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Thursday
Nov032005

Librarians have an image problem?

flibrarian.jpg
Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library via American Memories Collection

Once again a great storm of discussion has blown into the LM_Net list over the image of the librarian in popular culture. Despite the made-for-TV movie, The Librarian, that featured an Indiana Jones-type hero, the drunken heroine Carnahan’s proud assertion, “I AM a librarian!” in The Mummy, and a very hot Shirley Jones as that "sadder but wiser" librarian in The Music Man, it seems the great unwashed public still see us as bun-lovin’, shushing, frumps.

Well, I say get over it. This was my contribution to the conversation (slightly edited):

_________________________________

I can't think of any profession that doesn't suffer from some negative stereotypes. Lawyers, dentists, cab drivers, teachers, Enron executives, county road workers, prison guards, priests - name an occupation that doesn't have some popular negative stereotype. (Well, tech directors don't, I suppose.)

I think we can all get Mary Kay makeovers (but I'd have some 'splaining to do to the wife), dress better, write letters about the unfairness of the world to the paper, and debate this ad nauseum among ourselves, but the plain fact is that only our positive interactions with individuals are what really matter.

If image is that important, well, become a car mechanic or actor or politician or accountant... Well, bad examples.

And I added:

PS. Male librarians don't have an image problem.

(To which someone responded: I always thought that male librarians either had long hair and were of the “very clean, knowledgeable hippie” variety or they were of the “uptight, anal, and gay always wearing a sweater vest” variety.)

_________________________________

Lynn Butler, Lamar Elementary Library, San Angelo, Texas, said it more eloquently (reprinted her with her kind permission):

I found the remark about Mary Kay makeovers somewhat out of line. Who doesn't love a makeover?  <SMILE> Seriously, if the librarian image that prevails in our society is one of a frumpy woman wearing sensible shoes, and hair in a bun who goes around saying, "Shh!"  then we might ask ourselves how that image came to be?  Only we can change our image and reinvent ourselves personally as well as professionally. The question was asked, "So how DO we go about changing our image?"  Personally, that is up to each individual person.  Manner of dress and hairstyle is a personal as well as a professional choice.  Ask yourself, "Am I comfortable with how I dress?  Do I look like a professional who knows her stuff or do I look like some ancient creature who wouldn't know a good book from a dark hole?"  "Do I have a pleasant expression on my face and seem approachable to students or do I have an, 'I'm busy. Don't bother me.' look?"
Unwarranted interruption: If I remember, Lillian Gerhardt once explained in School Library Journal column that the buns, drab dresses, and sensible shoes are a direct reflection on the economic realities of being a low-paid professional.
To change our collective image from the stereotype involves not only knowing how to teach but how to reach.  To reach our students we must stay on top of the latest research skills as well as the latest fads. We need to know who's who in American history as well as who's who in pop culture.   Librarians need to know who the hot characters are in children's literature as well as the hot stars in movies.  I just returned from a professional librarians' delegation to Russia and one of the places we visited was the University of Art and Culture in St. Petersburg.  Librarians who train there go through an intensive six-year program of not only library, technology, and information skills classes but literature, drama, art, music, and dance.  In Russia, librarians are the repository of all art and cultural knowledge.  They are respected and admired and particularly in smaller towns, are viewed as the fountain of all wisdom.

As librarians of the new century we must reshape our images as we rework our job descriptions.  In my humble opinion, the old stereotype has no place in our world and until we work diligently to change that, it is going to remain with us.  As we redefine the job, we will redefine ourselves and bury those stereotypes for good.

Should we change our image? Can we change our image? Wouldn't most people rather work with a knowledgable, effective, pleasant frump than a glamourous airhead? Do male librarians (or tech directors) really have an image problem?

 mlibrarian.jpg
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF35-1326]

 

Wednesday
Nov022005

Future of libraries article

The article, The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation by Thomas Frey, Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute, lists 10 Trends impacting the "next generation" library.  Those trends?

  • Trend #1 - Communication systems are continually changing the way people access information.
  • Trend #2 - All technology ends.   All technologies commonly used today will be replaced by something new.
  • Trend #3 - We haven’t yet reached the ultimate small particle for storage.  But soon.
  • Trend #4 - Search Technology will become increasingly more complicated.
  • Trend #5 - Time compression is changing the lifestyle of library patrons.
  • Trend #6 - Over time we will be transitioning to a verbal society.
  •  Trend #7 - The demand for global information is growing exponentially.
  • Trend #8 - The Stage is being set for a new era of Global Systems.
  • Trend #9 – We are transitioning from a product-based economy to an experience based economy.
  • Trend #10 - Libraries will transition from a center of information to a center of culture.

I think Mr. Frey would get some argument about Trends 3 and 4 from Ray Kurzweil, but most of these trends seem pretty evident.

Mr. Frey also lists some "recommendations for libraries." Well worth reading.

Some answers to the superintendent who received the letter from the Flat World Library Corporation

Wednesday
Nov022005

E-Mail to staff on spam

Sent this morning after getting about a dozen "is this spam?" e-mails from teachers and administrators. My deleted comments are in italics...

___________________________

To all school district staff with measurable brain activity:

The district has been hit with another goddam round of spam coming from with the subject “letersSecurStar SecuryTeam Order #176857” or similar. This is just plain spam that our filter does not recognize as such. (It fits none of the “rules” the filter uses to determine whether something is spam.) Never ask a machine to do your thinking for you.

Please, please, please just delete these e-mails without replying. If you reply, you will only get MORE spam. Which you would richly deserve.

Most of us by now have enough experience with e-mail and spam after 10 years or so to determine what is legitimate e-mail and what is not. I am guessing most 4th graders can. For the 10th time,  It is spam if:

  1. You don’t recognize the sender. (The spam below came from “Enlightening A Stump.” I know no Mr/Ms Stump nor do I want to.)
  2. It comes from a non-US address. (The spam sender’s e-mail address ended in .uk. Ever since Princess Diana died, I don’t get any e-mail from the UK.)
  3. There is a financial angle. (The spam below referred to an order for something I know nothing about, let alone ordered. There is the opportunity to go to a website where you may very well be asked to divulge some personal or financial information. Although you probably will despite how often you are warned not to.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER do this. If you think there really may be a problem with a company you do business with, use the telephone. It's that thing that sits on your desk with a keypad into which you enter as series of numbers and allows a real-time, two-way exchange of information in an audio format. )
  4. You get several e-mails with identical messages from different senders. (Still none of whom you recognize.)
  5. Replace your written e-mail address on webpages with something that looks like gullible(at)isd77.k12.mn.us. Human eyes and brains will still be able to determine your address, but Internet searching "bots" that collect e-mail address will not. No, I'm not going to explain what a "bot" is. Trust me, you don't want to know.

This is quite serious business if you respond to e-mails that ask you to verify, repair or maintain your "account" via e-mail. This is how identity theft happens. And don't you already have enough financial problems trying to live on a teacher's salary?  Again, if the e-mail is from a source with which you have never done business, simply delete it. You do this by highlighting the message and clicking on the trashcan icon or pressing the delete key. We will have a 3-hour inservice on Thursday after school if  you are still confused. If it looks like it comes from a business that you DO do business with, telephone (see description in #3 above) the company. There are many "fake" websites disguised to look like legitimate businesses designed to fool people just like you..

And finally, count yourself lucky if you receive fewer than a dozen spam messages a week. These things are rampant and unavoidable even with spam filters in place. Think of them as the mosquitos of the Internet. Even tech directors, as powerful and intelligent as they are, can't control all pests.

All the best,

Doug

___________________________________________
THE ORIGINAL SPAM MESSAGE:
Subject: letersSecurStar SecuryTeam Order #176857 will be processed manually
by our staff
Thank you for your order (#176857).
We will manually process your order and contact you soon by phone or email
Below you can find the summary of the order:
KEZAAM! Software distribution service
746 Comalli Street, Laguna Niguel
CA 92677, USA
Purchased at http://caro.nu/info.html
---------------------
Order id:     #176857
Order date:   1.11.2005 03:21
Order status: Q
Total:
-------
Payment method:  Credit Card
Subtotal:        EUR 164.95
Discount:        EUR 0.00
Coupon saving:   EUR 0.00
Shipping cost:   EUR 0.00
Tax:             EUR 0.00
Total:           EUR 164.95 |  (USD 199.59)
Thank you for your interest in our products.
Best regards, SecuryTeam!

__________________________ 

So am I getting too old and cranky for my job or what?