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Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Stereotypes Do Live On

Unfortunately, the old stereotypes of librarians do live on, even today. Anyone who doesn't believe it can look at nearly any of the coverage of library news / budget cuts from the last couple of years. Newspaper reporters and others constantly refer to shushing and being quiet, or write about how bad things must be because suddenly "librarians are making noise" about this or that. Frankly, all that makes my blood boil, but that's not my point here.

Check out this post by Rugters University's Dr. Marie Radford over at the always-thought-provoking Library Garden blog. She points out several recent stereotype references in news coverage of New Jersey librarians' budget battles. [In this photo, Marie shakes things up at a recent Rally in the state capitol.]
Radford also says,
"As one who has studied the librarian stereotype in depth, and published several journal articles on the topic in Library Quarterly, I have come to view these media representations as far from harmless, with serious, anti-intellectual, and anti-feminist messages."

And in the comments, she says that she hopes to do a later post on how to fight these stereotypes. I hope she does, and I hope you stay tuned to learn from her!

So here are two questions:

1. Are you still seeing / reading / encountering these stereotypes? Share your experiences.

2. What are your ideas for fighting them?

I'll get the ball rolling with a couple thoughts of my own:

* When you hear or read comments like these, don't let them go unchallenged. Correct the speaker or writer, but do it carefully. It's important not to be defensive, and to have your response rehearsed so you can deliver it well.

* Think about tactics such as laughing off the comment and saying: "Well, that may have been true in your grandmother's day, but now, libraries are community centers, alive with activity, and yes, even noise! And the librarians themselves might have purple hair or tattoos, even though they are well-educated and net-savvy. Times have changed!!" You can do this aloud or in Letters to the Editor after disparaging marks appear in print or online.

* Have a few comebacks in mind for different situations. I listed a number in my book and on my website.

Chime and in discuss what you've seen and done to quell old images and, more importantly, to build new ones!

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