What is With Librarians in Hollywood?

Women in libraries; this is an issue The Hollywood Librarian addresses honestly and accurately. The stereotypical “Hollywood” or film-produced librarian is prim, proper, and indefinitely female. The film articulately portrayed the history and rationale behind the image of gendered librarians. After watching the film, I made a connection to libraries and gender that I had not considered before. As women continue gaining equal standing—equal pay and equal rights as men—it is evident libraries have and will continue to see less of a gender divide in library professionals. Society at large is questioning the very nature of “gender,” seeing it as a mere social construct. As the meaning of gender is deconstructed and losing its former power, the library can expect to see more of a male presence on staff, and with its male counterparts, perhaps better rapport as well.

The film takes viewers back to the beginning of human civilization to the city of Alexandria, a city claimed to have thrived during its time largely due to its well-established library. The film also conveyed the way Hollywood typically correlates the end of civilization to the destruction of the library and its books. I found this especially interesting since the rumor concerning American libraries today is that they seem to be struggling on the brink of collapse.

While the film suggests Hollywood correlates the rise and fall of a civilization to the condition of its libraries, it is primarily the way Hollywood shaped the keepers of the library that has truly influenced how the library is seen and understood. At the turn of the century, a time when public libraries were coming to fruition, a small but ever-increasing number of women began to work rather than marry. It was agreed upon that a person “did not have to think” to work at a library, so the job was given to the ambitious working woman. Nationwide, a woman employed full-time was a controversial issue, and thus the “old maid” librarian stereotype was given her Hollywood debut.

Hollywood’s portrayal reflects not only the sad discrimination of women at the time, but also libraries. Somehow libraries were shoved in the same back corner as feminine equal rights. The nation’s leaders had to acknowledge the existence and necessity of both libraries and women, but they nevertheless neglected to strongly advocate for the importance and respect of either role in society.

However, what the film failed to articulate is how the status of the library and the status of women look in recent films, and the ways they have diverted and changed. While the librarian’s job has become less gendered, its presence in Hollywood has all but disappeared. The steadily improving status of woman in the U.S. does not seem to reflect on the image of the library. As women gain more power and standing among their male peers, where is the library? Films like The Hunger Games, depicting a strong, brave (and non-sexualized) female character are on the rise, but where is the role of the library in movies?

The documentary ended with the dismal struggle of Steinbeck’s public libraries to stay open. As the female character is finally given more respect on film, my hope is that both male and female librarians alike, together with the prominence of the library institution, will be given a fresh image in the twenty-first century through Hollywood’s digital lens.

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Mid-Semester Analysis and Reflections

I have been sufficiently inundated by Library and Information Science over the last few months. Looking back on what I have written, it seems my posts are primarily reactionary and assignment driven. I have done some research, but I think the uniqueness of this class rests in its nature as a survey or an introduction to the profession. One of its objectives is to “Demonstrate acquaintance with the philosophical principles of the profession(s)” as a result, much of what I have written is not strictly based on research, but rather my own thoughts and opinions in light of what I have read. I started working at a public library only a month before classes started and consequently much of what I have been learning in my online courses involves my hands on experience in the library and vice versa.

As a general summary, the past weeks have been developmental, exploratory learning covering a wide focus. I was surprised by the broad subject area we have been introduced to so far. As an English major, I am accustomed to examining a limited amount of content closely and unpacking the details, whereas in the first half of LIS 6010 the subject matter is widely dispersed over a list of topics and discussions and readings. Consequently, the themes of my writing seem to be as broad and diversified as the nature of the topics we study. Again, I think this is consequence of the survey-like nature of the course.

Something I have intentionally tried to focus on in class discussions is making my posts meaningful to further the discussion in some way. Merely agreeing with the initial post is not helpful. I try to go with the “sandwich” technique. I start with an affirmation, then propose a question to further the discussion, then close with something encouraging, or an open-ended question. However, something I need to be aware of is the tone of my post. At times, some of what I write seems critical or even slightly antagonistic to the original post. I do not want to sound terse, yet I also hope to avoid simply adding a meaningless white-noise response summed up by, “Great point and I agree!” This does not take the discussion anywhere. One of the struggles of online discussions is that there are often too many threads to keep track of and good discussions die simply because people forget to read replies. A suggestion I have for the next class (or perhaps even the last half of this one) is to find a way to keep the threads to a minimum and allow students to build off of one mother thread so discussions will not die before they barely have a chance to get off the ground.

Concerning this blog, one of the aspects I appreciate is that it is published online. I think I am more self-aware of what I write knowing that I am not writing to an audience of one (although this is probably still nearly the case). Another helpful aspect of the blog is that it is my own. There is something about ownership that makes what is written more attractive and personal; I am more likely to revisit the topics covered here merely because I was the one who wrote on them. Perhaps it is the writer in me that feels an emotional connection to my words, even if they were directed under a certain subject matter. I also appreciate that there is one deadline for all of the blog posts. Personally, this relieves a sense of overbearing accountability. I am a graduate student and like being responsible for my own learning, which is exactly what the nature of this blog facilitates.

Professional Associations

I am in the process of discovering a plethora of library and information associations across North America and throughout the globe. As I develop my professional profile, I have been encouraged to invest some time and resources into a couple of these organizations in order to share in knowledge and professional discourse, become more involved in the field, and network. Currently, there are two associations I am particularly interested in. Firstly, I am considering the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). I have been learning about what the association is, what it endeavors to accomplish, and the benefits of membership from its website: http://www.ifla.org. IFLA’s objectives are:

  • To represent librarianship in matters of international interest
  • To promote the continuing education of library personnel
  • To develop, maintain and promote guidelines for library services

IFLA’s objectives are supported by the following core values:

  • The endorsement of the principles of freedom of expression embodied in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • The belief that people, communities and organizations need universal and equitable access to information, ideas and works of imagination for their social, educational, cultural, democratic and economic well-being
  • The conviction that delivery of high quality library and information services helps guarantee that access
  • The commitment to enable all Members of the Federation to engage in, and benefit from, its activities without regard to citizenship, disability, ethnic origin, gender, geographical location, language, political philosophy, race or religion. 

Furthermore, the advantages and membership benefits include:

  •    Build international professional networks;
  •    Receive IFLA’s Annual Report, the IFLA Journal and discount on various IFLA publications;
  •    Help set the professional agenda;
  •    Join professional Sections;
  •    No surcharge on IFLA ILL vouchers
  •    ….and save up to 25% on registration to IFLA’s annual conference

As an information professional, I want the opportunity to establish international contacts. I hope to work overseas for a few years, therefore joining an international association could better illicit a network of professionals in the field where I hope to move. Essentially, I want to broaden my expertise by contributing to and learning at an international level.

According to its website, a good way to get started in international librarianship is to become an IFLA member and to get involved in one of its activities. The opportunities and requirements for membership are different depending on status, whether a person is a LIS student or established professional. Student Affiliates are “Individuals who are able to provide proof of current enrollment in a course of study leading to entry-level professional qualifications in librarianship or information work. Individuals may remain in this sub-category for as long as they can prove appropriate enrollment.” New Graduates are qualified as those who have graduated in library and information science. The website explains, “New graduates are eligible for an IFLA membership at the students’ rate for the first two years after graduating. Proof of diploma is necessary to apply for membership under this incentive.”

The IFLA has multiple publications:

IFLA Library

Launched in 2013, the IFLA Library includes IFLA World Library and Information Congress papers (2013-present) and will continue to grow with the addition of new resources. Earlier conference proceedings are available on the website of each congress.

Print publications

Over the years, IFLA has also partnered with a number of publishers to produce print publications on a variety of library issues. Read more about our publishing partners for additional background on how membership in IFLA can benefit your organization.

Additional publications

Three recent issues of the publications include:

In addition, the association has an extensive social media presence. It has integrated itself in these areas:

I am impressed by the well established reputation of IFLA. It seems like the association has a lot to offer, especially for those interested in international travel and networking like myself. However, if I do join, it would not be soon. Becoming a member during the last year of my graduate work, 2015-2016 and beyond, would be more beneficial for me as I will feel more confident in my role as a librarian and probably will have more means to invest in making the membership worthwhile.

The second association I considered is the Society of American Archivists. I retrieved gainful information from its website: http://www2.archivists.org. The website explains how SAA developed a strategic plan in 1993 to define the organization’s direction and purpose. They formulated the following mission statement: The Society of American Archivists serves the education and information needs of its members and provides leadership to help ensure the identification, preservation, and use of the nation’s historical record.

Membership benefits of joining the SAA include:

Individual student membership is open to students in degree-conferring programs. The website notes: Individuals who select this option must mail, fax, or email proof of active enrollment (e.g., a dated copy of your student ID/enrollment receipt or a signed letter/email from your faculty advisor) before a membership application or renewal can be completed.

Student members are eligible:

  •    To hold any appointive position in the Society;
  •    To vote for officers, councilors, members of the nominating committee;
  •    To vote on all matters requiring a vote which come before the Society as a whole;
  •    To be members of constituent units of the Society; and
  •    To receive the benefits of the Society’s programs and services.

Annual dues for individual student members are $50 per year.

Individual full membership is open to those who are or have been engaged in the custody, study, teaching, or control of records, archives, or private papers, or who wish to support the objectives of the Society.

Individual Full members are eligible:

  •    To hold office in the Society;
  •    To hold any appointive position in the Society;
  •    To vote for officers, councilors, and members of the nominating committee;
  •    To vote on all matters requiring a vote which come before the Society as a whole;
  •    To be members of constituent units of the Society; and
  •    To receive the benefits of the Society’s programs and services.

Member discounts on:

  •    Titles in the SAA Bookstore, covering a broad range of archives topics.
  •    Registration for SAA’s Annual Meeting, the premier educational and professional networking event of the year for archives and records management professionals.
  •    Registration for continuing education workshops around the country, providing unmatched opportunities to learn about new and developing technologies, polish professional skills, and enhance knowledge.

Mentoring Program

SAA’s Mentoring Program brings together members with expertise in subjects and members who want to build their knowledge within those subject areas. To learn more or to apply, please visit the Mentoring Program page.

Section and Roundtable Membership

Connect with colleagues who share your areas of expertise and/or special interest by joining up to two sections and an unlimited number of roundtables.

Access to the SAA Membership Directory

Networking opportunities abound with contact information for all SAA individual and institutional members.

The SAA publications are:

The American Archivist (Journal)

The premier journal of the archives profession, this semi-annual periodical features research articles, literature reviews, case studies, perspectives, and international reports. Individual full members and associate members receive complimentary print subscriptions with their membership. All members receive electronic access to American Archivist Online.

Archival Outlook (Newsletter)

Stay abreast of the latest news and information essential to the archives community. This bimonthly newsletter reports on SAA activities and upcoming events; the print edition is mailed exclusively to members.

Its primary activities involve:

SAA Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, held in late summer in different cities throughout the country, includes a wide array of informative education sessions, pre-conference workshops, networking opportunities, special events, exhibits, and tours of local repositories. Geography is a principal factor in selecting potential host cities. (With a national membership, it is important for SAA to move systematically around the country, from region to region.) Other important factors include access and affordability for attendees and SAA’s commitment to diversity, social responsibility, and sustainability in all aspects of conference planning.

Member Services

SAA today numbers approximately 5,000 individual and 650 institutional members.  The Society maintains offices in Chicago’s Loop.  Foremost among SAA’s many activities are services that the Society provides to members. These include:

  • Information:  SAA strives to keep its members abreast of the latest news and developments in the profession through a variety of high-quality programs and activities, including the American Archivist (North America’s premier professional journal for archivists), Archival Outlook (a bimonthly newsletter), In the Loop (a biweekly online newsletter), a robust book publishing program, and various e-publications.  For more about SAA periodicals and books, see below.
  • Education:  SAA offers more than 60 continuing education workshops throughout the year in locations around the country, as well as the largest gathering of archivists at its annual meeting each summer.  For more about SAA education offerings, see below.
  • Community:  SAA connects its members with colleagues who share their professional interests and aspirations through various networking opportunities, such as special-interest groups (sections and roundtables) and student chapters.
  • Advocacy:  SAA serves as an advocate—in both government and public opinion forums—on behalf of archivists on such key issues as intellectual property, copyright and fair use, declassification or destruction of federal records, abuses of privacy and confidentiality, the Freedom of Information Act, and others that may affect archivists’ ability to function in a fair, professional, and successful manner.  In addition, SAA works to improve and enhance public awareness of the importance of archives and archivists.

These are two recent publications:

Volume 77, Number 1 / Spring/Summer 2014

Journal American Archivist
Publisher Society of American Archivists
ISSN 0360-9081 (Print)
Subject History, Arts, Humanities, Cultural Heritage, Information Storage and Retrieval, Library Science, Archives, Information Professions, Perservation and Recordkeeping
Online Date Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Volume 76, Number 2 / Fall-Winter 2013

Journal American Archivist
Publisher Society of American Archivists
ISSN 0360-9081 (Print)
Subject History, Arts, Humanities, Cultural Heritage, Information Storage and Retrieval, Library Science, Archives, Information Professions, Perservation and Recordkeeping
Online Date Monday, November 18, 2013

While I am not yet fully committed to the prospect of becoming an archivist and am still leaning toward academic librarianship, I nevertheless am interested in getting the Archival Administration certificate at Wayne. However, in the same way that I am planning on waiting to join IFLA until next year, if I did join the SAA, it would not be until I have more familiarity with archives in general. This comparison and analysis was helpful for me in unpacking what this association offers and the opportunities it involves. This is my first semester and my first few months being exposed to the world of information science. I need to immerse myself one step at a time.

A Comparative Analysis of Professional Journals

There are multifaceted layers of definitions, occupations, and yes, journals that are both directly and indirectly related to the library field. The publications within library history has taken strong roots; its branches of periodicals, magazines, journals, and so many other print and web-based mediums spreads to an impressive magnitude across the professional and academic continuum. For the sake of a comparative experiment, I have analyzed two different journals, (1) Library Trends and (2) Comparative Literature, to better appreciate the far-reaching depth and breadth of the field.  

Library Trends is a quarterly publication, self-described as a journal concerned with “critical trends in professional librarianship,” which, it explains, “includes practical applications, thorough analyses, and literature reviews. Each issue brings readers in-depth, thoughtful articles, all exploring a specific topic of professional interest.” (Library Trends 2014). Its audience is primarily professional and its published materials are peer-reviewed articles. Peer-review is important in that it indicates each article has been read by multiple scholars and has undergone several drafts before publication. The characteristic that stood out to me about this journal is its focus on professionalism. Most journals I have read in the past were academically based, whereas this is more concerned with librarianship as a field of work, not study.

In contrast, Comparative Literature and its audience are in the world of academia, described as the “oldest journal in its field in the United States.” Furthermore, the journal’s website explains that it “represents a wide-ranging look at the intersections of national literatures, global literary trends, and theoretical discourse” (Comparative Literature 2014). Like Library Trends, all published materials are in the form of peer-reviewed articles and essays. The Comparative Literature journal is a related discipline of librarianship in that it serves as a resource for librarians to find literature-based information within their libraries, where vast amounts of literature is shelved. Comparative Literature focuses on scholarly essays that take two separate ideas from literature and bring them together to create something knew (i.e. a comparison); this is the journal’s originated purpose. These essays recreate previously stored information (literature) to craft something new, which parallels the focus and purpose of library institutions: each empowers the means to shape new information out of the old.

The most blatant difference between these two publications is their audience. Library Trends is specifically designed for library professionals and educators while Comparative Literature is meant for those in academia. Consequently, another difference is their author submission guidelines. Library Trends value “recommendations from professional librarians, archivists, and other information personnel, from members of the faculties of schools of library and information science, and from others whose concern is with issues of management of cultural heritage” (Library Trends 2014). Note that this journal is in search of professionals specifically from the field of library and information science. In contrast, the Comparative Literature journal’s submission guidelines explain they welcome “essays that explore intersections among national literatures, global literary trends, and theoretical discourse.” The submission guidelines go on to say, “Our editors and editorial board are sympathetic to a broad range of theoretical and critical approaches and are strongly committed to presenting the work of talented young scholars breaking new ground in the field” (Comparative Literature 2014). This journal is open to “young scholars,” and “a range of theoretical and critical approaches,” not necessarily professionals who can give voice to a given occupation.

Essentially, based on my analysis of these two journals, the similarities and differences I discovered communicate that, due to its nature as a house of information, the library has a strong connection to the workings of literally every field (not only literature). However, library and information science also has an identity of its own. Not only Library Trends, but also numerous other publications are designed specifically for the sake of librarianship. This is what I have come to appreciate about the library: it is a self-aware home of information. The library has a fascinating history, and knows its history, and from this history it branches out into the history of history itself.

References

Comparative Literature. (2014). Duke University Press. Retrieved from https://www.dukeupress.edu/Comparative-Literature/

Library Trends. (2014). Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved from https://www.press.jhu.edu/journals/library_trends/guidelines.html