Should We Shush about the Stereotype? Examining Student-Generated Images of Librarians

Laurie Borchard, Laura Wimberley, Susanna Eng-Ziskin, Anna Fidgeon


LIS literature has long been concerned with the stereotype of librarians as spinsters.  This concern is often based on analysis of media portrayals without investigation of actual patron perceptions.  In this article, we examine the way students visualize librarians, and how that visualization compares to similar professions.  By analyzing student-created digital avatars of librarians, nurses, and software engineers, we find that while some aspects of the spinster stereotype are slightly more prominent for librarians than for the other professions, they only appear in a minority of student images of librarians. We conclude that the spinster stereotype of librarians is not dominant among contemporary undergraduate students, and so is unlikely to be a factor in library anxiety or usage patterns.


librarian stereotypes; academic libraries; student perception

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