stereotypes than the rest of humanity! Is it time to give it
a rest?

Ruth A. Kneale,, July 18, 2002. No, I don't look like a librarian.