Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Just What is a Guybrarian?

We have a terminology problem that needs to be solved. This term "guybrarian" is thrown around a lot by annoying people. I think it's a stupid term loaded with sexist connotations. If there's a guybrarian, that must be because librarian is inherently female. If English were gendered like some other languages, the word itself might be gendered, at least by now. But weren't there any male librarians in the past? What were they called? I think we all know that, and if we don't we should look to one of my commenters.

A commenter on the guybrarian post last week wrote:

"wait a minute - just what makes a guybrarian a guybrarian? i think it's a little more subtle than penis + mls = guybrarian.

for example, take your comment on jackets. don't most guybrarians enter the profession so they can avoid ever having to wear a jacket and tie until they are embalmed in a casket? if they were willing to wear jackets and ties, wouldn't they be 'library directors' instead of 'guybrarians'?"

That was certainly what male librarians used to be called--library director. That hasn't necessarily been the case for a while, but it certainly was for a long time.

But since male librarians are slightly more plentiful than they used to be, at least in the lower echelons of librarianship, we can't just call them library directors anymore. It would look pretty silly calling that scruffy 25-year-old male reference librarian who'll probably never move up or on anywhere a "library director." But apparently we still need a term for a male librarian, so we have "guybrarian." Dropping librarian entirely and calling that person an "information scientist" or something even more ludicrous just won't do.

Let's consider the comment, though. Is a male library director a "guybrarian"? Apparently not. One might even ask if a library director is a librarian at all. Or is a "guybrarian" just a slovenly dressed male non-director librarian, as the commenter implies? In that case, what do we do with male librarians who wear jackets and ties but are not library directors? Do we just assume that they are either a) over 50, or b) gay? Well, we can probably assume that, but we still need something to call them. If the gender stereotypes are right, they can't be called librarians, and if the commenter's right, they can't be called guybrarians, and they certainly can't be called library directors. Apparently, some people are still so mired in their outdated gender ideology that they can't think of librarians as other than women, and that includes the folks who think they're being witty and unstereotypical by using the term "guybrarian."

I don't think there's any solution to this terminology problem for another generation or two. By that time, I expect it's more likely not that gender stereotypes will be gone, but that libraries will be. Either way, the problem will be solved.

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've always preferred manbrarian. That might make me a wombrarian.

bookbuster said...
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bookbuster said...
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Crumbly said...

One of the oldest recognised professions with its hero(in)es and martyrs and some woossy prats think guybrarian is somehow a better term.

Might as well coin the word librarianess for female librarians but then hasn't gender distinction been all but dropped so they are all actors etc now?

One could wonder at the agenda of the "guybrarian" proponents. Do they see men in libraries as somehow incongruous or as some sort of threat?

This sort of attitude if held overtly by men in other professions about women would have campaigners howling for blood.

Anonymous said...

It's about the same silliness as "Womyn" or "Grrl". And if you're referring to the 25 year old male librarian as someone who'll never advance anywhere because he's not a member of the girl's club, then I'd say you're absolutely right.

webbygrl said...

You got it right when you stated that the term librarian is inherently female, although I believe that is a very recent (last 100 years or so) thought process. The term "guybrarian" is just way for guys not to feel gay about being librarians.

OMG...did I say that out loud?

Cassanova said...

The association with the female may well be why library salaries for both genders have and are so low.

Nurses no longer have their salary levels so tainted and one doesn't need to refer to guyurses or any such nonsense in order to recognise the existence of male nurses.

annewelsh said...

This had me in stitches!

I'd love to think that the reason male librarians have their own special pejorative term is that we're such a female-dominated profession ... Sadly, though, the average pay differential still tells a different story ...

Still, it's amazing how quickly my ex went from "hot library guy" to "guybrarian", in my eyes at least ... only time I've ever used the term ; )

Anonymous said...

"In that case, what do we do with male librarians who wear jackets and ties but are not library directors? Do we just assume that they are either a) over 50, or b) gay?"

Crap. Well apparently I'm gay - wish I had gotten the memo earlier.

Also, Librarymans!

This comic explains it nicely: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/08/03

laura k said...

I think the term guybrarian is a hilarious term loaded with sexist connotations. And I appreciate that it brings attention to the female-dominated nature of the field, and all the other things that implies (lower pay, lower status, the "girls' club" mentioned by another commenter). It's good to be aware of things like that.

Oh, and webbygrl? I heart you.

kudzuhomecomingqueen said...

I knew a gay librarian, who also called himself a guybrarian. Guess that makes him the newest member, or should I say Director, of the club "gayguybrarian."

Anonymous said...

I am a guy.

I am a librarian.

I am not a guybrarian.

If I wanted a term to really say what I am and who I am, I would say I am and Information Asshole, but that doesn't look so great on a web-site or on a business card.

I guess I can't sign this as Ed Crank -- Librarian anymore.

**sigh**

No wonder I am such an asshole.

Walt Lessun said...

I am a guy.
I am a librarian.
I am not a guybrarian.
I am an info-god....

Anonymous said...

i'm a 27 year old queer male librarian, slightly scruffy and prone to ties but not jackets.

i prefer "lesbrarian."

Mark said...

crumbly: "Might as well coin the word librarianess for female librarians..."

If we did that, I'd vote for "librarienne."

(My take on "guybrarian" is that it's coming from the same impulse as "hipster librarian," i.e., that librarian is no longer a term than can remain unmodified without being at least a little pejorative...)

Anonymous said...

On the issue of jackets and ties... why don't librarians wear them? Why don't women wear them (as in, why is that not acceptable)? These clothing items represent power in a way, and women wearing them is something that patriarchy finds intimidating (plus, ties sort of flop over breasts in an awkward way).

Liberians should dress like the mafia.

WDL said...

i am a 31 year old gay librarian. i run a museum library.

i do wear sports coats and ties every single day. an on occasion an ascot.

i don't mind the term guybrarian. i think it's silly - hardly worth a disertation though.

though i do wish there were more hot gay young librarians. so on that point, i'll agree - even though that wasn't something you pointed out that was needed.

xo,
WDL

Anonymous said...

Any male, librarian or not, wearing an ascot to work, is by definition a guybrarian.

Ed Crank -- Librarian

brettv72 said...

I'm a gay man who just happens to be a librarian...I mean a librarian who just happens to be gay...I mean a guy who just happens to be a gay librarian who wears an ascot...

Oh hell.

(And kudos on the ascot. That takes guts no matter what your orientation or profession.)

\bvb - gay technogeek guy librarian infostud

Anonymous said...

I prefer Information Stud, myself.

Anonymous said...

I prefer an Information Stud, myself.

Wouldn't we all, sweetie.

Dan said...
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Dan said...
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Dan said...

I'm a Guybrarian... I'm Here... Get used to it!

It is a reality that in the recent past 80% of librarians were female. A recent article I read (I'll find the source) stated that 85% of current MLIS students are female...

Are men putting themselves above their female counterparts by using this name?

I don't think so...

Perhaps I feel oppressed by having to attend an all female college in order to obtain an MLIS in the state of Minnesota.

Perhaps I feel marginalized by my inability to attend professional development activities at my alma matter because they are exclusive to women...

Then again, maybe I just like the cheesy term "Guybrarian" because its new and hip... :P

(I'm straight btw, not that I usually feel the need to be so explicit about that, its just that many comments seem to be trying to hijack the term "Guybrarian" and alter its meaning into something pejorative.)

Anonymous said...

I guess I am a guybrarian.

But does that make the woman around here, femgineers?

I will try using that phrase.

At least until I get slapped with a sexual harassment suit.

Ah, such is life.

Anonymous said...

Since I have never considered the term librarian to be inherently female, I would vote for the females to be called "ladybrarians" or "chickbrarians" or "girlbrarians." At least there would be no gender doubt.

Anonymous said...

hipster librarian = hipster doofus librarian, ala seinfeld.

WDL said...

what about gaybrarian then.

and i'm single. i've found that men have a thing when they find out i'm a librarian. it's not for kink...i can assure you.

and guys, don't worry. if you work in a library as a librarian - people think you are gay anyway. but i promise i won't try to feel you up in the mens bathroom.

xo,
WDL

j- said...

*if you're referring to the 25 year old male librarian as someone who'll never advance anywhere because he's not a member of the girl's club, then I'd say you're absolutely right.*

Sounds like you're talking about one of my old haunts. In which case, you forgot the adjective "old", as in the "Old girl's club". You also forgot the term "hippie"--and if you're anywhere to the right of Che Guevara, well, the "Old hippie girl's club" has no use for you, my friend.

*Nurses no longer have their salary levels so tainted and one doesn't need to refer to guyurses or any such nonsense in order to recognise the existence of male nurses.*

I was going to mention "male nurses". There is such nonsense afoot, still, see the journal "Men In Nursing".

As for jackets & ties...I wear a jacket, but no tie [which might make he a hipster doofus] AND I run the joint AND I'm at least 20 years younger than everyone else. Occasionally I wear jeans and those stupid quarter-zipper sweaters that the kids seem to like these days, just to rub it in. Then when people visit the library, they don't ask me anything since I look to young and doofusy to answer.

Kristen said...

I have always thought of guybrarian as a specifically hipster term.

Have to admit that librarienne has a certain flair.

The.Effing.Librarian said...

crap, I missed all the deleted comments. but most of the other stuff is really funny.
fyi: 45, male, single, with mostly single male friends, grey dress pants, grey dress shirt, no tie, faux doc martens (sketchers), scruffy, no longer cute enough to be called gay (but you should have seen me 25 yrs ago), don't want to be called a guybrarian.

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

This is the hot steamy action this blog has been missing since the days of Irish Bottoms.

--Taupey

Alex Grigg said...

When did this comments sectionbecame the hot spot for singles ads?

SWM, like long walks on the beach and talking for hours.

Anonymous said...

Despite being a tieless male director in cowboy country for 1/3 of a century, I have kept in touch with my "inner bitch." She helps me be a "Tough Guy"-brarian.

Some of the kids here call me "Mister Library Man," except the one that said "You're Weird, Sir." (So, does anybody else care if my socks don't match?)

Signed, "The Crook Librarian"

Brent said...

What is a Guybrarian?

It is a fad word that means a librarian who is male.

What really drew me to the field, that I won't say in an interview, is I'm lazy, have OCD, and don't care about material things. This unique combo set is great for a librarian. Straight, lazy guys can do this? I know so!

As far as dressing up, I don't want to stick out, so I dress bleh. The clothes I wear outside of work are better; that's sad. It's better to hide your personality at work, anyway.

Fabulist said...

Guybrarian, twopointopian, informational specialist, bla bla bla it’s all the same. It’s the next generation of yet to be hardened librarians wanting to somehow think that they are any different. They want to change the world starting with semantics; like a teenager who wants to be different like everyone else. Frankly I don’t think it should matter what they personally call themselves, the job posting is still going to say librarian.

On another note, I'm a young female librarian who has no desire to become administration. Guess what, the “old girls club” hates me (and those like me) too. I don’t think it’s that you are male or in some cases gay… I think they just love to hate the next generation of librarians what ever we call ourselves over the water cooler.


Makes me think of a class they should have offered in library school

LIS 890 Introduction to surviving the bitter old hags.

This class explores the resentful attitudes of older (and old at heart) librarians, how they seek to crush up and coming librarians because they think you want their job, when in reality all you want to order books, answer questions, and maybe act silly in front of children. This class will help you understand their crusty shell used to belittle young librarians of either gender or sexual preference so that they can wield supreme executive power.

Anonymous said...

In my neck of the woods, male librarians get promoted very quickly. We refer to it as the "glass elevator". As long as you are male and a smooth talker, you advance - whatever your level of competancy.

Anonymous said...

What is a Guybrarian?

A stupid term made up by "cool 20-somethings" who work for corporate libraries, buy overpriced thrift-shop clothes and name drinks after the DDS.

For the last ten years, most of the "guybrarians" I've worked with ran the gamut from straight to gay but I would never think to refer to them by their gender preference: that didn't matter. What did was usually the work they asked me to do or galleys they asked me to look at or published books they asked me to comment on.

Gee, is there a word for "Male librarian scholar?" I doubt it if you're caught up in simplistic gender definitions such as "guybrarian".

Oh yeah: I'm a hardass gay male librarian,and occasionally like to wear a jacket...even without a tie! big friggin deal!

Gender stereotyping for librarians is why this profession is so absurdly underpaid to begin with.

j- said...

*In my neck of the woods, male librarians get promoted very quickly. We refer to it as the "glass elevator". As long as you are male and a smooth talker, you advance - whatever your level of competancy.*

Well, male librarians are technically a minority--so call it affirmative action, baby.

mdoneil said...

I am a male. I have an MLS and I worked a reference desk as head of information services (I didn't come up with that odd job title.).

I wore a tie to work every day and I don't think anyone thought I was gay.

I also am an RN, although I no longer do that for a living either any longer.

The term guybrarian is frankly stupid. Why when we have come up with such gender neutral terms as firefighter, police officer, and even pizza delivery driver - to replace fireman, policeman, and pizza dude, do we need a word that identifies the gender of a degreed professional that works in a library?

Librarian seems fine. I have no control of the fact that people seem to think I am the libary director because I am a man and wear a tie. It is not just older people, adolescents seem to simply assume that I am in charge because I am a man dressed for work.

Guybrarian is stupid, male nurse is stupid - when you are having your MI you don't care about my gender. You just want to know I have a clue - and trust me I do, but then again I wore scrubs and a clean pressed lab coat - pockets in scrubs suck.

If you want to be thought of as a professional look the part and don't let people label you with silly names. I was an RN, I was a librarian and now I am a manager at a big 4 firm.

If you want to be treated like an idiot look and act like one, people will not dissapoint you.

I do wear guayaberas on occasion as I frequent Mexico.

Eric said...

I just like being a 'librarian', thanks.

To the masses who can't get over their sexism, piss off.

Now have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

I think 'guybrarian' is just as dumb as 'cybrarian' or any other 'brarian they try to throw into the mix in order to freshen up the public image.

Personally I prefer "Information Specialist" b/cs no one really knows what that is, and so they don't immediately come to judgements or stereotypes when, as a young man, you are asked what you do for a living. Maybe that's a little cowardly on my part, but you try being a volunteer firefighter in your spare time and explain to the guys on your duty crew that you're a male librarian. Sh/t I don't even know how I landed in that profession, but there I was.

- Signed, Former Male Librarian now on hiatus but probably coming back in from the cold.

Anonymous said...

My library school class is split about 75% female and 25% male. This is the closest ratio they've had for a while, and administrators seem happy about it, though a little surprised. Only 30% of our core faculty members are male, and one of those professors just recently joined the program.

Some of my female library friends use the term guybrarian, but in a half-joking manner. I think it's silly, a little stupid, and don't pay it much attention.

I am male. I don't wear ties, and have no aspirations to join the class of future library directors. I'll be happy to find an employer who won't mind when my tattoos show.

Anonymous said...

The time has come for men to get the message that this is not a field where they are welcome.

Stay out.

The future belongs to the women.

Anonymous said...

Who invented "guybrarian" anyway? Here's a guess: it was invented by (male? or female?) library school students grappling with identifying themselves or others within the somewhat "different-from-other careers" gender dynamics of librarianship. It sounds quasi-hip and ironic, to me. (signed) jam

Anonymous said...

A guybrarian is a trend-monkey who lives and/or drinks in Williamsburg. Williamsburg is the trend-monkey capital of Brooklyn, NY. Not surprisingly, a guybrarian is most likely to be a corporate or legal librarian, because he needs the term to mark his as something other than just a corporate drone. Rectangular horn-rimmed glasses and $200 jeans optional but highly encouraged.

alcanuck said...

And then there's "Gaybrarian" and "Lesbrarian" ...

Kevin Musgrove said...

In our neck of the woods, "Guy Brarian" is somebody singing on the flip side of a Rudy Vallee platter.

I am male, I am not a librarian, I am not a library director. I wear a jacket and tie with a waistcoat. I have a cherry wood stick with a brass handle that unscrews to provide access to a small flask of brandy.

I am a brogue male.

WDL said...

Rectangular horn-rimmed glasses and $200 jeans optional but highly encouraged.

True. Only I'm not in Brooklyn, I'm in Chicago.

And the jeans were only $150. Though I don't wear those to work. And I am called a librarian, even though I work in a special library.

Librarians just come up with shit to worry about, 'guybrarian' is an excellent example.

Why not start a thread on holiday sweaters, and how they are taking away the 'professionalism' in our system by making fat ladies look like bedazzled clowns'?

xo,
WDL

Monty76 said...
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Monty76 said...

"Information Asshole"...LOL...and the "glass elevator" works pretty well in my demographic as well. I'm 30 enjoy drinking, am engaged (to a woman), and enjoy books. Basically if you obtain your MLS have basically normal social skills, a male, and arent a total f**k - up, its pretty hard NOT to succeed in a library!

Anonymous said...

to whomever made the comment about nurses and pay: they get paid a heck of alot because there is a severe shortage of them. Basic law of supply and demand from Econ. 100.

As for the term "guybrarian," it is the stupidist thing I've heard. Probably some blond airhead who is looking for a MRS. while trying to pass library school came up with the term.

I would love to hear about a guy suing for sexual harassment over the term.
Privateer6

Anonymous said...

"The time has come for men to get the message that this is not a field where they are welcome.

Stay out.

The future belongs to the women."

Yeah, well, keep your library. Another fifteen years and you're going to be in the business of competing with the local amusement parks for a bunch of low income patrons. Go on, order your iconic character animal suits today, you're going to need them!

Men are skipping the libraries altogether and going towards the information technology sector where we get paid the high 5 - low 6 salaries. And if we do go to the libraries, we seem to get advanced quickly. Who knows why...I suppose since the women around us won't let us be content with being librarians we stay motivated to moving up, retraining, and advancing our careers rather then joining the girl's club and gaffing int eh staff room about the annoying guybrarians ruining the last female work environment refuge.

If you think that the future should belong to either Males or Females, you are a sexist pig who deserves to be unemployed or undercompensated for the rest of your working days. Clearly, you base your evaluations of other peopel on their sex and not their abilities, and this will have a subtle impact on how you work with others. In short, you are not management material and never will be. The future is cosmopolitan.

Can't a guy just be a librarians and the world be at peace? NO! He has to be a mechanic, or a construction worker, or a Director. Sexist Idiots.

Turns out the same people who gripe and complain about a glass ceiling for themselves also put a glass floor under their male counterparts and then laugh at them for not being above the cieling. You people make me sick.

Those of us who are male working in Libraians: We are Librarians. Period. All other personal details are unnecessary and completely innapropriate in the proessional workplace.

I personally enjoy the library environment because it is a low stress occupation. I prefer quiet solace to the alternative - a heart attack at 45 because my manly work sucks that much.

I will probably never be a librarian - I have too much ambition right now, the library work is really much too easy for them to pay me much to do in teh first place. It looks like I'm headed to the Corporate IT sector. We'll see what kind of terror my collegues can wreck upon the library world with our corporate wiki pages [Darwin Core] and databases and Digital Access Contracts. Yes, we'll be charging an arm and a leg for you librarians to use them. Watch out for the peglegged one-armed Librarian Pirates - they'll be EVERYWHERE!!! Woot woot!!

[hmmmmm, Looks like your amusement parks will be pirate themed!]


Merc kat!

webbygrl said...

Watch out for the peglegged one-armed Librarian Pirates - they'll be EVERYWHERE!!! Woot woot!!"

I *heart* Woot.
www.woot.com for the true gadget geeks among us.

Anonymous said...

Forget "guybrarian". If you want a great non-sexist name just call me "I want" or "I need" or "Iwann" or Ined" for short. Ah I wear a tie no apologies

Heidi said...

In my system there are a lot of male librarians. At the main branch it is split almost 50/50. There are about 5-6 men in Youth Services. When a customer asked me for books showing males in traditionally female professions and she asked me if librarian would be one, I told her about the many male librarians in our branch and thus suggested other examples.

Anonymous said...

Sorry your library is letting men take over a traditional female stronghold.

Men should not be teachers, nurses, or librarians.

They are cut out to be principals, doctors, and directors.

Kristen said...

"When a customer asked me for books showing males in traditionally female professions and she asked me if librarian would be one, I told her about the many male librarians in our branch and thus suggested other examples."

I don't think that your library bucking a long-time trend really disqualifies her original point. Lots of 'traditional' things are gradually going by the wayside. Our professional staff is 50/50 too, but even the guys agree they're in a 'traditionally female' profession. They're changing that, but that doesn't mean they're rewriting the past.


Moving on to completely different posts, I could have sworn the really outrageous ones are supposed to be automatically taken as satire/sarcasm. At the very least, pretend they are. Otherwise, you're still going to have that early heart attack.

Anonymous said...

Sorry your library is letting men take over a traditional female stronghold.

Men should not be
They are cut out to be principals, doctors, and directors.
=================================

Yeah, and women should not be principals, doctors, and directors.

They are cut out to be teachers, nurses, or librarians.


Bullshillit and Hogwash. If you can do the job, and you do it well, you should do it.

I find Female engineers, doctors, and other such professionals to be Dead SEXY!

Anonymous said...

Frankly, guybrarian sounds more gay than librarian which is not a female term whatsoever. Furthermore, how does being a director stop you from being a librarian? I've worked every part of a library and I still do at times. You must be referring to directors in very large libraries who do nothing but politic.

Librarian and Director
Matt

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to mention in my last post that I told my boss the City Manager that the interview was the last time he would ever see me in a tie. He still hired me and I've been true to my word.

Matt

Tony Kris said...

Frankly, I'm not bothered much by any -brarian terms. That being said, I much prefer the term "Libraryman" as dubbed in Penny Arcade over "Guybrarian". Still, I think the title of "student" fits me much better. As for the idea that most librarians are female, they obviously have't been around many reference desks lately

fyi:
20s, male, ridiculously straight, Polo shirts and khakis with tennis shoes (stereotypical frat guy look, I know) Not looking for the long haul of career but still greatly enjoying my time for the moment. Never wore a tie at work.

Anonymous said...

if they were willing to wear jackets and ties, wouldn't they be 'library directors' instead of 'guybrarians'?"
Uh...I think they'd be 'guyrectors' also.
*slinks off*

Anonymous said...

"Guybrarian" is a term that's supposed to be funny but isn't, like Family Circus comics. The term kind of grates, so I oppose it.

Scott J said...

I hate the term, but guybrarian is better then "Library Security Guard," which is what some people assume I am... not the librarian...but a a security guard.

Librar-Ian said...

Most of the guybrarians at guybrarian.com (shameless plug)are guys in the "Hey, you guys!" sense. All of them are courageous challengers of genderism (or whatever) and of taking guybrarianship too seriously.