Defining ourselves: The whole kit and caboodle

Elton S. Karrmann Library at the University of...

A few years ago, when I worked at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Karrmann Library (see right), a transparency kit called “Defining Ourselves: Myths and Realities for Women in Libraries” got weeded from the collection. Fortunately, I then found the deselected kit in my box — my research interest into librarian portrayals and stereotypes being well-known to our library staff– and I happily found a home for it in my personal collection. 🙂

The kit was produced in 1980 by the Wisconsin Women Library Workers, written by Donna Barkman and graphics by Marge Loch-Wouters. I was a member of the WWLW during my time in Wisconsin, and you can view their current website here. The kit consists of 18 transparencies and 1 guide with a script and questions. The purpose? To be used in programming on sex roles and stereotyping of women in libraries.

In the slideshow below, I’ve included pics of the script, transparencies, discussion questions, and more.

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I like taking this kit out every now and again. There’s the nostalgia factor, of course, with the fun drawings and heavy ’70s style influence (the guy in the pantsuit and turtleneck is my current fave). But the point is still relevant. Although the focus here is on women in the librarian profession, it’s still all about image and assumptions based on those images. Which of the drawings depicts a “typical” — or rather, “stereotypical” — librarian or library worker? Have times changed all that much?

Let me know what you think and please leave a comment below.

And for those of you who are librarians or library buffs, the kit’s call number was in the HQ’s, specifically HQ 1075, which is the Library of Congress sub-classification for “Sex role.” You can read more details about the “Defining Ourselves” kit in WorldCat here.


3 comments on “Defining ourselves: The whole kit and caboodle

  1. Ironically, I’m so versed in your research that it’s hard for me to pick out the stereotypes on the drawings alone. You’d think it’d be easier, but really, all the cartoon people look pretty stylish, and I’m not seeing any women with a bun and glasses on a chain (for example). Plus, I think I’ve seen you wear ALL those outfits to work! 🙂

    I’m noticing a few have the “necessary” accessory of a book tucked under the arm, but I can’t tell what the book is.

    One thing I’m really interested in is that everyone seems to be smiling! I know that in the real world, most librarians are happy to work with patrons, but one of the stereotypical attributes of some of character types you identify in your research is an aversion to the public (the Spinster, the Male Failure, the Anti-Social Male), often accompanied by a dour expression. So in that sense, I might want to say all these cartoons are atypical — not in real life, but in perceptions of librarians.

    Also, I love that dude in the turtle-neck, too! He reminds me of Tim Robbins in Anchorman, only smiling:


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