How I’m Helping Break the Librarian Stereotype


I just knew I wanted to be respected. I wanted to be good at sport. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to be head librarian.

~Lucy Lawless

I’m pretty sure most guys would admit they have a Sexy Librarian fetish (in fact, in the A-Team comic books, they even make a joke about the perpetual playboy Faceman having one.) There’s something about that quiet, mysterious, quasi-virginal lady with her hair in a bun, her oh-so-practical clothes, her tortoiseshell glasses on a chain around her neck. I’m sure it’s in the same ballpark as nuns, nurses and flight attendants.

I’m not sure where this image comes from. The 1960s, maybe, or some old episode of Leave it to Beaver. It continues to persist in popular culture; even theΒ Star Wars flicks feature old-lady Jedi Archives librarian Jocasta Nu. I’ve worked in libraries for nearly five years now and I have yet to meet anybody who looks like the “traditional” librarian. This includes Staff Day, in which several hundred people are in attendance. Nary a tight bun or pair of practical pumps in sight.

There are countless blogs out there written by other library folks (my personal favorite being the one featuring librarians as romance novel heroines.) I’m hardly an expert on what does or doesn’t make a “proper” librarian. I do bear more than a passing resemblance to the chick in the illustration above, only I don’t wear glasses and my favorite footwear is Chuck Taylors in summer and Harley boots in winter. People wouldn’t know I was a librarian just by looking at me. If anything they might assume I worked at an edgy cafe or alternative boutique. Which is the general idea. I don’t really want complete strangers to think of me as a 32-year-old virgin who goes home to a house full of cats every night and reads Sartre for fun.

But that’s the whole point. Libraries are at a major crossroads right now between old and new, tradition and innovation. I think there’s room to incorporate both. No matter how much e-readers make inroads, I believe there is and always will be room for the printed word. There’s something amazing and tangible about holding a book. But we also have to change with the times and make libraries a place people want to go. We offer e-books, computers, mp3s, and multimedia presentations. My old school librarian, who really did wear torti glasses on a chain, would scarcely recognize the library today.

Part of the changed perception starts with the staff. Would I want to go into a building full of stern older people who constantly shushed me and didn’t want me touching anything? Probably not. On the other hand, a library filled with dynamic, knowledgeable (not necessarily young, but, ya know) staff where I was encouraged to engage would be much better. The current branch where I work was built in the early 90s and is showing its age. We’re getting ready to move to a bigger and brighter location; in fact, the meeting committee has been asking for input as to what the new branch should look like. For what it was worth I gave them much of this input. I certainly hope they use some of it.

I actually think librarians can be sexy (I don’t go for women, but if I did, I’d probably go after a female librarian.) For the most part we’re astute, knowledgeable, eager to assist, and actually like to read. We spend our working days surrounded by books, which, aside from being a jungle commando or professional stunt person, is the coolest thing in the world to me. We are archaeologists, scholars, computer geeks, cryptographers, and scientists all rolled into one. Occasionally we have to act as psychiatrists, bouncers, EMTs, or child care workers. Thankfully that’s not the norm.

I’m personally proud to be an alternative librarian. I’m also proud nobody seems to recognize me as a librarian when I go out in public (well, there is that one crazy guy who stalks me…but I won’t talk about him.) Here’s to libraries in the 21st century and beyond!

How do you feel about your local public library system and/or librarians? What changes do you think libraries need to make as technology changes? Do you have a thing for Sexy Librarians? Details, details!

"Faceman, you never told me you liked sexy librarians."

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on April 25, 2012.

17 Responses to “How I’m Helping Break the Librarian Stereotype”

  1. I love libraries, but never gave the “sexy” librarian much thought to be honest! Hahaha!

  2. I don’t go for girls either. But librarians are super cool. If I was single, I’d go for a librarian guy! Love books and anything with walls and walls of books. Cute post. πŸ™‚

  3. I just don’t want my local library to close. They already cut the hours down to 10 a week. It’s a tiny little village library and I get to it my walking across the park, which I like. It would be horrible if they closed it 😦 I love libraries! I’d never be able to support my reading habit financially or in terms of shelf space. πŸ™‚

    Funnily enough, yours is one of 3 librarian blogs I read, including the librarian at the South Pole.

  4. Great subject to draw attention to- our local library just closed on Sundays due to budget cuts. With the recession, more people were using the library than ever– job hunting, taking out movies, and books too! Never had a librarian fetish .. but have had favorite librarians. My children’s first librarian dressed as Mother Goose- she looked like her too– and when I asked her to get rid of these horrible He-Man and She-Ra books that my young sons would find every week and were so boring to read 10 times every day or night– she being the librarian refused- She wasn’t going to deny them the freedom to read. We lose so much without libraries and browsing on the internet isn’t the same. Thanks for this post and letting me rant a bit!

    • He-Man and She-Ra? A woman of my own heart! I think that’s great, and even greater that she kept them for the kids. I really agree with you that libraries are a lifeline in hard economic times…not just for job searches, but for all kinds of entertainment. I hope books never go away.

  5. Librarians are sexy, most of all because they can talk Book and I LOVE that about a person.
    But the librarians in our library each grumpy pills every morning or something. They are either downright rude, or rude at even the slightest request. Perhaps the library is understaffed or something and they get stressed out, but I dread talking to them. There’s two awesome ones in the children’s section that will help me sometimes, though. I love ’em.

    • I’m laughing, Ellie, because I’ve heard that about librarians from lots of different people. It’s like “Good Cop/Bad Cop” only with library staff. Not sure why, but I think it’s a prerequisite. I agree that anyone who can talk intelligently about books is sexy. πŸ˜›

  6. I love our local library. (I’m old-school so, I’ll always want a ‘real’ page turning book) lol. Our library has been a staple in our community since I was a small child – it recently got renovated and updated – it’s marvelous. Loved your post.

    • Thanks! You make a great point that the library should be a nerve center of the community for everyone to enjoy. (Heck, it’s one of the few public places I really feel safe anymore.)

  7. Love libraries. And sexy librarians.
    What’s hotter than a woman with a book, I ask you.

  8. I love books and libraries, so thank you for sharing.

    I’m in the middle of searching for a new job (moving to a different state to live with my fiance). Do you need a special degree to be a librarian? I have a B. A. In anthropology, but I’ve always wanted to work in a library. This post reminded me that it’s (hopefully) a possibility.

    • Thanks, so glad you enjoyed it! The job I have is actually not that of “librarian,” but rather a library associate. To get a job like mine one generally doesn’t have to have a special degree, but to become a librarian generally requires a Master’s degree in library or information science. All the best to you! πŸ™‚

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