Librarian Stereotypes, Alive & Well, Alas

If any of us ever did doubt that the traditional stereotype of the librarian is alive and well, here in 2010, right here in New Jersey, doubt it no more. Convincing evidence to confirm this is easily found. I’ve been reflecting on this since I read an article by Brad Parks from the April 11, 2010 Newark Sunday Star-Ledger. His headline was compelling “Budget Imperils New Jersey’s Libraries.” I was eager to read this story, as I am everything written in the NJ press about the impact of and reactions to Governor Christie’s proposed 74% budget reduction to NJ library funding. Parks’ editorial supports the library communities’ struggle for funding restoration, but even though he touts the value of libraries in promoting literacy and democratic access to information, he chose to open his article by evoking traditional librarian stereotypical images.

Reading the first words of his story made my heart sink: “In both stereotype and practice, New Jersey’s librarians are a fairly unexcitable bunch, more prone to shushing than they are to hyperbole. So take this into consideration was you read this from Edison Public Library director Judith Mansbach. ‘If this goes through, it’s going to be devastating.’” The three column article decries the proposed cuts and mentions the May 6th librarian rally in Trenton that many of us, myself included, later attended. (Some of us even got quite excited – imagine that.) Parks returns to the library stereotype by ending on this note: “Needless to say they could use your help. So if you value your local library – or literacy in general- please make your view known to your legislators. It’ll be one time your librarian won’t shush you for raising your voice.” I sincerely appreciate Mr. Parks’ support and thank him for asking readers to complain to NJ legislators about the ghastly cuts, but ask why could he not resist the cutesy and clichéd reference to librarians’ shushing that devalues our profession?

Post rally, Karen Sudol picked up the theme in her article: “Librarians Demand Christie Not Close Book on Services” in the May 7th Star-Ledger (p. 22). She begins: “Librarians accustomed to saying “Shush” and “Quiet, please,” spoke up at a Trenton rally yesterday in protest of a proposed 74 percent cut in state funding. ‘I think we’re going to dispel all of the shushing rumors that librarians are just quiet little people,’ said Patricia Tumulty executive director of the New Jersey Library Association which organized the two-hour event. ‘We’re strong advocates for the people of New Jersey to have good library services.” Pat’s advocacy and leadership continue to be strong, although I’m sad to say the “shushing rumors” are firmly ensconced in the press and popular culture, much to the detriment of our professional image.

This example is one of countless newspaper articles, blogs, cartoons, television shows, commercials, novels, advertisements, motion pictures, etc. in a broad range of mediated discourse, that continue to evoke the librarian stereotype. Librarians, usually female, are consistently portrayed as bespectacled, mousy, unassuming, sexually repressed introverts who primarily engage in three behaviors – shushing (as we see above), stamping and shelving books. The male librarian stereotype, although less prominent, is also unflattering to the profession. Usually portrayed as prissy with the ubiquitous horn rimmed glasses and bow tie, he is distinctly feminine and also therefore accorded the low status of the female librarian, deserving little respect.

This stereotype has persisted as remarkably intact since the early 1900s, despite the information age that has transformed the profession as one now immersed in sophisticated digitized systems and online services, Some, even within our field, may dismiss stereotypical texts and images as harmless, cute, or funny, and chide others to get a sense of humor. As one who has studied the librarian stereotype in depth, and published several journal articles on the topic in Library Quarterly, I have come to view these media representations as far from harmless, with serious, anti-intellectual, and anti-feminist messages. In these hideous budget times in NJ, and across the nation,  it is appalling to me to see how frequently the stereotypical librarian image appears.  In another recent example, on May 11th,  Library Journal reported on “Jay Leno’s Bad Library Joke” . If you click on this link you can see a video of Leno saying:  “People here in Los Angeles are upset [at] their mayor’s proposed plan to cut the budget of libraries…this could affect as many as nine people.”  The LJ link includes the letter from city librarian Martin Gomez who points out that over 17 million people use the LA libraries every year and that the budget cuts are no laughing matter.

Perhaps I should not be so appalled at these stereotypical images and low blows to libraries. After all, thinking of libraries as dusty, unused places (instead of vital community centers) and librarians as unproductive, fussy old biddies who shuffle around the library shushing, stamping, and shelving is useful to the powerful elite who use this ill-informed view as justification to cut already low salaries and benefits for public librarians, fire librarians, reduce hours and close libraries (including the library for the blind and handicapped).  This 74% cut is sadly going to occur at a time when NJ citizens’ need is greatest for what libraries have to offer: equal access to information to all, free to all.

By Marie L. Radford

May 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm 34 comments

Congratulations to Peter Bromberg!

by Janie Hermann

I am thrilled to be the one to break the news that Peter Bromberg will be joining the executive team at Princeton Public Library starting August 2nd, 2010. A press release has just been sent and it is official. The entire staff at PPL is thrilled to have Peter coming on board and we look forward to seeing what new services and ideas we can implement with Pete on board!

Below is the official press release that was just distributed to media outlets:

MEDIA RELEASE

Princeton Public Library
Sands Library Building
65 Witherspoon St.
Princeton, NJ 08542
609.924.9529
princetonlibrary.org

May 14, 2010

CONTACTS:
Leslie Burger, Executive Director
609.924,8822, ext. 253

Tim Quinn, Public Information Director
609.924.8822, ext. 258

PRINCETON PUBLIC LIBRARY NAMES PETER BROMBERG ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

Princeton Public Library in New Jersey has announced the appointment of Peter Bromberg to the position of assistant director beginning Aug. 2, 2010. Named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2008, Bromberg is assistant director of the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative.

During the past decade, Bromberg has worked with hundreds of libraries to enrich the customer experience, implement cutting-edge technologies and social media, and develop transformative services such as Trading Spaces, Books by Mail, Teen Spaces, Qand ANJ.org and downloadable audio books. He has also led many continuing education and staff development programs.

Prior to joining the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, Bromberg was the head of reference services at the Camden County Library in New Jersey. He has also held positions at Environmental Protection Agency Region II Library in New York, the Spokane District Library in Spokane, WA, where he worked as a reference and teen services librarian, and the Nordstrom department store, where he became passionate about customer service. He writes for several blogs, including Library Garden and ALALearning, and has written several articles for library publications. He speaks frequently about topics related to leadership, change, collaboration, and other library-related topics.

“We’re delighted that Pete will be joining us as we begin our second century of providing service to Princeton,” said Leslie Burger, the library’s executive director. “Pete’s expertise in managing change and his extensive knowledge of library services and technology will be invaluable assets to our community going forward.”

“The Princeton Public Library has long been a model of excellent and creative library service for the whole state,” Bromberg said. “I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Leslie Burger and the talented staff of PPL, and look forward to joining the library team and providing service to the Princeton community.”

Bromberg received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in library science from Rutgers University. He lives in Haddonfield with his wife, Suzanne.

Princeton Public Library is in the Sands Library Building at 65 Witherspoon St. in Princeton Borough, NJ. For more information about library programs and services, call (609) 924-9529 or visit http://www.princetonlibrary.org.

May 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm 37 comments

Books still matter (and so do school libraries)

by April Bunn

Times are rough for librarians in New Jersey. In the education world, librarian positions are being cut at an astronomical rate due to severe cuts in state aid.

I have been quiet here on Library Garden lately because I am part of the statistics- my position was cut- leaving our school without a librarian. I have been busy advocating for our positions with my teacher’s association and the New Jersey Association of School Librarians.

While I’m shocked at what happened to school budgets in the Garden State in such a short period of time, I’m finding a shimmer of hope in the cover story of the May issue of the New Jersey Education Assocation (NJEA) Review: Keeping Dewey relevant in the digital age: Why books still matter by East Hanover teacher and author Ralph Rabb.

Rabb argues that with our help, books, in their original printed form, will inspire  literate, passionate readers. His primary concern is that students are doing their reading online and not picking up hard-copy text enough. The new term for all this online reading is called being  “e-literate”.

I was immediately hooked into the article because Rabb describes one of my major reasons for loving libraries since I was very young- the SMELL of books- “It’s absolute olfactory heaven.” He calls libraries “temples built for the love of books” and suggests that teachers need to take their students on field trips to the great libraries, such as the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.

I take my youngest students each year on a trip to our public library and their excitement is contagious. And while my library is not a NYPL, it is still my temple and it’s still a baby. I’m extra sad to see it close* next year since I “built” it from scratch. The prior superintendent had a vision for the school that included a large library with an adjoining technology lab and they were dedicated in September of 2005. She’d be sad to see this happening.

*I said it was “closing” next year, which I consider the case, but my Board doesn’t see it that way- they think teachers taking their students down to “pick out books”  and volunteers shelving books is keeping it alive. By the way, the technology department experienced no budget cuts.

May 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm 2 comments

Team TEDxNJLibraries


Team TEDxNJLibrarires

Originally uploaded by Khürt

By Peter Bromberg

It was an honor to be a part of TEDxNJLibraries.

Thank you Janie for inviting us to come along for this great ride. Thanks also to our amazing speakers, sponsors and attendees who came together to create a day of inspiration and conversation.

For more pictures from the event, see: http://www.flickr.com/groups/tedxnjlibraries/.

To follow the Twitter stream, see: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23tedxnjlibs.

Professional pix and video, (courtesy of Girl + Camera and Shining Star Interactive) coming soon.

May 10, 2010 at 9:47 am 2 comments

New ALA Learning Post: Reflections on Co-presenting

Posted by Peter Bromberg

Hey, check out my new post at ALAlearning.org on the benefits of co-presenting:

http://alalearning.org/2010/04/27/9-reflections-on-co-presenting/

April 27, 2010 at 6:23 pm 1 comment

Love your library? Shout about it.

Bullhorn

Bullhorn

I’m really upset by the recent proposed budget cuts in New  Jersey that will reduce or remove internet access, databases, programming, and many more useful services from New Jersey Libraries. I’m upset that the new Administration finds certain things far more important than these services which have helped me to raise my children, become part of a community, and support my recent MA in Organizational Leadership. I’m upset that many of my friends in LibLand will lose their jobs, go without professional development, and have to divide already thin resources. With this development, I have revolution and revolt on the mind, and in our country, we have the right to speak out on that which we disagree with. My symbol for this is a bullhorn, a tool for rallying cries, to gather and direct people towards change, and to broadcast ideas and reminders about why we should be outraged.

In Inkscape, I built the bullhorn mostly via the Bezier tool. I added flames with the Bezier tool. I added a handle with the Bezier tool. I created the central horn with the Bezier tool. I created the trigger with the pencil tool. The piece of text is from the Showtime series The Wire, in which one of the main characters says “Heard?” in such a way as for it to be almost a half syllable, and it means essentially “Do you understand and comply; if not, we are going to have trouble.” Anyway, a fun sketch about a very serious topic for me. If you love your library, tell someone — shout it out.

Post by John LeMasney

April 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Congrats to Dr. Marie Radford!

Photo by Victor Estrellado

What do these five people have in common?

  1. Marie Radford
  2. Joe Janes
  3. Anne  Lipow
  4. Jim Rettig
  5. Carole Leita

If  you guessed that they’ve all been honored for their distinguished contribution to reference librarianship by being selected for RUSA’s Isadore Gilbert Mudge Award you’d be right!

RUSA’s press release discussed why the awards committee selected Marie this year:

In selecting Radford for this honor, the committee cited her many accomplishments, including authorship of four books, among them “Conducting the Reference Interview (2nd ed.),”  “The Reference Encounter: Interpersonal Communication in the Academic Library” and “Web Research: Selecting, Evaluating, and Citing”; editorship of three other books, including “Reference Renaissance: Current and Future Trends”and “Academic Library Research”;numerous articles published in top library journals; and dozens of conference papers and presentations.

In addition to her publications, Radford brings high energy, deep passion and an interdisciplinary approach to the study of face-to-face and virtual reference.  She has provided inspirational leadership in professional organizations such as RUSA, ALA, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE). Radford is currently co-chair of the conference program for the Reference Renaissance 2010 and co-chair of contributed papers for ACRL’s 2011 National Conference. She will be the keynote speaker for the upcoming 2010 REFolution Conference.

Marie, a hearty congratulations from your fellow Library Garden bloggers on this well-deserved recognition.  It’s nice to see others in the profession noticing and celebrating what we in New Jersey have known for a long time — you are amazing!!

March 31, 2010 at 1:40 pm 4 comments

Next level of gaming

I figure we could all use a post on the lighter side of things for the moment.

For those who don’t know, Nintendo is working on the next version of DS which will have 3D capabilities without the need of glasses.

Videos have been slowly leaked onto the web over the past week but this one completely blew me away.

As an advocate for video games, I am often asked if there are actual benefits to playing them.  I think will start pointing them to this video as a perfect example of how games can help enhance perspective and spatial reasoning.

And incidentally, yes, I have technolust at this very moment… oh, and a birthday coming up :::cough::::

Tyler

-Update-

As posted in the comments section by WC, it looks like this is simply a 3D game created for the regular DS (but not available in the US).  Props to WC for picking this up and pointing is out.

I’m gonna keep the post up though as it still does show us a taste of what 3D gaming could hold and definitely emphasizes the educational aspects of gaming.  That, and it still whets my technolust palate.

March 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm 5 comments

Save NJ Libraries: reverse the cuts

Save NJ Libraries

Save NJ Libraries

My reasoning behind this design was to underline how important libraries are in New Jersey for people who otherwise don’t get the opportunity to sit and listen to, or better yet interact with, a brilliant speaker, enjoy an amazing array of books, magazines, newspapers, and journals, do scholarly research in a vast set of rich databases, enjoy entertaining, informative, and beautiful audio/visual media, and maybe even just get a chance to hop on the internet. For the rest of us though, it means a cornerstone of society, community and culture being quickly and deliberately dissolved.

Please tell everyone that you know to tell everyone that they know that the cuts to libraries are a devastating blow to social progress and societal stability in New Jersey.

March 19, 2010 at 12:51 am 3 comments

Save NJ Libraries!

Save NJ Libraries

You have probably heard the bad budget news for libraries in NJ.

Below is a message from Eileen Palmer about joining the advocacy groups that are already in place.

Please take a moment to join them if you haven’t already, and please be sure to talk about this issue to your friends, family, colleagues and patrons and have them sign up too!

To our many readers outside of NJ: If you have friends/family in the Garden State, please share the links with them.

Watch for more information and actions coming soon!

(If you haven’t heard the news, Nicole Engard did a nice post on it yesterday here.)

Good Morning,

As NJLA prepares its response to the drastic cuts to statewide library programs proposed by Gov. Christie, and a renewed attack on the minimum library funding represented by A2555, please take a moment to join one or both of the following initiatives:

1.  Save NJ Libraries Facebook Group

2.  NJ Library Champions http://www.ilovenjlibraries.org/

Please reach out to Friends, Boards and patrons to become part of these initiatives so that we can get the word out as quickly as possible in the coming days.

Thank you,

– Eileen

Eileen M. Palmer
Executive Director
Libraries of Middlesex Automation Consortium
empalmer@lmxac.org

March 18, 2010 at 10:51 am 3 comments

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