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What or Who is a Librarian? (Some Perceptions)

13 Feb

Above is the opening clip of the Australian sitcom ‘The Librarians’. I have included this as it is currently part of our popular culture with many devoted fans, and like all things in the popular domain it contributes to perceptions people form about others. In this instance, the sitcom refers to librarians at a local library. Even though it is a sitcom and we are all aware that it is poking fun, the stereotypes presented are echoed in conversations I have had very recently with various people about Librarians and what the role of a Librarian is, both within schools and within a broader Librarian domain outside of schools.

The perceptions that people have of Librarians are quite interesting and while sometimes they are accurate, there are many inaccuracies. When you consider that most people have contact with a Librarian at some point in their life, either at the local library or at the school library during childhood you can assume that all people have some thoughts on What or Who is a Librarian?

In the clip following, the Library and a Librarian are introduced to pre-schoolers by Cookie Monster in Sesame Street. There are definite ideas presented about a Librarian and the Library. Note how often the Librarian stresses that a Library is a place just of ‘Books’ reinforcing quite early that Libraries are about books and probably not much else. Also note the ‘shhh!’ and the frustration at not asking the right question to obtain the right information.

Of course, as a devotee of Mr Bean, I couldn’t help but include this clip from the episode titled ‘The Library’. The atmosphere of the Library is notable in this clip and in particular sensitivities to various noises as possible annoyances, not to mention the defacing of books.

So what are some perceptions I have gleamed from conversations, I have partaken in very recently, with various people about my desire to be a Librarian. Of interest is that some of the people I have conversed with are teachers working in schools. Below is an incomplete list of some things mentioned:

  • A teacher librarian doesn’t do a great deal
  • They just check out books and stack the shelves
  • They do occasional light cleaning duties
  • They read to classes
  • They make sure that events for bookweek are organised.
  • Librarians are boring
  • They don’t have a great deal of conversation skills.
  • They are too precise
  • They are interested in mundane organization.
  • They are very tech savvy.
  • They are able to assist you with any of the latest information technologies.
  • They are witty with a very dry sense of humour.
  • They know a great deal of information about many topics
  • They are well read.
  • They always complain about how busy they are even though they are doing nothing
  • All librarians wear glasses
  • They are always older than the general population on average.
  • They love silence and their favourite sound is “Shhhhh…”
  • They are very strict.
  • They are usually women
  • They love to wear their plaid skirts, shirt and a knitted vest or cardigan.
  • They always have there hair up
  • They only wear very sensible shoes.
  • They are Geeks

The list is long enough already but the perceptions whether accurate or not seem to be perceptions that have been long held throughout time by many. As can be determined, many of the points mentioned relate to the image of a librarian, the personality of a Librarian and the type of work or lack of work a Librarian engages in.

So why do I want to be a Librarian? A little more research on youtube has brought up some gems such as this clip from the past titled “Your Life Work: The Librarian”.

Even though much of what is discussed predates what Librarians are faced with today in terms of technology, it highlights the importance of various sources of information coming together such as records, films, scores and microfiche in addition to books. Today, this can translate to the various technologies such as the internet and it’s contribution to the availability of information and changing sources of information such as e-books. Furthermore, the training film provides a scope of the variety of jobs a Librarian undertakes or the variety of workplaces that a Librarian can be engaged in.

To sum up, I can’t help but include the following clip titled ‘ A Day at the Library’ and the last clip from an electro-accoustic group ‘Haunted Love’ from Dunedin, New Zealand for your entertainment.

You can file these last two clips under the perception ‘They are witty with a very dry sense of Humour’

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