Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln
In an article investigating how librarians are depicted in the mass media, Maura Seale identifies five categories into which the majority of representations fall: the old maid, the policeman, the parody, the inept librarian, and the hero/ine. Unlike prior representations of librarians in mass media, however, which have been largely controlled by non-librarians, the increased opportunities for amateur video distribution on sites like YouTube have allowed librarians themselves to decide how they are portrayed. This article considers online videos in the context of theories about stereotypes, and it discusses the effects of parody in shaping perceptions of the librarian profession. In order to compare how librarians and non-librarians are making use of online videos, 100 videos created by librarians and 100 videos created by non-librarians are analyzed. Videos are then categorized by the five stereotypes identified by Seale in addition to three more stereotypes: the sexy librarian, the psycho librarian, and the librarian as an individual with a “fun and positive” job. Results indicate that the librarians are most likely to depict members of the profession as hero/ines while non-librarians tend to fall back on negative stereotypes associated with the profession. Still, 25% of all videos make use of parody, and it is ultimately recommended that librarians increase their use of parody and humor when creating online videos in order to effectively combat negative stereotypes.