Out with The Old, In With the New 'Young Hip Librarians'

SAN DIEGO — The American Library Association capped its national conference at the San Diego Convention Center by honoring creators of children's books. One recurring theme at the conference was how libraries stay relevant in the lives of young readers as many librarians near retirement.

Stand-up comedian Meredith Myers (above) is part of a new group of young librarians who are busting stereotypes about who is a "typical librarian."

“I think we need cool librarians,” said Myers, who sports a stylish hat, bright red hair and black biker boots. “Image is important. (Younger patrons) are more likely to ask for help from people who they can identify with.”

Myers is part of a growing number of young librarians who are busting stereotypes of the “typical librarian” and forcing change within their own libraries. They said it is not uncommon today to see librarians wearing Doc Martin boots, tattoos and dreadlocks. And some new librarians say they are more interested in pop culture than historical text.

Library advocates said it is all part of the 21st Century library – a place with cool technology and cool people. “For 32 years we’ve been fighting this stereotype of the typical librarian who is old, has a bun and glasses. We haven’t been that way for a long time,” said Audra Caplan, president of the Public Library Association. “I think the excitement of new technologies and new ways to respond make it really exciting to this upcoming generation.”


What about old hip librarians? It doesn't have to be a contradiction in terms.

I just logged on to post that exact sentiment! I'm not exactly young and I also consider myself very hip. I also have an affliction that could be termed "old hip", but that's another topic altogether.

It seems that young-hip librarians are not very conscious of their thinly-veiled hostility to older librarians...

Been here longer but.... never fit the stereotype! Say it loud and be proud!

Doc Martens. Please. If the footwear some of us have loved all along MUST become library trendy, let's at least spell it properly. Or are we junking our love for proper spelling along with our regard for history in the name of being pop culture mavens?

I'm all for progress, but let's not throw the babies out with the bathwater, mmmmkay?

A surly Gen X centrist

Every couple of years there's a new round of articles about the young, hip librarians "busting stereotypes " as "many librarians near retirement". But I guess if it keeps enrollment up at library schools, some good must come out of it.

I don't know about the retirement thing, but if participants at last years SLA annual meeting are any guide, there are plenty of hip old librarians out there.

Someday I'd love to see a reaction from librarians regarding someone else talking about our stereotypes that didn't include "but your article doesn't represent ME appropriately!"

I *am* one of those hip young librarians and I'm tired of the way we look being touted as if it is the thing that proves librarians will be able to function in the 21st century. Can we please turn the discussion to skills and knowledge and not hairstyles? If I see *one more* program about makeovers at a conference....argh!

I totally concur! Breaking out of the stereotype should not involve creating another.

Sporting a hairstyle with half the head shaved and the other coloured in hues reminiscent of the exotic birds of the Amazon is not the answer either.

So please leave the superficialities of the profession in the history books, tweets, blogs, etc.

That's right: the "new" face of librarianship is white, young, complies with beauty norms, and anti-intellectual--if she's female. If he's male, well, male is all he needs to be in order to be considered "innovative" and "hip" and "forward-thinking." And anyone over 40? Anyone actually dedicated to real librarianship? Puh-leeze!


I was wearing black biker boots in 1986. Just sayin'.

Hip and Young?? (Then why does Meridith look like she is over 40?) This is the stupidest article I have ever read!! And thank you for the Doc Marten spelling correction. I recently graduated from library school and it makes me really sad that this is the type of rhetoric that takes place even within a graduate level program....and most of us are too wrapped up in pop culture, wiki's and blogs to learn about or discuss important and traditional aspects of librarianship such as collection development and cataloguing. (Most of us can't even catalog). Harsh. I am glad I have trained myself for over 8 years so I can take part in a what not to wear discussion. I would much rather work along someone who is competent than some "hip" bubblehead whose favourite author is Sophie Kinsella.

Fellow surly on the cusp of Gen X/Y librarian

I wholeheartedly agree with what you are saying. Finally a post of substance! Thank you for restoring my faith in librarianship.

I don't think the young librarians themselves are completely to blame. I graduated with my MLIS at the age of 23 and immediately began working as a Media Specialist. The only things I knew how to do were to create a wiki and Twitter for the library. I'm having to learn now what I should have been taught the last two years of grad school.

At the "advanced" age of 58 I don't feel like retiring, nor do I "feel" particularly uncool. Yes, I remember the day Jimi Hendrix died, but that does not consign me to the status of an oral history project! Age is only tangentially related to the factors that make a good, cool, caring, librarian and I posit that it may not be the most salient factor.

Hey - not every kid out there is *hip* and looking for a librarian with dreadlocks to identify with - and some will be downright intimidated by it. There are still the nerdy, quiet, uncool types that might be intimidated by those black biker boots. Let's have a mix of librarians of all ages and all styles that are approachable and appealing to the many types of people at libraries. My favorite librarians over the years? The ones wearing a friendly smile and sporting and eagerness to help. I just hope I am seen as "this" type of librarian. :-)

Sigh. These people are trapped in a present day time warp. In ten years from now, they will no longer be young and hip. Will they be less competent as a librarian then? should they be pushed aside by younger librarians then?

Every new generation thinks they are the exception. But every old librarian was once new and young, too.

Let's not mix up the terms "hip" and "hype". Both damage our profession by being misused.

Another old and hip librarian here. I know a few others in my age group (40s) and we all seem to be old punk rockers. Naturals for intellectual freedom fighters!

Yeah, silly people, we all get older! I work with infant through 15 year olds. No sense faking any kind of coolness, especially since it changes like 'that'!
We do need to remember to smile, though, that is the biggest signal of approachability.
The whole blending of ages makes the most sense for libraries generally. But it doesn't make good news articles, now, does it?!

I always thought librarians were supposed to encourage tolerance and intelligence. Guess that's beneath these "hip", "young" librarian-wannabes.

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