October 14, 2012

Timid/Introverted Librarian


Librarians are often accosted for being too introverted and timid, spending all their time hiding behind books, choosing to squander their time reading instead of interacting with people or patrons. While it is true that librarians generally hold a love of books, learning, and information or else they would have chosen a different profession, it is not necessarily true that they dislike working with people. Librarianship is an extremely customer service oriented profession, which demands working with people. This misconception has probably occurred because librarians, historically, have primarily worked with books. However, it does not explain why librarians have been pigeonholed into only concerning themselves with the materials and not the people. This is a stereotype, however, that will quickly correct itself upon entering a library and talking with a librarian. More than likely, the librarian will be happy to engage in conversation to assist the user and that user will realize they have prematurely judged librarians. This is obvious in that few media depictions exist which illustrate timid/introverted librarians. I have included only a couple of examples:

Brazil 1985, directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown, & Gilliam

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) plays a low-level government worker in the “Information Storage” department who is promoted to the “Information Retrieval” department. While he is not technically a librarian, he does the same general job that a librarian does. Lowry is responsible for storing and finding information. He is a smart dresser, middle-aged, single, mousey character that keeps mostly to himself. If introverted ever needed a poster child, Sam Lowry would a prime candidate. This image negatively influences the library science profession because it colors the entirety of people who work in libraries as timid, quiet people. This idea cannot possibly be true because the job requires a lot of working with and assisting people; the job goes much easier if you actually enjoy talking to people. 

Peeping Tom 1960, directed by Michael Powell and written by Leo Marks

Helen (Anna Massey) plays a librarian in the children’s department at the local library. She becomes friends with Mark Lewis, a sexually motivated serial killer photographer, because she wants help on a children’s book she is writing and only learns later her new friend is psychotic. She herself is a quiet, delicate woman who lives with her blind mother in an apartment below him. She does not like talking about her job at the library and is embarrassed because she would rather be writing children’s books. The film paints librarians not only as reserved, but also suggests that the work of a librarian is simply a job. As a future librarian, I am excited about landing a job; however, it is easy to forget that some people see their library job as just a paycheck and perhaps it is one of the most honest depictions of some librarians. 

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