Stereotypes can create negative or unrealistic views of what a librarian looks like, how a librarian behaves, and what a librarian does. Many of the stereotypes such as the “timid librarian”, the “unfriendly librarian”, and the “frumpy librarian” will easily correct themselves when people visit the library. Once a person actually talks to a librarian, the user will see that librarians are generally helpful, friendly, and “normal” people. While the stereotypes do not exactly help the image of the profession, it is not that detrimental because they can undoubtedly be rectified.
For women working in the field, the “sexy librarian” is perhaps the most demeaning, infuriating stereotype because it degrades the woman from being a normal person doing their job to a sex object that is there only to look pretty. As such, this stereotype seems to be the one hardest to overcome for me personally, but also for the profession overall. This is because not only is “sexy” ingrained in how librarians are supposed to behave but also how women are supposed to be. It is difficult enough overcoming the patriarchy from day to day, but it is just that much worse when it leaks over into a job. As with all the other stereotypes, the best thing for female librarians to do is continue to be themselves, which will eventually show society that their stereotypes have been inaccurate and this will hopefully change the media depictions.
While I, as a woman, have the biggest problem with the “sexy librarian” stereotype. Men struggle with the stereotype that people see them as gay, effeminate, or not a “real” man. In this case, feminism not only empowers women to overcome their “sexy” label but also encourages men to view their masculinity as separate from their profession. Although librarianship is predominately female, men should feel comfortable joining without the fear that society will view them poorly. The good news, however, is that male librarians view themselves more harshly than society, which means that it is more an issue of self-perception and not so much an issue of societal judgments.
A great website that is helping subvert the created image of the librarian by posting pictures and stories of actually librarians is This is What a Librarian Looks Like. A quick glance at the website will show that librarians look very different from one another, take part in tons of different activities, and work in different information spaces. This is fantastic because it illustrates that librarians are just like everyone else.