Thursday, 20 August 2009

Booking a place for Hollywood Librarians

You can now book a place for the free Hollywood Librarians event!
To book contact: / +44(0)207 749 1240
Further information contact: Holly - / +44(0)207 749 1255

This all day event is a chance to explore the representations and misconceptions of the library profession within institutions and popular culture. This will include a screening of the documentary The Hollywood Librarian, followed by a discussion, and ending with a screening of the popular cult library film Party Girl

The Hollywood Librarian

Party Girl

From old maids to heroes

From old maids to fetishised pin-ups; power mad authority figures to heroes and revolutionaries; there are countless variations of 'The Librarian' available to us in popular culture and in our own imaginations.

What is the history of these stereotpyes and images? What is the true history of the librarian and the profession of library and information science? How does public perception affect/differ/engage with the real life responsibilities of the librarian? Are the true details of our roles invisible, overshadowed instead by lazy stereotypes?

Maura Seale's article Old Maids, Policeman, and Social Rejects: Mass Media Representations and Public Perceptions of Librarians serves as an introduction to this discussion and raises questions for self-reflecting librarians. In her essay Seale raises three vital questions:

1. How are librarians depicted by the mass media?
2. How does the public perceive librarians and how might these views relate to mass media representations?
3. What are the potential effects of these representations and perceptions?

Through a study of cinema, literature, comics, and real life librarians Seale outlines the five most recognised stereotypes of the librarian in the mass media:

The Old Maid Librarian

The Policeman Librarian

The Librarian as Parody

The Inept Librarian

The Hero/ine Librarian

While some of these images in popular culture are comical and appropriated as library heroes (i.e Batgirl, Rupert Giles etc), other images are not quite so simple, in fact many of these conjure negative and damaging aspects of the profession. The stereotypes outlined by Seale certainly warrant further investigation such as the view of gender in these representations in comparison to the profession.

In preparation for our upcoming event Hollywood Librarians, it's vital to raise these issues as points for discussion and debate. While stereotpes are essentially visual shortcuts in the media and popular culture, it is necessary for librarians to be aware of public perception. Whether it is to engage with public perceptions or whether we choose to appropriate and treat these visual shortcuts with a pinch of salt.

Steven J. Schmidt's Film Librarian is a comprehensive database of films featuring librarians and is an invaulable resource for researching all forms of representation of librarians in popular culture. Schmidt introduces his listings by stating that 'many of these films offer a negative image of our profession, but just as many show our strengths. They all just serve to remind us that sometimes we need to remember the way others see us, and laugh.'

Schmidt, S.J (2006) 'Top Ten Films Featuring Librarians' [online]

Seale, M. (2008) 'Old Maids, Policeman, and Social Rejects : Mass Media Representations and Public Perceptions of Librarians' in Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship. Vol 9 No 1

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

It's time to make some noise in the library...

In preparation of our first Spoken Skins event (news coming soon) we want to think about perceptions of the library and the librarian in popular culture.

Who we are and what we do differs greatly from popular perceptions. The world of libraries and information science are clouded in cultural stigmas and stereotpyes. Are librarian's really all obsessive compulsive asexual middle aged women? Do we really just stamp books all day? This stereotype is largely out of date and factually false, but still incredibly vivid and often quite fun to play with. Are libraries really just shelves of books, are they silent,are they still? We know these as myths and as library professionals we often spend our time radically transforming these perceptions of the physical library space.

Over the next few weeks in the lead up to our first Spoken Skins event we will be exploring libraries and librarians that are actively updating and transforming these popular misconceptions.

Our first Spoken Skins event will specifically focus on the representation of libraries and librarians in popular culture. This event features a screening of the documentary The Hollywood Librarian, discussion panel, and screening of the feature film Party Girl in the Stuart Hall Library. The Spoken Skins blog seeks to document the new series of activities and events taking place in the Stuart Hall Library while creating dialogues with library professionals, library users, and library lovers everywhere.

Is this why you became a librarian?

Which images of the library/librarian in popular culture stand out for you?