Tattoos Gain Even More Visibility

There is a NYT article today titled "Tattoos Gain Even More Visibility" that begins:

WHO in the world gets a neck tattoo? A couple of years back you could have narrowed the answer to gang members, prison inmates, members of the Russian mob and the rapper Lil Wayne. Then something occurred.

In a mysterious and inexorable process that seems to transform all that is low culture into something high, permanent ink markings began creeping toward the traditional no-go zones for all kinds of people, past collar and cuffs, those twin lines of clothed demarcation that even now some tattoo artists are reluctant to cross.

Full article here.

In case after case, the courts have found on-the-job appearance requirements — including policies forbidding tattoos and body modifications — to be nondiscriminatory. Meaning that employers can terminate employees for having tattoos. What policies are in place for your library? What policies should libraries have? If tattoos are allowed is a flower treated the same as a swastika? How about tattoos that contain profanity or are graphically violent?


The library that I work in (a large urban system) has a no-tattoo policy that prohibits the showing of tattoos with words/phrases/symbols that could 'cause offense'. It basically means that we can't show anything.

I am a heavily tattooed librarian who doesn't appreciate having to cover myself from neck-wrist-ankle in 90 degree weather. How can we talk about valuing the cultural and subcultural diversity of our patrons if the profession itself doesn't reflect that same diversity?

... how can the anti-Christ's existence remain a secret with this John Malkovich hairline?

(answer: he wears a "free mustache rides" baseball cap)

I would never hire anyone with a tattoo on their neck. I wouldn't hire anyone with a visible tatto when wearing attire proper to the office.

Nose rings, and the like are also out. We don't really have any positions under about $50K so few free spirits even bother to apply.

I have quite a few tattoos, but no one I work with would ever know it unless I told him (and usually I don't). While tattoos are becoming more accepted, I realize that there are still certain societal customs and mores that are not easily changed - that's why I got my tattoos in places that could be fairly easily covered. Yes, I have to wear longer sleeves or a cardigan in the summer, but I made my decision and I knew what it meant when I made it.

you said -
"I am a heavily tattooed librarian who doesn't appreciate having to cover myself from neck-wrist-ankle in 90 degree weather."

Well, then you shouldn't have gotten the tattoos. There is always a price to pay - and this is one of them. Like it or not, many of our customers in the library would not feel comfortable being approached or served by an employee covered in tattoos. It's just not the way the world works.

We can all "value the cultural and subcultural diversity of our patrons" while remaining neutral on such subjects ourselves. I may or may not be a christian, for instance - but I do not feel it is my place to share my religious beliefs with a patron. I may be a republican or democrat - but I don't feel it's my place to share that information with a customer. I may have nipple piercings - I don;t think it's appropriate to flip open the shirt to show the next in line.

You got the tattoos knowing full well that others may not look upon then in a positive light. Although you may want the whole world to accept you and your tattoos as completely normal and perfectly acceptable in a professional setting, and perhaps they should, the fact is that it's not going to happen anytime soon.

And I have lots of tattoos. I just had them placed where they could be easily covered for work.

Well, I work at a conservative engineering firm, so doubt huge tats would go over well, although there is no policy per se. That said, I've got several, but like LMNOP in the previous comment, they are not obvious and no one knows I even have them. There are some engineers here who are covered in tats, but they wear long sleeves year round.

As a hiring manager, I find face piercings way worse than tattoos. I would not hire someone who looks like a human pin cushion. Maybe I'm an old fart, but whatever.

To those that think tattoos are off-putting to library customers, I say "bunk." It wouldn't bother me one bit. But then, I am "one," not "many."

Incidentally, the best tattoo I've seen would be perfect for libraians: "BOOK ENDS" tattooed across two hands, on letter on the back of each finger.

"We don't really have any positions under about $50K so few free spirits even bother to apply."

I find this comment offensive. I have two visible tattoos (one on each of my forearms) that I don't cover while working at my mid-sized suburban library. I am the Information Technology Manager and I consider myself a professional, not a "free spirit." Just because I got a tattoo doesn't mean I'm not ambitious and have no desire to make a good living.

I also don't think that my tattoos are off-putting to patrons. If anything I like to cover them sometimes because people can be so inquisitive that I get distracted from what I'm doing when I get asked explain their significance multiple times a day.

I provide excellent customer service which goes a long way to help change people's opinions of someone who has tattoos. They realize that I work just as hard to help them as someone who is "normal" and that the (chosen) colors of my skin don't make me a bad person. Shouldn't librarians who don't judge books by their covers know better than to do the same to people?

I don't work in a library, but a number of the people with whom I work are Master's degreed librarians, and the last person I hired was from a school library.

Tattoos are not accepted in the formal office setting where I work. I would not hire you if you interviewed with visible tattoos. Fitting in with the culture of the firm is quite important as our clients expect a professional appearance as we provide assurance and advisory services.

While you might be remarkably skilled, fitting in is as important as the good work you can do. You choose to as you put it change the color of your skin, your voluntary choice affects not just your outward appearance but the way people perceive you. You choose to get tattoos and I would make a similar choice not to hire you because of them. The tattooed are not a protected class.

You assert that your tattoos do not mean your are not ambitious and you don't want to make a good living. I feel that by getting visible tattoos, especially as a woman, you are limiting your employment opportunuites. No one has even been passed over for a position because of their lack of a tattoo at one of the Big4 firms, but I know of people who have been passed over because of their tattoos. You may indeed be ambitious and desire a good living, but you have cut off your nose to spite your face.

The people who make the hiring decisions at large firms are generally older conservative people, they don't see tattoos as an asset.

I certainly think that you should get all the tattoos you want, it is a wonderful way of expressing your individuality. However remember that others may not like them and it may be detrimental to you. Everything is a trade off, personal satisfaction vs. professional appearance in this case.

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