Follow Up Post to: Is Technology Bringing in More Skillful Male Librarians?

My main motive for my recent post was to generate discussion on the topic of stereotypes of male librarians, technology, and our profession.  It can get lonely as a writer when you do not have exchange with readers.  It was not meant to be an opinion piece.  I wanted to move away from posting on a technology review or share something I tried at my library.  I wanted to present information I found while reading.  These negative views of our profession are alive and well in our society – to not write about it is to sweep it under the rug.

It may be an exploration of my own experience.  I live it every day.  I am a 40 year old male librarian who fits the stereotype and all these stereotypical elements point to someone who is less than.  When I tell someone that I am a librarian, I get the “you must read a lot” comment which insinuates that my job is not that important if I am leisurely reading passively. Or that librarianship is a “women’s profession” and not worthy of respect.  Or I could not make it in a more stressful, rigorous career environment, so librarianship became my default.  Being a librarian was my first choice and I continue to love this profession.  Only recently have I seen a shift in reactions, since I work at a College of Medicine.  Since medicine has a higher reputation, I get some more respect and aww.   I am a father and married to my lovely wife, and I hold the opinion that our sexuality is fluid and not a box you can check off.  I do not follow or play sports.  I am not a manly man.  I love to read and consider myself scholarly.  I wear thick plastic glasses on purpose and did before the fad and will continue after the fad fades.  I am categorized as brown or colored in some parts of the nation.  All these elements make me less than in society’s eyes.

These are elements that affect the way we are perceived, affecting our salaries, seat at tables, and, most importantly, the level of respect our profession receives from the outside world.

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I do recommend reading this month’s ALA article in  American Libraries magazine, The Stereotype Stereotype: Our Obsession with Librarian Representation,  that goes into the topic further at http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2015/10/30/the-stereotype-stereotype/ 

3 thoughts on “Follow Up Post to: Is Technology Bringing in More Skillful Male Librarians?

  1. It’s weird that there’s been so much reaction to both of these posts on social media, but folks don’t seem to be commenting on the blog itself. Perhaps as a result, I’m not sure the author quite understood what people were upset about; some of the same assumptions from the first post seemed to have made their way into the second.

    I agree with one premise of these posts: men in librarianship absolutely do get feminized by association, because librarianship is made up mostly of women (80/20 is the ratio that is generally tossed around) and is also associated with women in people’s minds.

    I get that it’s probably difficult to talk about that without accidentally throwing one’s female (and other gender) colleagues under the bus. But I’d like to help this author try to do better in the future.

    Let’s start with the obvious: it’s not acceptable to suggest that feminization is, in and of itself, a bad thing. What I assume was just a really poor attempt to be self-deprecating in the previous post, “I will … drink my tea with my pinkie sticking out,” is not so much self-deprecating as it is deprecating feminine people. But both posts reek of “people think male librarians are feminine, and that is bad,” with the quiet assumption underlying it that that’s because femininity is bad. It reads as if men are being robbed of their rightful higher status, by being equated with women. This was likely unintentional, but one can see why it would be upsetting.

    One troubling premise is the idea that getting more men into librarianship–or raising their status?–is somehow the answer. (I take it as a premise because of the infographic showing that there are fewer men and the rather offensive question that served as the first post’s title.) Men already have elevated status within our field. The higher paid and higher-status jobs, such as directorships, are still going disproportionately to men(1), maybe in part because of assumptions like the author’s that technology is primarily male-dominated because it is competitive (a paraphrase from the previous post).

    It’s also easy to read this post as suggesting that male librarians’ status is low when the rest of ours isn’t, or that it’s only a problem because it is affecting men. For example, “you must read all day” is certainly something the rest of us–librarians who are not male–hear more often than we’d like, too. I would argue that the problem is not that men are treated badly for being librarians, but rather that librarians of all genders are treated badly.

    Smarter people than I have made longer comments than this about this post, and I would encourage the author to read those critiques with as open a mind as possible. It is hard to have people respond negatively to one’s writing, I know. But in this case the point that the author is trying to make is, I think, being obscured by some unintentional sexist overtones that some of us can’t ignore or move past. Writing about gender takes a lot of sensitivity to do well; and probably much more importantly, it requires the ability to listen to critique and show that you’ve learned from it.

    1) http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/libleadgender/

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