Books, Glasses, and A Shushing Action Figure.

Hello fair readers!

First let me thank everyone who participated in the survey. My paper and research are both finished, at least for the time being. However I’ll keep the survey up. Simply because it is fun and interesting and truly an ongoing work in progress.

So I figured after asking everyone to help me, I could at the very least explain what I’m doing. I have a bit of a passion for the topic of library stereotypes, the damage they can deal, and how they can be fought. My most recent paper was specifically focused on academic libraries.

The survey ended up being extremely interesting, and I wanted to post some of my results. I’ll try to keep these as anonymous as possible. Promise. 🙂

In my survey, I asked two questions. The first was if the respondent was a student and the second was “What come to mind when you think of the word “librarian”?

I’ve actually conducted this survey before but it was really me just emailing a bunch of friends and asking opinions. So this time I wanted to use a format that was a little more formal and also try to get an idea of who was responding.

Approximately 60% of the respondents were students. Which is great. I figured as long as I had a majority I could still make this pertinent to academic libraries specifically.

30% of respondents mentioned books. Trust me when I say this stat depresses me. Of course, I love books (see above picture). But libraries offer so much more than just a book. And when all is said and done with this survey…only one person said anything about a computer.

Here is a picture of University of Kentucky’s library.

That is their information commons. Isn’t it awesome? I know. Check that signage. I totally want to staff that desk. Three cheers for progressive librarians! This is one of my suggestions in the paper. Creating an information commons and hopefully having this be the first thing a patron sees when they enter the library.

Now I’m just going to share a few of the more interesting comments on the survey. Stats are only fun for so long, right?

Let’s start out with one of my favorites:

Like a Robin to a Lawyer-Batman

I must say, I had several law students reply and besides the library graduate students, they by far had the most positive answers. When I think of why this might be, I realized that law students simply interact with librarians more than the average undergraduate. It makes sense that they might think of us as the awesome research assistants that we really are. 😉

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks like this. Let’s get some of the bad ones out of the way:

A woman, wearing glasses, standing behind a desk telling me to “shhhhhhh”.

Gee…wonder where they got this idea?

:::glares in the direction of a certain unfunny action figure:::

I used that one several times in the paper.

One who categorizes, shelves, retrieves, repairs books.

This is a perfect example of how a lot of people just don’t know what librarians do all day. And let me tell you, if I have to go back to shelving after having my Master’s….well lets just say it won’t be fun.

The very first thing that popped into my head was “glasses”. Not exactly sure why, but it was.

ha! That made me giggle.

Another funny one: “smelly books

ha! Love it.

Repressed middle aged woman

(See above action figure.)

And of course, this one always pops up. It surprised me at first. But then every Halloween, you always bump into one of these.


And still, the best answers can even come from librarians themselves:

Stuffy and boring, book-centric out-of-touch old lady with applique sweaters of teddy bears holding balloons. Sadly, I know this isn’t true, nonetheless it is the first thing that comes to mind. Mainly due to the root of the word “libr,” meaning book, and the oh so many Nancy Pearl connotations of a “shusher,” yet the term has come to not encapuslate the demands of the position. Viva la revolution.

We are guilty of thinking of this stereotype too. And really…when it’s all said and done, who’s fault is it that people think of these things? If you mention marketing to certain people in our field, they practically run in the other direction. Even if you do a literature search for “marketing and academic libraries”….you will have sad results indeed. (and yes, I tried truncating)

OK. The stereotype is there. Now what can we learn from this? Well, as I put forward in my paper, there are multiple ways that you can start working against the stereotypes that exist. Here are a few….and I’m not going into as many details because I just don’t want to write my paper all over again:

Update the catalog

Gaming!! (three cheers for Jenny Levine!)


Update Marketing!

To quote one of the awesome respondents, “Viva la revolution!”.

Thanks to everyone who participated. You services are deeply appreciated.

Have a lovely weekend, fair readers.


11 responses to “Books, Glasses, and A Shushing Action Figure.

  1. Vaucanson's Duck

    I’m sad that I missed out on your survey. I’ve laid low pretty much all semester, but with only one paper left (due Saturday the 22nd, still yet to be written) I can almost smell my imminent freedom. I’ll have so much more time to read wonderful blogs like this one.

    And I’m sorry about your car, I hope you’re not hurt at all?… Have a wonderful holiday and new year!

  2. Leah, thanks so much for mentioning the Hub at Young Library! I am delighted that we’ve made such an impression. If anyone has any questions about the Hub–our signage, desks, whatever–please feel free to contact me directly!

  3. Will do! Thanks for reading. 🙂

  4. Alice Wasielewski

    I also work at the Hub (often at the help desk in the photo). If you’d like to see some more pictures of our Information Commons at the University of Kentucky, have a look at our flickr photos.

    New Signs!
  5. LEAH!!! It’s April, from the Kalamazoo days! I just saw the little picture of you in my online ALA newsletter, and I freaked out– I’m so happy you’re in library school! I’m a teen services librarian out in Central Oregon, and am loving it..just over 2 years here. I’d love to hear from you– Nice glasses, btw 😉

  6. Hi,
    I am interested in purchasing a high resolution version of the sexy librarian you have on this website. Where can I purchase that photo?

  7. Hmm, I found that costume on a Halloween costume website. So I’m not really sure about purchasing options.

  8. Pingback: Like Cat Stephens, I can’t keep it in. « La de da

  9. Thank you for this information. 🙂

  10. Love the advice. Thank you.

  11. No problem! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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