The Librarian Stereotype

The librarian stereotype – do I even need to provide an image of it for you? (Just see here or here). The other day while browsing the tag “glasses” on Instagram, I came across way too many people exclaiming that their new glasses make them look like a librarian. And it’s a constant battle I deal with personally every day – if I’m not being compared to the old stereotype of a librarian wearing glasses, with her hair in a bun, stamping books and shushing people, then I’m being compared to the sexy or hot librarian. Two polar opposites!

As any professional, we dress tastefully and appropriate for an office and work environment- some of us enjoy dressing up or colorfully – and that’s what I like to put in my wardrobe that I share here. I wish I had a job where I can dress freely and as funky as I want to be – but I don’t, and this forces me to incorporate my style into what could be an incredibly dry and boring work wardrobe!  And for the record, wearing glasses doesn’t make you a librarian, nor is it a requirement to have glasses in order to be a librarian 🙂

Thrift Eye

But I quickly realize that many other careers also suffer from similar stereotypes (hello teachers wearing vests with appliques on them!) I will give you one very large factor to blame for all of this – television and movies – in fact, the other day while watching music videos online, I ran across this hilariously stereotypical Tears for Fears music video set in a library. Ever since I wrote a paper about it for college, I have become hyper-aware of it when I see librarians represented on TV or film. We just don’t really get represented in a good light. Because what then happens is that people are afraid of coming to libraries, or when they do, they’re afraid of talking to the librarians! We like helping people, not scaring them! It also has other repercussions many people don’t realize – like pushing away minorities and men from becoming librarians. But that is a whole other issue for another day and another blog.

Thrift Eye

There may not be very many librarians who blog about fashion or style – but we exist! In fact, as a librarian, you can choose to become a fashion historian or archivist preserving elements in fashion or the clothing itself! For example, I know that Levi’s has a museum in San Francisco that employs a librarian to take care of their rare and delicate original collection of denim worn by miners!

What makes up the elements of style in working as a librarian? I can only answer this personally obviously, as I only dress for myself – but when I buy clothes and get dressed for work, I keep several things in mind. I want to be comfortable – library work requires you to get up and sit MANY times throughout a shift, sometimes you’re running around the whole day! This is especially crucial in shoes, my shoes have to be comfy. Good thing there are lots of cute flats but also some comfy heeled shoes out there! I want to be work appropriate – we’re working indoors 99% of the time, so I don’t get to wear things like shorts to work (but neither do most people). I’ve become very conscious about wearing skirts or dresses that are way too short, mostly because in the end, I wont feel very comfortable (who wants to worry about flashing people, no matter what industry you work in?!). This is really weird but I think librarians love wearing light scarves – being indoors with air conditioning some days is too stuffy for a sweater, so scarves provide the perfect amount of comfort. I also personally want to incorporate fun and bright elements into what I wear. You are for the most part, the face of the library, and I can break the librarian stereotype one person at a time by how I dress but also by my individual interactions!

And I’ll be completely honest with you – when I was gathering information to write this post I reached out to other bloggers looking for more librarians blogging about fashion and/or style too. And guess what, it turns out that it’s actually a very tiny niche! I don’t mind being a drop in the pond, and I was able to find a few. Some are new to me too!

I found this inspiration Tumblr called the Librarian Wardrobe where people can source their librarian outfits! It perfectly shows the sense of humor lots of librarians or educators incorporate into their wardrobes. I’m trying something new (to me) in trying to share it with you – I’m embedding the site directly into this post (if you’re having issues seeing it from RSS land you may have to click directly over to the post).

These are some great librarian chic blogs that I just discovered!
Librarian for Life and Style 
Lot 65
The Tiny Librarian 
Send any more you know my way, even if it’s your own blog!

Former librarians
Little Big (blog) 
And a personal favorite of mine, Our City Lights, Diana is not working as a librarian anymore, but still has many literary themed posts, reads lots of books, and  had a pretty amazing library themed wedding!

I have also recently found that Librarians love sharing their style via their Instagrams as opposed to keeping a blog.

As an end note, this may be the most stereotypical librarian picture you may get to see of me 😉 (those are my driving glasses)
Thrift Eye

I don’t always dress like a librarian, but when I do, I do it well.

  • I’ll admit, i have noticed many of my librarians wear chains on their glasses, but other than that, I don’t see them as stereotypes. And you definitely are not one, even when you’re trying 😉

    • Eli

      Chains on their glasses?! Are you sure, haha! I haven’t seen anyone wearing those for a long time 🙂

  • This is fantastic! When I started my current job as an academic librarian, I was only 24, and at least once a week people asked for “the librarian.” I guess young, non-glasses wearing, semi-fashionable (at the time…ha) women can’t be librarians!

    Also, I’ll shamelessly plug my blog with its indoor pictures and frequent puppy appearances, especially since I just hosted a librarian linkup on August 30 (which I should’ve invited you to participate in. Terribly sorry!): =)

  • Kristian Satterlee

    Fun to see a bit of our work wardrobe. Yes, teachers do often face that sterotype of the ugly holiday sweater!

    • Eli

      I can’t even tell you how many times I run across those ugly sweaters and vests in thrift stores ALL the time and am guilty of thinking 80’s “teacher” too. Now that I’m working like 50-60 hours a week in libraries, I will have more time to emphasize what I wear to work on the blog. Hope you guys like it 🙂

  • Thanks for the mention! 🙂 So glad to have discovered your blog too!

    It’s true that there’s a total stereotype for librarian – style, but I like to embrace it (hence my cat-eye glasses!) but in a fun way – not the icky “hot librarian” but more the cute glasses, cardigans, and peter pan collars are super tempting.

    • Eli

      Hi Rebecca, I totally agree – there are days when I look kinda retro, but it’s a throwback to vintage looks! 🙂

  • Eli

    Hi Amber, sorry I didn’t see your comment sooner. Disqus marked it as spam for some reason. I just saw it now! I love your statement, I think we’ve all had people ask “Are you the librarian?” slightly confused before. It’s hilarious!

    So glad you let me know about your blog and to have met a fellow librarian 🙂

    • I bet Disqus didn’t like me plugging my blog ha ha.

      Now that I’m 30, have some silver in my hair, and am a bit, er, rounder than I was when I started my current job (at age 24…sigh…), people don’t really ask me that anymore for some strange reason. I get ma’amed a lot too. Double sigh. Maybe I’ll buy some hair dye this weekend!

  • Erika Cisneros

    I felt totally releated cause I’m a chef and we used to dress confy cause the work need it, but I tried hard to be diferent