From "A Hipper Crowd of Shushers" by Kara Jesella (New York Times, 8 July 2007):
Librarians? Aren’t they supposed to be bespectacled women with a love of classic books and a perpetual annoyance with talkative patrons — the ultimate humorless shushers?Stereotypes will always be with us. And so, when the most e-mailed and 5th most blogged article on the New York Times is criticized by some librarians for trying to counter the prevailing librarian stereotype, it seems to me that this reflects a desire to deny the realities of the world in which we live.
Not any more. With so much of the job involving technology and with a focus now on finding and sharing information beyond just what is available in books, a new type of librarian is emerging...
The article may not reflect the truth that "hip" librarians have been around for ages—perhaps more at certain times, and less at others—but how exactly do you try and replace a stereotype without presenting another image to take its place? Since the article is not, in fact, a scholarly piece of research, is it fair to expect it to be more than what it is? The article was written for readers who probably haven't met a librarian in many years, and most likely share the stereotype referred to in the article. So if any of the non-librarians who read the article begin to think that they need to revise their image of librarians, then I think it has served its purpose.
We can't force people to perceive us differently overnight. The way to go, in my opinion, is to accept it and build on it. The criticism of the article reminds me of the Church's response to The Da Vinci Code. It's not quite on the same level, but instead of condemning the article, it would probably be more productive to use it as a springboard for discussion. As I've written before:
We can't just leave it to others to tell the people who we are; that's why the stereotypes about librarians continue to flourish. We have to be the ones to go out there and tell people who we are. It's not enough to complain about inaccurate images of librarians; we must be able to present alternative, positive images in movies, books and, yes, blogs =)