Re-branding or Evolution?

Like everybody else in the known universe right now I am watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I read the book (actually reviewed it here) about a year ago and thought it was great, so I was really excited to check out what they did with the series. I won’t laundry list the differences between the book and series, (most of which I don’t agree with but hey, that’s what Hollywood does) except one that really kind of got to me on a personal level.

I just watched the episode where Hannah joins the poetry group at the local library. How does she find out about this poetry group? Well, a young, hipster, male librarian wearing a scarf in her school’s gymnasium tells her about it. What? He wasn’t anywhere in the book? Anyhow, he gives this speech about how people stereotype librarians to be these small, gray haired old ladies and that it’s not really how it is anymore, that the profession was “re-branding” itself.

My first instinct was to get annoyed. Very annoyed, but only because it hit so close to home. Maybe it’s one of those things where you buy a blue car and start seeing blue cars everywhere but I have been seeing a lot more of librarians mentioned in the media. First of all that weird show where they time travel what the heck is that all about? Then there was some crack about librarians and the way they look when I was watching season 2 of crazy ex-girlfriend, and now this. The more I thought about it though, the less annoyed I actually got, realizing that I did in fact fit quite well into this new “re-branded” type of librarian.

The use of the word “re-branding” is actually where I felt the rub, it’s such a big term used in business , and I don’t like the thought of being part of a brand or contributing to one. If you do a quick google of library AND re-branding you are going to get quite a bit of info, it appears to be a hot topic these days. The way I feel about it all is that libraries should be anti-corporate and independent of politics such as making money, or selling themselves. I know that patrons are the reason that we get funded, I get that we should be offering more technological services and provide the public (or students) with further reaching services but don’t call it re-branding, call it evolving. We aren’t selling ourselves, we are adapting and expanding to public needs in order to serve our communities and patron bases.

That’s only addressing the library, not the librarians themselves. Now it seems we have jumped from one stereotype of the library worker to another. One of a grey and aging woman behind the reference desk filing and shushing people to one where a hip young person dashes around the library brimming with poetic fervor while being tech savvy and fashion forward all at the same time. It’s not a bad thing, but again, I feel it’s more of a natural evolution in terms of what kind of personalities are drawn to working in libraries. What are the goals, aspirations and strengths of this new generation of librarians and how can they bring these skills to the table to help serve their patrons? Well, it’s just a natural transition if you think about it, old ways phasing out to be more in tune with the new. It’s not that one generation is better than the previous, it’s just that things have changed and change is constant, especially with technology being so heavily relied on as a part of our everyday lives. I work with many different generations of librarians at both jobs, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses in the field which allow us to learn from one another and grow together as a team towards a common goal. I love those white haired older ladies that were doing this before there was even the internet, and I love my 20 something’s in the makerspaces who I swear have brains that are half computer. We are diverse crowd serving a diverse crowd, and I like it that way, without grouping us all into a “brand”.

In my short searching around I found a movie that we have streaming through the U called: The Hollywood Librarian: A look at Librarians through film. I have a plan to watch it this week, and I’ll give my review sometime soon. It’s from 2009, a bit older than I’d like, but I’m sure still has some pretty interesting insight.


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