Stereotypes

It’s not terribly unfair to say that librarians are a stereotyped bunch. When I told my friends about my plans to go back to school for LIS, they would ask me things like how long I expected it to take for me to perfect my hair bun, they tested me on my “SHHH!” technique, and noted that I don’t wear glasses. In my defense, I said I prefer a french twist, I’m generally in favor of communication in a place infused with information, and I’m letting the glasses need develop naturally.

Stereotypes are obnoxious. They tend to feel like an attack, a mechanism of control. “This is where you belong. This is what is expected of you.” I imagine people who are of a type that is stereoed (I’m sorry, I can’t help it), those who chafe at that confinement, make an effort not to do the same to others. I’m like this. But how successful am I?

I’m having a little bit of difficulty in one of my classes. Not with the content, not at all. I’m discovering how much of my thinking patterns fit that of systems designers, and that’s very exciting. It is a more technical class, one that requires us to look under the hood of search engines and other retrieval systems to understand the mechanics, and recognize how these are old problems in new clothes. My problem lies in the social dynamic in the class. I enjoy it, and want to contribute and learn from everyone as much as I can stuff in my brain. But there are a number of people who struggle with these things, who seem to feel they’re not really able to understand because they don’t have a more technical background, or people who just don’t see the relevance. The first problem mostly makes me sad, but the second one really pushes my buttons.

I get ranty, cranky. People always tell me with some measure of surprise that I always “say what I think.” (doesn’t everyone?) So I get frustrated when I hear about people who deal in information, who are making a significant financial investment to work in information professionally, say they don’t want to know how something information-related works, largely because it’s “technical.” Technophobes. Luddites. Fake lifelong learners.

How’s it going with that stereotyping, Natalie?

My basic point is that attacking, which is present in stereotyping and also at times in response to it, is bad. It doesn’t serve anyone. I don’t yet know how to respond openly, in a non-combative way, to what I view as a misstep in people invested in information services and work. To get all hippie about it, I’m not totally sure how to come into the conversation with love. I’m not at a total loss or anything; I like talking with people about these things, and I try hard to tell people with discomfort of all things technical that they are very capable, and it is very hard to learn something new, but also enjoyable. It feels like an incomplete method though.

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