Dr. Marie Radford, chair of our upcoming Reference Renaissance 2010 conference, blogged about why librarian/library stereotypes are harmful. I think she’s completely right that we need to lose our sense of humor and patience with these images. As she says, “…thinking of libraries as dusty, unused places (instead of vital community centers) and librarians as unproductive, fussy old biddies who shuffle around the library shushing, stamping, and shelving is useful to the powerful elite who use this ill-informed view as justification to cut already low salaries and benefits for public librarians, fire librarians, reduce hours and close libraries…”
Having just heard the devastating news that Hood River County Library will close on July 1, to say nothing of all the other layoffs, branch closures and budget cuts that are happening, really brings home how much work still needs to be done to change perceptions (especially those of politicians who make decisions about our budgets). Our users and a few noble super-advocates seem to be the only ones who realize how much libraries do for the local economy (e.g. classes to help workers upgrade skills and providing resources to help local businesses grow…) and for their communities (e.g. free education, information, entertainment and quality computer access…).
Have you encountered these perceptions in your area? How do you overcome them? What do you do to let non-users know that the library has tons to offer them and that it’s an exciting place to be?
Let’s get indignant and correct these wrong impressions before it’s too late.