(Courtesy John Vettese)
A.B. Why did you decide to come up with this "I Am A Librarian" photography project? How difficult of an undertaking was this?
C.W. "The project seemingly came to me on a whim after reading an article in Bust magazine. I went home, asked my roommate what he thought and then just bought the website www.iamalibrarian.com. However, in taking the time to look over all it encompasses, it is a natural marriage of my greatest loves: photography and librarians. I also became frustrated with being told that I don't look like a librarian and decided it was time to do something about it. The article that I had read did not show many actual photographs of librarians and I simply thought I can do that.
Stereotypes have been interesting to me for some time. For completion of my undergraduate degree in Communications at Beaver College, I did my thesis on the image of witches in film, where I looked at the image of witches from three movies of the 1990s. Obviously these are quite different, but they are also both looking at the image of a perceived woman's role.
I had originally tried to do the I am a Librarian project as a special project to graduate with my Masters Degree, however, the Department of Library Science at Clarion University realized that it was a much larger undertaking than I had initially thought. I think that not having a deadline has been one of the most challenging things, but I have tried to create some self-imposed ones to combat that. Getting participants was fairly easy, however, making all the pieces fit with good planning has been difficult. Not only do I have to be the photographer, webmaster, and author, but I also have to be the executive secretary for myself."
A.B. What do your pictures reveal about today's librarians vs. past librarians? Are there significant differences in the "look?"
C.W. "The pictures reveal a reality of the 21st Century Librarian. I do not expect to change the stereotype, but I do want to open people's mind to the profession and to the diversity that is a part of it. Styles continually change, so I would not expect the librarians of the past to look like today's librarians, however, the perception that one has overall is still an older image and I would prefer it to be a modern one."
A.B. What reactions have you had from readers regarding your blog? Are people enthusiastic, hesitant etc?
C.W. "The readers of my blog have been quite supportive of my efforts. It has helped to keep people more involved in the progress of the project and serve as a way to provide them with information about what's going on."
A.B. What is the biggest challenge librarians face today and how do you see them overcoming it? Please share your own experiences.
C.W. "In my opinion, the biggest challenge that librarians face today is a decreasing budget coupled with
increasing costs. I have not reached the level of library management at this point, but I know that it is the greatest stressor in the library. I have seen many of my bosses stress level increase at budget time. Librarians, not only have to justify their spending, but they also have to justify their existence. Patrons will have to voice their needs of the library and how they deem that it is an important component of their tax or education dollars in order for libraries to continue. If librarians can continue to show the importance of the library and emphasize the need for help to patrons, then patrons make take on a role that can help libraries. The more the message is heard, the louder it will ring in the ears of those controlling the budget".
A.B. Where do you see the role of the librarian headed in years to come?
C.W. "It would seem as if the fundamental functions of the librarian will be very much the same: to acquire and disseminate information, in whatever form it may be. It is hard to know what the future brings, but one thing I know is that the librarians of the future will have to be much more open to the possibility of constant change".
I thank Cynthia for her feedback and welcome your thoughts regarding librarian stereotypes? How is a librarian supposed to look?