Revisiting favorites | The shushing librarian, Feb. 5, 2013

Continuing on my “Summer of Nostalgia” blog tour and revisiting past favorites on this blog… next is the first of my favorite posts from 2013, an essay-style post entitled “The shushing librarian: Celebration or scorn?,” posted on Feb. 5, 2013.

Once again, I’ll pause to give you the opportunity to read the original post…😉

Screenshot from a favorite post on Reel Librarians

That post began by highlighting a then-recent survey from the Pew Research Center about “Library Services in the Digital Age.” My essay-style post, however, was not about the survey but rather about articles written about the survey and writers who focused solely on a return to quiet zones and the “shushing librarian” (the survey results actually highlighted that the public likes a variety of library services, including quiet zones and group study spaces).

Below are screenshots of quotes from two articles that sent me into a (not-so-quiet) rage.

First one was from The New York Times Sunday Review:

Reel Librarians screenshot

Reel Librarians screenshot

The next quote was from a Salon.com article:

Reel Librarians screenshot

Reel Librarians screenshot

I then used several examples of reel librarian portrayals of “shushing librarians” onscreen — and the scorn they inspire from other characters in the films — to counteract these would-be celebratory statements that actually serve as back-handed compliments.

Why this post?

My essay-style post is a good example of how you can use reel librarian examples to illustrate a point about society and pop culture. For that post, I included reel librarian characters and scenes from 1933’s The Good Companions (the first shushing librarian seen in film), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Waitress!, The Last American Virgin, and The Philadelphia Story.

I also totally got my snark on writing that post. 😉

It also has one of my favorite conclusions:

Screenshot from a favorite post on Reel Librarians

Screenshot from a favorite post on Reel Librarians

New thoughts?

Rereading that post, I still find myself getting incensed, particularly by that line about how “professional shushers were once celebrated in cartoon and sitcom.” That is total nonsense, then and now. First of all, librarians are NOT “professional shushers,” and librarians who have shushed others onscreen have NEVER been “celebrated in cartoon and sitcom.” Rather, these kinds of “shushing librarian” portrayals have perpetuated a misconception onscreen, a stereotypical conceit that has always inspired onscreen derision, scorn, rolling eyes, and dismissal, which is as damaging in reel life as it is in real life. As I wrote back in 2013:

Unflattering portrayals all, with librarian characters who serve as the butt of jokes, not as the receiver of esteem or respect.

And I still feel outrage at the cluelessness of those who seek to “celebrate” that kind of nonexistent nostalgia, and who actually end up helping perpetuate misconceptions.

I absolutely agree that quiet areas are often overlooked in today’s busy and loud world, and I advocate for quiet zones in libraries. They are just as important as areas in libraries where people don’t have to be quiet, where they can work together and communicate. Recognizing the variety of services that libraries and librarians provide is key — the key to public recognition and understanding of what we can do for them. Focusing on just one aspect of that, and a misunderstood one at that, is detrimental to the efforts to both properly understand and adequately fund libraries in this country.

That also leads me to the current and very relevant American Library Association public awareness campaign, “Libraries Transform,” that addresses just this kind of misplaced attention. Instead, librarians across the U.S. are united on how “Libraries Transform” and “showcasing the transformative nature of today’s libraries and elevating the critical role libraries play in the digital age.”

And boom, we’ve come full circle, from a 2013 Pew Research Center report on “Library Services in the Digital Age” to a 2016 campaign about the “critical role libraries play in the digital age.”

I love it when a plan comes together… 😉


I’ll be back next week to revisit another Reel Librarians favorite!

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