Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



PhænEx 9, no. 2 (fall/winter 2014): 24-42


© 2014 Scout Calvert


Of the persistent images of librarians, one in particular caricatures them as stubbornly refusing to adopt new information technologies. From outside the field of library and information science, this perception is unsurprising, given the pop-cultural image of the librarian as a joyless and sexless spinster, hell-bent on protecting books from the hands of the unwashed—the literally heathen—patron. From within the field, though, the stereotype smarts all the more because the visage of the technophobic librarian appears to be empirically unfounded, and it would seem, therefore, counterproductive for those working within the discipline to perpetuate this view. As I will argue, this figure relies on imprecise and ahistorical definitions of technology; implies a prescription for early adoption without providing a warrant or a standard; and imposes a stance that robs us of analytical tools suitable for a fine-grained account of technology in library and information science. Hence, the scapegoating of the tropic technophobic librarian elides the crucial socio-technical contexts in which librarians adopt, adapt, innovate, and translate a range of existing and emerging technologies. The caricature relies largely on an unexamined cultural context in which technical and technological work done by women goes unseen.