In my last post, someone left a comment about libraries having Mrs Slocombe type people. For those of you who don’t know, Mrs Slocombe was woman in a show called Are You Being Served? (and it’s crappy sequel, Grace and Favour). She was rude and rather arrogant and always thought she knew better than the customers.

Unfortunately this seems to be a common stereotype of librarians. Imagine a tiny little old woman with her hair in a bun. A nice calming stereotype. Then ensure that she’s a Nazi sadist and that’s what some people think of librarians.

When I tell people that I’m a librarian they somehow feel guilty. It is as if, by telling them I’m a librarian, I am secretly saying “YOU DON’T READ AND I CAN TELL BECAUSE I KNOW ALL OF YOUR DIRTY SECRETS YOU EVIL LITTLE NON-READER”. I’ll often get the ‘oh I last went to a library in 1942 and still have the book out’ or ‘oh I never go to a library, I like to buy my books’ or, worst of all, ‘oh, a librarian, do you know the book Life as a Vapor as it changed my life and of course you’ve read it because you’re a librarian and…what? You don’t know it? How come? It won the Mumphmudge Prize for Literature’ thus making me feel as if I’ve failed in my many years of librarianing because I haven’t read some obscure book on the development of my soul.

Oops, lost my point…stereotypes. I wonder if we’re the only profession with our panties in a twist over the stereotype of us? As a whole I don’t think it’s TOO bad (a helpful little old woman is a nice stereotype…of course the evil school librarian stereotype isn’t so good, nor is the stereotype that because you have an overdue book we are going to beat you with encyclop√¶dias if you ever step into our library).

Anyways, what does everyone think about our stereotypes?

Are you free Mrs Slocombe?

4 thoughts on “Are you free Mrs Slocombe?

  • November 26, 2007 at 7:28 am

    I love stereotypes – I love that I break them every time someone realises I am a librarian and that I don’t fit any of the images that they have of our profession.

    The look on their faces is often amusing and I’m happy to take my little pleasures where I can.

  • November 26, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    When I was at work the other day, 2 of the young staff (Junior Library Officers or JLOs as we like to call them) said to me that they couldn’t imagine that I could ever be anything else apart from a Librarian. I don’t know if that is an insult or a compliment – they obviously couldn’t imagine me as a Corporate Raider, doctor,process worker, garbo or anything else. I obviously represent, for them, the epitome of a Librarian. Next year will be 30 years since I started work in a Library (Melbourne City Libraries) (I was very young!) and I have never had any other sort of job, so I suppose I made the right choice.

  • November 27, 2007 at 1:10 am

    I think the negative stereotype of libraries and Librarians is alive and well. In the past they may have been right but now it is different, we just need to let the public know!

    The public still think libraries are meant to be a quit place, when the kids see me coming they feel they need to whisper. Now I don’t like shouting but talking is ok for me. Also hardly anyone I know goes to a library. They don’t realise the resources on offer they think its just a place for books. They don’t know about dvd’s, cd’s, magazines etc, and of course the technology.

    To change this view we need to emphasise the importance of customer service in the library courses. I think this is our first duty, the rest comes next. If we are not welcoming (and breaking the stereotype) nothing will change. Libraries should be seen as a positive place to be so customer service is THE most important part in changing these negative stereotypes.

  • November 28, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Michelle: What’s worse about stereotypes is meeting them (although it’s very difficult for me to meet the stereotype of an elderly woman with her hair in a bun)…but I do wear glasses.

    History: How can you be the epitome of a librarian? Have you recently started putting your hair up in a bun and wearing cardigans (although, that being said, my boss wears cardigans and he ain’t a stereotypical librarian at all).

    Zoya: I can understand why my friends don’t use libraries, we’re young(ish), don’t have kids yet and our income allows us to have the internet and buy the books/dvds we want to read. Also, they’d all use Google to do any research. That being said, I still think we need to advertise our services to these groups so that they know what we have. Most just think of us as having large stockpiles of Mills & Boon and John Grisham novels, we have so much more! I worked at the Brimbank Festival the other day and was shocked at how many people did not know that we had free internet, even those who come to the library every week. Ah well.


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