You Don't Look Like a Librarian!
NOTE: If you want to know who said what, drop me an email at email@example.com 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?