Libraries

Sexy Librarian stereotypes

It looks like I will need to start reading books like this soon.

Librarian w/glasses and stack of books

Anna Sundberg as Sexy Librarian. TC Daily Planet.

Last May, I invited fellow LIS students to a performance of Joking Envelope‘s new production “Sexy Librarian: File Under Rock Musical.” (Joking Envelope’s site does not appear to list their production history on their site, only plays that can be purchased. Reviews of the show can be found at TC Daily Planet and CityPages.)

Librarian with her hair tossed

Anna Sundberg as Sexy Librarian. TC Daily Planet

The local theatre company’s work can be funny and sometimes thought-provoking as well. I have left Joking Envelope shows with respect for the manner in which stereotypes are presented and poked fun at, revealing some truth underneath (or inside? It is an envelope, after all).

Watching “Sexy Librarian,” however, I wondered whether new stereotypes were being exchanged for old ones.

The show, I must state, was marketed as a Jekyll and Hyde story, so by default it had to show two extreme sides of character. Also perhaps I should not over-analyze a play whose other representative librarian is a man who cannot touch things (like books) with his bare hands. But this musical showed me a representation of how the non-librarian public views librarians.

Might the “sexy librarian” be as harmful to the image of librarians as that of a woman behind a desk with her hair in a bun, sporting specs and shushing people?

A former classmate and librarian blogger has posted an interesting new video which was shot at her library. See her original post here.

I find that the polarization of the female librarian as either a mouse or a tigress troubling. I imagine that the “sexy librarian” has played (or is playing) a vital role in fighting against the “old maid librarian” stereotype – but is this something we still have a need to fight?

Librarians are individuals, just like everyone else. Isn’t that the idea that should be spread?

I don’t think “prudish” means “old” or that “sexy” means “modern,” but that’s seems to be in the subtext of many “sexy librarian” statements. In the video above, how much of this librarian’s potential sexiness comes from the potential of her just getting out from behind the desk?

Librarians, for the most part, do not stay behind desks. That is sexy.

But not in the way many people on youtube are visualizing it. Do a search for “sexy librarian” in youtube. Most of the videos returned (today) are not as clever or thoughtful as the video above.

What makes this video clever or thoughtful? The librarian! Juxtaposed against would-be music video versions of herself in short skirts, she resists playing up to the “sexy librarian” image, right up until the end where she reveals her sexiness AND individualism (as symbolized by her tattoos) as well as her continued unwillingness to be the stereotypical “sexy librarian” as she walks by the singer.

This video makes a bold statement against what similar videos are saying – unfortunately, you have to watch over five minutes to get to its most salient point. Hopefully the world will keep watching.

In her blog, Rachel poses the question of “whether this is a clever third-wave feminist marketing ploy or just straight up librariansploitation” and then asks, “[W]hy not both?”

Why not both! Thank you, Rachel!

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