Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Much Ado about Shushers

Is everyone else sick to death of discussing Sunday's New York Times article, "A Hipper Crowd of Shushers"? Sorry...I'm going to put my two cents in, too.

I have been absolutely amazed and dismayed by the reaction in some of the library community to the story. This was a "Fashion & Style" section article...you know, about how some people dress and where they hang out and what kind of clothes they wear. But from the tone of some of the reactions, you would think that this was a serious sociological dissertation about the entire profession. The NEWLIB-L listserv has been all a-twitter (no plug intended) about this article for three days now, and at least half a dozen people have sent me the link. (Why is beyond me; no one has EVER accused me of being hip.) (Oh. Maybe that's the point.)

The reaction on The Annoyed Librarian is what really floored me. It opens with the anonymous Annoyed's screed against the story, "Take the 'Hip' Librarians, Please." Ordinarily, I would assume that any blog post that riffs a one-liner from Henny Youngman couldn't be all bad. This is a rule of thumb I will need to reconsider. But then, as of this morning, there are 36 additional comments, many even more vituperative in their comments about the article, about the people profiled in the article, and about the state of the library world in general.

I don't understand. We get furious when the media offer images of us as repressed spinsters and/or prissy confirmed bachelors. We get furious when they write about as young hipsters. When will we not be furious? And why do we waste so much time being furious?

The victim mentality in this profession needs to have a wooden stake driven through its heart ASAP.

12 comments:

Helene said...

Bravo! Personally I'm of the school that "any press is good press" and would be flattered if I were librarian to be consider "h"

Jeff Scott said...

Librarians are way to obsessed with how they are perceived. However, the guybrarian reference was very odd. Not in the fact they used it, but they made it seem like it was a common term.

K.G. Schneider said...

Stepping back from all the commentary (which, George, is what *you're* usually so good at), I find it interesting that reactions to this article fall so strongly along gender lines... and that the critiques of the critiques have themselves been somewhat emotionally labeled as "whining," "victimhood," etc.--somewhat gender-laden terms.

Obviously this article tapped anger and emotions that go farther than some bimbo reporter's depiction of the appletini library scene. Now that you've done your lecture, put your big-picture hat back on and ponder what it means, and you get an "F" if you use the word "victimhood" without clarifying *precisely* what you mean.

I ain't no victim, no way no how, but the MSM perpetuation of stereotypes that to be cool is to be young and pretty and white is on a continuum that puts huge breasts and skinny waists on animated characters. there's something going on here, and your own reaction is an intriguing component to all of this.

K.G. Schneider said...

after animated characters, that should read, "and call them avatars."

Rosario Garza said...

Way to go, George! Several non-librarian family members emailed me the link and/or the text of the story. After the second one, I wanted to say "And your point is...?"

George said...

Karen,

Your point is well taken. And as soon as I get a couple of hours of thinking time, I'm definitely going to write a post about the culture of victimhood in the library profession. With all the speaking engagements I've done recently, and in reading posts on various listservs, and even in reading the applications for next year's IFLA/OCLC Fellows program, this strikes me as a disturbing through line. Thanks!

George

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's the fact that librarians can't get a respectable rap no matter what. Most of the librarians I know have a phd or 2 master's degrees, yet they are either characterized as old spinster ladies incapable of being likable enough for anything other than sitting in a dusty and dark library or as stupid empty headed scenesters who went through a massive amount of schooling to have a "cool" profession.
Either generalization completely offends me. If I have the same education as a doctor, why can't I have the respect that generally comes along with it?

Katherine said...

Thank you George! During the height of the dot.com era I was fairly heavily involved in developing some e-business concepts and therefore read heavily in that area. I can remember similar articles about the "new" trendiness of geeks. What I don't remember was my technie friends getting in a huff because this new image somehow dissed them...every profession has its stereotypes, but not every profession takes itself quite so seriously!

K.G. Schneider said...

George, we are on the same page regarding victimhood, but we just part ways on whether this is an instance of it. When the "innovation" panel podcast from Annual goes up, listen to me, Joe, and Stephen take on victimization (or read my post about The Hollywood Librarian).

The Library Guy said...

Jeff, the use of guybrarian wasn't odd to me, but that's because I've been previously referred to as a guybrarian. It's not uncommon to me, and I live in Mississippi.

Dave said...

Goerge has a good point here

Dave

Shirl said...

Bless you, George, for these words of wisdom. The oversensitive, navel-gazing, always-on-the-defensive aspects of this profession are really wearing on me these days, to the point where I sometimes have to take a vacation from certain library weblogs.

BTW, the term "guybrarian" is not a new one. I bought a "guybrarian" friend a coffee mug with this word on it several years ago -- on CafePress. IIRC.