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” (qtd. in Schmidt, p. 2).
Over a hundred years later, on a Family Feud episode in the 1980s, the top five characteristics of a librarian (qtd. in Walker and Lawson) — mostly women by this time — were listed as:
- In glasses
Side note: I chuckle at Schmidt’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:
- middle aged
- “pinch-faced woman”
- frumpy dresser
- bun and glasses
- 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 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 (Lang). The original study, which included 48 librarians, contrasted results from a previous study of 267 librarians (Johns).
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.
- Johns, Alan. “Survey of Librarians Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Form G Self-Scorable).” ERIC, 1990.
- Lang, John R. “Personality Profiles and Librarians–Still of Interest to Many…11.19.08.” Lone Wolf Librarian, 19 November 2008.
- Schmidt, Steven J. “Reel vs. Real Librarians.” Indiana Libraries 24.2 (2005): 2-5.
- Walker, Stephan, and V. Lonnie Lawson. “The Librarian Stereotype and the Movies.” MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship 1.1 (1993): 16-28.
- “Words Often Encountered in Study of Librarians.” Socialite Librarian, 2010.
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