Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Editorial: Our Professional Image

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Editorial: Our Professional Image

Article excerpt

Those of us in the library world are too concerned about our image, and too obsessed with what others think. Like a constantly-repeated mantra, the question of librarian professional image resurfaces in library journals again and again. It is an obsession. We won't let the subject die. The June/July 2007 issue of American Libraries, for instance, featured a Will Manley piece that detailed the persistence of the traditional stereotypes--the introverted cleric, the conservative spinster. Elsewhere in the issue, the editors included an opinion section on "How the world sees us," cataloging an assortment of comments about librarians and libraries, some positive, some very much less so. On a speciously favorable note, an action toy and gift purveyor, Archie McPhee, quipped that, "nowadays you're as likely to see your local librarian driving a Harley as a Honda Accord." I seriously doubt whether librarians are really as likely to drive a Harley as something else, but that isn't the issue. One has to ask: what difference does it make anyway? Who is keeping track?

Librarians are keeping track. Manley's comments and the editor's notes betray an unhealthy preoccupation--one that is rampant among librarians. We have a fascination about how we are perceived. We have an unwholesome curiosity about our image. We are the anorexic fixated on weight; the politician obsessed with voter polls; the coach worried about sportswriters and their take on the team. Our mania reflects insecurity--a neurotic preoccupation with what others think about us.

How should we overcome or escape this malaise, or at the very least, restore our sense of balance about the question? I have a suggestion. We should take our cue from other professionals. Many of our colleagues in other fields have disconcerting labels applied to their professions, and work in an environment where perceptions are anything but flattering. The difference between them and us, however, is that most of these other professionals recognize that such perceptions go with the territory. …

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