The idea of a bad librarian conjures a simplistic vision of frumpy, unhelpful reference desk staff confusing users with in-house jargon. Basically a variation of the stereotype that real librarians roll their eyes at. I’ve been working in libraries for nine years now: surely I can articulate a clearer vision of this? So I used my research skills to look into this in a bit more detail:
And mostly what I found was either covers from vintage smutty books or a few videos attempting libraries + humour (very difficult to do). A few librarians have blogged about it, but they were just describing bad reference service again.
If we look at the historical record, we'll find that such questionable characters as Mao Zedong and J. Edgar Hoover were librarians but they lacked commitment to the profession and soon moved on, so they are of little help to us here.
Then I asked Twitter:
And I got a bit more detail here. The responses I got back (thanks to all concerned) would suggest that a bad librarian is :
- is not user-focussed, or at least is only focussed on what users wanted twenty years ago
Which doesn't sound that bad: it just sounds like me having a bad day, to be honest. So I think there’s a bad librarian in all of us. It isn't an extreme, needs-to-be-sacked sociopath. It’s any of us when we forget about why we got into libraries in the first place or have gotten stuck in a rut and forgotten how to keep our jobs interesting. I would suggest that if you can read Martin’s article and you find you’re not ticking many of the boxes there then maybe you're losing your spark and your inner bad (but not evil bad) librarian may have taken over.