The stereotypical librarian is an image that we are all familiar with, the notion of the “Bun Lady” has seemed to have existed for quite some time. For the purposes of this study we are going to use the following description:
“The stereotypical librarian is a woman, of indeterminate age, though usually older and single. While there is no direct evidence of her hair colour we can make the inference that it is grey or greying, and is always worn in a bun. Pictures lead us to the inference that she is tall and thin. She has a fair, even pallid complexion. Hopefully this is a fair representation of the stereotype.
To begin with a note must be made about the data and how the results may be “skewed”. There were 38 responses from the survey. This is a very small sample of Teacher Librarians within NSW, so it cannot be taken as indicative of all. It can be taken as a general guideline of what people may be like (it is all in fun).
With 38 responses each response equates to around 2.63% of the total. When working with percentages I have rounded them up or down accordingly. I continue to make the point that this was not a serious piece of research and it was only meant in fun.
The stereotypical librarian has always been noted as being female. This survey would tend to point to this being the case with 82% of respondents being female, leaving 18% as male. It seems that our stereotypical librarian is still a female.
A whopping 84% of respondents are currently in a long-term relationship. 16% are not in a long-term relationship, though several respondents remarked that they are looking. No remark was made by the respondents of any new relationships, boyfriends, girlfriends or liaisons, though it is quite possible that these exist within our 16% of respondents. It seems that librarians are lovers not loaners.
While some people did decline to answer other questions, the largest number was found within this question, with five respondents giving answers like Older, usually older or even “How Rude” Ages given ranged between 30 and 61. The average age was 48 and the most common age was 54.
The stereotypical librarian tends to be of an austere demeanour, who rules the library with a rod of iron. Within this sample the answers were very diverse, though they did tend to point to the fact that the librarian is not austere. Descriptors of demeanour included fun, serious, eccentric, extroverted, cheerful, optimistic, jolly, friendly, obnoxious, life of the party, warm and welcoming, energetic, friendly and outgoing. It appears that the demeanour of the librarian depends on the individual.
For the purposes of this research the sample was divided into four categories based on the answers given. These were Fair, Olive, Dark and Asian. 74% of respondents described themselves and Fair, 16% as Olive, 9% as Dark and 3% as Asian. None of the respondents described themselves as pallid. This was interesting, when one thinks about it a library really is a logical place for a fair skinned person to work.
HAIR STYLE AND HAIR COLOR
For the purposes of this research, the sample on hair style was divided into long style or short styles 69% of respondents wore short styles, while 31% wore their hair long. While a couple of respondents said they do wear their hair in a bun, they did point out that this was not all the time, indeed the most common form of wearing long hair was a pony tail. Quite a few respondents also pointed out they would wear their hair in the “latest style” or varied their style from time to time depending on their mood or their hairdressers’ mood.
As for hair colour this was divided into dark (Brown or black) 50% Blonde, 16% Red 5% Grey 21% and changing depending on their or the hairdressers mood 10%.
The most common eye colour was brown with 33% of the sample others were blue 29%, Green, 18% Hazel 10%, Grey 5% and indeterminate 5%.
84% of respondents wore glasses. Very few respondents had the classic librarian half moon type and the only time the glasses had any type of restraint was when they were carrying out some type of activity that required it.
HEIGHT AND BODY SHAPE
Tall and skinny was the stereotype, interestingly both tall and skinny were the minority in the sample. With height 16% described themselves as tall, 60% as Average and 24% as Short. With body shape 32% described themselves as Large, 39% as average, and 29% as slim/slender.
There were some skirts, but no tweed, and no twin sets. Generally most of the sample tended toward clothing that was casual, and often what was easy to find at short notice. Three respondents wore skirts though most people wear pants of some description, such as jeans, slacks, ¾ length, drawstring and cords.
In tops, common were Blouse, long sleeved shirts, skivvies, cardigans, loose tops and polo shirts. Other less common forms of clothing included Clingy tops, dresses, shifts, flowing scarves and uniforms. Descriptors included Daggy, Comfortable, casual, colourful, sparkly, eclectic, op shop, unexpected, smart casual and not professional enough for the boss. Several respondents did say that they enjoyed dressing up.
As for the wearing of jewellery amongst our sample 84% wore jewellery 16% did not.
Mostly it was fairly sedate, with wedding rings, watches and gold neck chains being the most common. Some other popular items were Dangly earrings and jewellery with an Egyptian or Chinese theme. Some said they wore lots of Jewellery including one person who said they wore heaps of funky costume jewellery. Other descriptors included, sedate, meaningful, eclectic, vintage and statement making in general.
Thus the librarian seems to wear some sedate jewellery that has some sort of personal meaning to the individual.
Kumfs, Colorado’s, Mary Jane’s, Italian leather, joggers, trainers, sandals, Birkenstocks, boots, mules. 84% tended toward what might be considered sensible shoes 8% said they wore high heels and 9% said they wore either.
86% said they had no body modifications, 11% had a tattoos, nobody had piercing other than their ears.
In this sample 100% had University qualifications, not unusual seeing as we are also all teachers and therefore have to have them. 18% had a Bachelor degree (One respondent had two Bachelor Degrees) 68% had a Graduate Diploma or Certificate and 14% had a Masters Degree. In the sample 79% held qualifications in Librarianship, and 21% in Education.
86% described their technology skills as good, while 14% said their technology skills were excellent.
LENGTH OF TIME AS A LIBRARIAN
Length of time as librarian in the sample ran from 18 months to 35 years. Three respondents declined to answer.
The lengths of time seemed to be fairly well spread between the two. Thus it seems logical that the average length of time would sit close to the middle at 15 and a half years.
Unsurprisingly, reading featured highly on the list. Other well-represented hobbies included cooking, movies and TV, gardening and travelling.
Sports were well represented with golf, squash, walking, bushwalking, target shooting, hockey, netball, AFL, going to the gym and yoga all getting a mention. Crafty and artistic pursuits such as, needlework, patchwork, knitting, sewing, photography and writing were undertaken by many of the respondents.
The research tends to say that, at least in this sample, that the stereotypical librarian does not exist. I don’t think that any of us would find that unsurprising.
The Librarian is most likely to be a woman, with a partner in the prime of her life. She tends to be dark haired, brown eyed with a fair complexion and of average height and size. Friendly and outgoing, though sometimes quiet she enjoys a range of hobbies outside of her life as a librarian, including Reading, cooking, gardening, travelling, watching movies and TV and enjoys the company of her friends and family.
In her working life she tends to dress casually, but often wears a short fashionable hairstyle, some jewellery that has personal meaning to her and shoes appropriate to her work, casual but she likes to look good. She has made a career as a librarian, is computer literate, technology savvy, and highly qualified for the job.
Reference Kneale, R.A. (2004) You don't look Like a Librarian. www.librarian-image.net/perc.html [accessed 9/8/05]
ABOUT PAUL GREEN
Paul is the Teacher Librarian at Cobar High School in central New South Wales, Australia. He thanks those who took part in the survey. As you can see from his photo above, he does not wear glasses, a bun, nor pearls with twin sets. According to the most recent information, he generally wears black sneakers. You can contact Paul at beefa61[at]yahoo.com.au