“You don’t look like a librarian.” Really? And what does a librarian look like? We all know the answer to that – glasses, comfortable shoes and a big bag for schlepping books around. Despite recent additions to popular culture (think Noah Wylie’s take on the Indiana Jones style character in The Librarian, Rubert Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Batgirl’s day job as librarian, Barbara Gordon), the image of a librarian is arrested in time, in mid-century. (River City, Iowa’s Marian from The Music Man). Even major car manufacturer, Honda, couldn’t displace that image, when in the mid-90s, it introduced a print ad to promote its Accord V-6 Coupe, with the tag line, “the automotive equivalent of a really hot librarian.” (Seriously? This has to be some sort of oxymoronic joke!)
Author, Ruth Kneale counters many of these observations and stereotypes in her book , You Don’t Look Like a Librarian: Shattering Stereotypes and Creating Positive New Images in the Internet Age. There is even a website designed to accompany the book.
Despite their reputation as “shushers,” most librarians are good sports and enjoy poking fun at their own stereotypes. (Real life librarian, Nancy Pearl, was the model for the librarian action-figure with the “shushing finger.”)
Many of these images have become reinforced through movies. So, take a moment and review some of the movies that have cemented the image of librarians as we know (and love?) them. You might be surprised.