Librarians and Pop Culture

During an evening walk I found myself listening to My Morning Jacket’s Librarian. While it is not the best MMJ song, it is a lovely little love song. It got me thinking about how libraries and librarians are represented in pop culture. I think the stereotypes are well known and a few of the characteristics are even mentioned in the song…bookworm, glasses, pinned up hair (bun). Most of the images we get tend toward the negative, but in this song we see a fascination with the woman behind the glasses and the hair.

Last week I also watched the Denzel Washington film The Book of Eli. Although this movie was less than stellar and The Road was a much better treatment of post-Apocalyptic humanity, The Book of Eli (as the title suggests) focused on the importance of books (libraries) as the key to saving humanity. Books record ideas which can then be communicated to others through reading and education which contribute to culture and the formation of society. So while pop culture images of librarians usually tend toward the negative, society’s thoughts about libraries usually tend toward the positive.

Even Isaiah Mustafa of Old Spice has something positive to say about libraries. I love these new Old Spice ads, so I really enjoyed his little video response supporting libraries. You can watch it here.  Even in this lighthearted take on the importance of words (Eat peanut butter!) we again hear that saving and providing access to the great words created by our culture is important! And indeed it is.

I think it is very interesting that even though libraries are facing many financial hardships and tax payers want to give less and less to libraries you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone willing to say something bad about their local libraries. Libraries are like green vegetables, we all know they are good for us, but we just don’t always want to eat them.

And like our mom’s used to try and disguise broccoli with melted cheese, many libraries are trying to get out from under that ‘good for you’ image and entice you with their beautiful architecture, fun programs, or New Spice image. Then hopefully once you’ve experienced your library you too will be hard pressed to say anything negative about them.


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