When I was in college, I worked at the campus library part-time. It was a great position, and it led to my interest in continuing to work in libraries. It also resulted in at least one weird conversation I can recall. After dating a guy for a few months in college, he admitted that when I first said I worked at the library, he thought of a bar called The Library. Fortunately, I didn’t know much about it until I did some research for this post. I’m not sure a bar could do a better job of perpetuating the sexy librarian stereotype. Argh.
As fellow librarians might know, this weekend the American Library Association had its midwinter conference in Denver. The conference is usually attended by over 10,000 people (American Library Association, 2018), and I attended this year, just to see what the fuss was about. Publishing companies and vendors for libraries were there, along with authors and special committee members. And while some of the librarians there may have the stereotypical librarian look, it becomes clear very quickly that librarians are a diverse group, with modern sensibilities and attitudes.
What do I mean by “stereotypical librarian”? There are usually two ways in which librarians are depicted in pop culture. The first is the strict, shhing old maid. Think of Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life, who became a librarian and never married in the world where George Bailey didn’t exist. The second stereotype is the sexy librarian. She may be uptight and conservative on the outside, but if she lets loose a little and undoes the bobby pins in her bun, she is incredibly attractive. For an example of this stereotype, think of a librarian like Evelyn Carnahan in The Mummy.
Librarians everywhere have commented on these stereotypes for the last hundred years, so I won’t go on too long. Suffice it to say, these stereotypes can be damaging, and reek of old-fashioned attitudes and ignorance. Librarians are just the same kinds of people as everyone else.
With that, I’ll leave you with a short list of recommendations that all have librarians among their characters. Enjoy!
- Batgirl: A Celebration of 50 Years
I never knew that Barbara Gordon had been a librarian until I read this collection of Batgirl comics. This is a well curated collection, but there are some comics in it that reflect a more sexist time. At one point, Batgirl keeps getting distracted by her “instinctive female reaction.” Which is to say, she stops in the middle of fights to brush mud off her costume and straighten her mask. On the whole, though, this is a fun introduction to Batgirl and her various incarnations.
- The Librarians
This is a fun show about librarians who are chosen to protect magical artifacts from people who will use them for evil purposes. While I enjoy watching the show, I have to say that I preferred the movies it is based on. The first of these was The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. Yes, these were made-for-television movies, but Noah Wyle plays a larger role in the movies, and that makes them even more entertaining.
- This Beautiful Fantastic
Bella is a neurotic, incredibly introverted woman who works at a library but wants to become a writer. Because of a threat from her landlord to evict her, she and her bitter older neighbor find themselves in an unlikely truce. This is a magical movie, with a good story and memorable characters. It reminded me of Amelie in some ways.
American Library Association. (2018). ALA midwinter meeting fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/factsheets/alamidwinter