Typical or stereotypical?

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What are the typical characteristics of a librarian?

In 1876, Melvil Dewey described the typical librarian — mostly men at that time — as “a mouser in dusty books.”

Over a hundred years later, on a Family Feud episode in the 1980′s, the top five characteristics of a librarian — mostly women by this time — were listed as:

  1. Quiet
  2. Mean/stern
  3. Single/unmarried
  4. Stuffy
  5. In glasses

Side note: I chuckle at another librarian’s reaction to this:  “At the time, this [Family Feud] program irritated a number of librarians, but whether their irritation was based on the question, the answer or the fact that the contestant guessed all [the] ‘correct answers’ is still to be determined.” SNAP!

In 2010, the Socialite Librarian listed some typical librarian stereotypes, including:

  • boring
  • shushing
  • quiet
  • middle aged
  • “pinch-faced woman”
  • frumpy dresser
  • bun and glasses
  • judgmental
  • sensible shoes

I find it interesting that almost all of these stereotypical characteristics — many of which are physical characteristics — describe the reel librarian character types of the Spinster Librarian, as well as her male counterpart, the Anti-Social Male Librarian.

The above characteristics are all connected to perceptions of librarians — by those mostly outside the profession itself. But a 1990 study of librarians using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (in which librarians themselves completed the self-scorable survey) revealed dominant personality types of librarians. The study, which included 48 librarians, contrasted results from a previous study of 267 librarians.

The dominant personalities? ISTJ and INTJ.

Characteristics of ISTJ (Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) include: orderly, responsible, logical, practical, quiet, and thorough. That sounds familiar…

Characteristics of INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) include: originality, skepticism, critical, independent, and driven.

The kicker? I, too, have taken the Myers-Briggs study. I, too, am an ISTJ. ;)

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