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Library and Librarian Myths and Legends : the Truth behind the Stacks

Sun 27 Feb 2011 10:33:33 | 0 comments

Librarians have often been surrounded by mysteries, myths and legends.  What is the truth about Librarians?  Are they all-knowing godlike beings?  Do books magically appear on shelves?  Is the MLS a real degree?  What about buns?  These gems of corrective, collective wisdom are courtesy of the PubLib Listserve. 

David Faulker in Austin, Texas opened the discussion of De-myth-ifying librarians  with:

Just for fun I’m curious as to what are some of the wildest myths people have about our profession?

The one I hear is that, “it must be nice to work for a library and get to read all the time.”

to which the Publib Chorus responds ~

Well, there is always the one that all men who work in libraries are gay. Also that everyone is a volunteer. ~ Andrew Porteus 

 Everyone there is a librarian It is such a quiet, stress free place to work ~ Meg VanPatten  

  And it’s not just the patrons. I’ve actually had a board member ask me if I was a paid employee or a volunteer. ~ Dorothy Fleishman

“That must be a nice QUIET job.”   ha.  Come visit when we have 60 kids plus their associated older/younger siblings & adults on hand for storytime.  Or when the Chinese Lion Dance team is parading through the stacks celebrating Chinese New Year.  Or when two patrons start arguing about the noise from the headphones of one watching music videos online distracting the other who is trying to complete an online test. Or…  well, you can fill in your own blanks here.  ~ Tina Rawhouser

Most frequent for us, folks believe:

1.  That publishers are required to give books to us – we don’t have to buy them.

2.  That we are REQUIRED to put on the shelf certain books that the “government” tells us to.

3.  That we are REQUIRED to put on the shelf any book anyone wants us to… ~ Dusty Gres

*That we spend all day reading

*That everyone who works at a library is a librarian

*That there’s no reason for us to be at work when the public isn’t there (or to be off-desk for specified shifts) because, without the public, we have “nothing to do” (I’ve even had a library employee question this)

*That libraries are peaceful, calm, quiet places of work suitable to introverts and the socially inept

*That being a librarian isn’t “real” work  ~ Ann Moore

I’ve heard many who don’t frequent libraries say that  libraries are nothing but a den of homeless people who smell bad, talk to themselves & bathe in the library restrooms.  Our little library has none of that; the only ones talking to themselves are the  perhaps staff  – - after all the kids have gone through… ~ Karen Mahnk

Once at a pool party a guy asked me what I did.  I told him that I was a librarian.  He said, “That sounds really boring!”  Turned out he was an accountant, I bit my tongue and said nothing.  Librarianship is many things, but boring it aint! ~ George Hazelton

Does anyone think Laura Bush helped promote the idea that we read on the job? I remember when she said she loved being a librarian because she got to read her way through the gardening section. I cringed at that one. ~ Judy Anderson

“The ALA” controls public libraries ~ Nann Blaine Hilyard

granted, this one was from a 13-ish-year-old, but he was honestly surprised that I have a home, a husband, and a son.  He actually said the words, “…you don’t stay here?” ~ Sarah Morrison

How about the (hopefully small) group of patrons who think the public library provides some sort of dating service with the employees as the dates? ~ Mary Jane Garrett -

How about those folks who want the medical/mental help advice (as if I’m qualified for that) and then start flirting with you? . . . my mum was shocked recently to discover that I help folks with technology questions.  She thought I should hand over questions regarding things such as Microsoft Office, using email, or basic troubleshooting as to why the library computer won’t connect to the internet/print to the IT dept.  All because I’m a librarian and I shouldn’t have to deal with technology.  And then she asked me for help with her Kindle.  ~ Megan Coleman

“What do we libraries or librarians for, isn’t everything available on the internet?” ~ Jane Jorgenson

When my fellow teachers ask how the contract affects me (uh, I have a K-12 teaching cert so the same as you) and were SHOCKED that I had a student teacher. Librarians are TEACHERS not SUPPORT STAFF ~ Steph Sweeney

That reminds me of the only time when our budget did not pass and it was suggested that we staff the reference desk with volunteers because people basically ask the same 3 or 4 questions! ~ Meg VanPatten

That I keep their information in some secret place to share with the government. ~ Terry Ann Lawler

Librarians are pushovers ~ Robert Balliot

. . . you must get so much needlepoint done in between customers at the library ~ Nann Blaine Hilyard  

That all female librarians are some kind of sexual deviants hiding behind the stacks.~ Melodie Franklin

The other one isn’t actually about librarians, but about libraries.  That’s the one wherein people think the publishers GIVE us all those books.  “You mean, you have to BUY the books?”  Well, yeah, we do; with the fine money that is surely our only source of income (don’t people look at their property tax bills?). ~ Lynne S. Ingersoll

There’s the one that all female librarians are old maids with their hair in a bun and pencils stuck over their ears. The one I like the best is that we, men and women, are all smart and know everything! ~ Anne Felix

Aischylos sans bun

I use this one to my advantage. At least once every day I hear, “but you don’t look like a librarian.” To which I respond, “Oh. That’s because I quit putting my hair up in a bun.” Then I show them my MPB spot and add, “See? I ripped it out by the roots.” ~ Darrell Cook

Upon learning I am a librarian someone once said, “That must be peaceful.” Then I told her about the guy who came into the library following kids around who turned out to have a rap sheet with charges of assault and rape (minors) on it, how some patrons act when they haven’t been taking their meds, and the  patron who yelled at me by telephone for five minutes because she felt two of my co-workers (no, I don’t supervise them)had not given her satisfactory  help. ~ Kevin O’Kelly

Once a candidate for a job told me she wanted to work in a library because it’s an easy job where she could sit down all day. ~ Gair Helfrich

Boy, I sure would like to work in a place that has peace and quiet! ~ Linda Dydo  

“I wish I got paid to read all day.”
 ”I wish I got paid to color and cut things out all day.” ~ B. Allison Gray
 
“You need a masters degree? Don’t you know alphabetical order?” ~ Diane Doty

Several times I’ve spoken with people who can’t believe that we haven’t read all the books on our shelves. Maybe that’s why they think we’re smart? ~ Tom Cooper

Personnel & Personnel

People don’t understand–including people who are leaders, administrators, executives, whatever, in other vocations–that directors or other administrative folks in libraries deal with the same issues that other leaders, administrators, and executives do: personnel, personnel, and personnel, along with budgets, personnel, boards, personnel, personnel, and, now and then, personnel.  Buildings and grounds.  Contractors.  Also personnel. ~ John Richmond

Directors named Dusty are male. And if a woman answers the phone she is his Secretary as in {snarky tone} “I ASKED to speak specifically to the Director NOT his Secretary…” And if I say, “This is the Director” then the response is, “Oh, well, Debbie…” or, this is the best one, “Oh, really, what’s your REAL name?” ~ Dusty Gres

They also think we keep everything forever! ~ Anne Felix

People always think that library staff get perks like getting to jump to the top of the holds queue or not having to pay overdue fines. I tell them that in terms of using the library, we are just like the patron and we get no special treatment, which always shocks them. They’re also surprised when I point out that, if anything, we have the opposite of perks because our coworkers know what we check out and put on hold and how much we owe, so we have to sacrifice our privacy. ~ Cheryl Hill

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Surreal Librarian

I’ve had that ‘is that a real’ degree on the subject of the MLS a few times, and never once has a fearless leader of mine allowed me to smile sweetly and say ‘nope, it’s a surreal degree.’ ~ Kathleen Stipek

I am surprised by how many people ask, “How much does it cost to get a library card?” We have a fair number of immigrants in our community, and they are often surprised to learn that public libraries are free. ~ Anne Felix

. . . wasn’t that “a lot of education to sit behind a desk and wait for someone to ask a question?”!! ~ Penny Neubauer

I overheard a mother walking in front of my desk tell her child “Don’t bother the librarian. She’s busy working. They’re for important questions.” That child will probably never ask the librarians a question, and will probably not use the library as an adult. ~ Angela Morse

. . . people think that a library, any library, will keep forever that very special book or collection of books (or National Geographic Magazines) they are planning to give to the library one day.  That day might be just tomorrow because they’re cleaning out the old family house after the death of a parent, or it might be a plan they’re making for years ahead when they move their stuff to a smaller apartment and get rid of some of their books. ~ Alain

Librarian Legend :

baseball field by Robert Merkel

Coach's box= dugout

I first got Dodger season tickets in 1994.  I got in the habit of bringing cookies to the guys in the bullpen.
The then-bullpen catcher asked me my name, but there was so much noise he couldn’t hear me. 
I whipped out my business card and handed it to him.  He walked over to the other guys, shaking his head, and saying:  “You’ll never guess what she does for a living!” ~Sue Kamm

 






 by Robert Balliot
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