Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Storm in a teacup across the Tasman

This story would be amusing if it wasn't true.

This week nearly six hundred librarians gathered in Rotorua, New Zealand for the biggest event in their calendar - their national conference. But before it began, one of the scheduled speakers drew more publicity than the event itself. Style queen Paula Ryan was to give a free workshop about how librarians could update their wardrobes. It prompted a flurry of protest and angry emails from some librarians, who said her involvement only served to support the outdated librarian stereotype.

Once again, this proves the old adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity. I can understand why my Kiwi peers would be upset. The stereotype applies equally to both genders, with women perceived as frumpy disciplinarians, and male librarians as meek, socially inept misfits of ambiguous sexuality. This aspect of the stereotype is the only downside that I can think of working in a highly feminised field.

I too have had to contend with the librarian stereotype. As a career, in the popular imagination, librarianship is supposed to appeal to intellectual, bookish and slightly socially inept types. Admittedly, intellectual curiosity and a passion for reading is an asset in my line of work, but contrary to popular belief, you also need to have a genuine affinity with people. You won't enjoy the work very much if you feel intimated by social interaction. You're the intermediary between your patron and the information they seek, and you need to be reasonably friendly and approachable.

Yes, I'm quiet and introverted, at least compared to some people, but not as much as what some people think I am. Part of me resents being stereotyped, but I guess it's part of the territory. You can't afford to take it personally. The best way to deal with it is to carry on with doing your job to the best of your ability.

1 comment:

FiKaLo said...

That seems pretty funny. Ah, there's no shame in being a librarian! I love libraries and books and all that. :-)