Passive, submissive, and plain were three adjectives that were often used to describe 20th-century librarians.1 It was a time when the education of the community was undervalued, educated women were paid far less than men, and diversity within any industry was almost non-existent. These stereotypes have persisted for over a century in the United States, but the newest working generation of youngsters have already made great strides in reversing these archaic views. Millennials are changing our preconceived notion about the library and the librarian. Many now in their 30’s and moving into management roles, they are quickly changing the structure and direction of many organizations.
Here are a 7 of the fabulous ways that millennials are changing the way we think about librarians:
- Style – We have encountered many new librarians rocking blue hair, big bangs, and wearing some of the coolest library-themed socks and leggings we have ever seen! While this in no way is representative of all libraries or librarians in 2018, we are finding that even librarians in conservative areas are discovering new ways to display a bit of their own unique personalities in their day to day ensembles. Not only are these millennial librarians working hard to educate and inform their communities, but they are also showing their patrons that their job does not have to dictate their style.
- Tattoos – @Angrylibraryguy on Reddit had our favorite response when it comes to tattoos, “When a new librarian asked me ‘What is your policy on tattoos’ I replied, ‘They are not required.2’” It’s great to know that for many younger people heading into the workforce that tattoos are becoming more acceptable in many industries. As a millennial that has three tattoos myself, It’s encouraging that many libraries are not judging candidates by visible tattoos but are breaking the stereotypical ideal that all libraries are conservative and rigid and that potential candidates must fit into the image of the 20th-century cookie-cutter librarian. After all, being surrounded by so many great stories all day long, it’s easy to see how so many librarians are inspired to get some very unique ink!
- Not just for women – There has been a 48% increase of males working in libraries since 1980.3 While there could be many reasons to account for this huge increase in men flocking to the library industry, including the rise in IT positions and excellent job security. I personally like to think that millennial men have shed traditionally gender-related career biases and have been reinspired to educate their communities in a rewarding field of work. But, who cares what I think, I would love to hear from the men themselves. What inspired you to become a librarian?
- Change is easier – As an older generation of librarians retires, the staff turnover at some libraries has been very high in recent years. We have talked to some librarians who have seen upwards of 6-10 librarians leaving in a single year, often these positions are being filled by millennials. Most of the software demos we do in person at the libraries are at the request of the younger staff looking to update tools and services to make their job easier and the patrons experience more enjoyable. For many of the younger librarians we have spoken to, automation is seen as an asset and not a threat. Change is hard, but the fresh perspective and new software that is being implemented by new hires are changing the way libraries are able to help their communities. Renew from home, self-checkouts, educational programs, blood drives, life-skills classes, genealogy, and even virtual tutoring have all become part of many libraries’ offerings in the last few years.
- They are NOT lazy – Millennials get a bad rep for being lazy, but millennial librarians are anything but. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average librarian makes around $58,000 per year and works over 40+ per week, including nights and weekends.4 Most libraries, have seasonal hours, are open late, and hold many events throughout the day and on weekends, including events hosted by Friends of the Library groups. This means many millennial librarians devote a good chunk of their time to the library and the community.
- Well educated – The typical entry-level librarian position requires a master’s degree in Library Science. Some libraries also have additional requirements, such as teaching certifications or a Juris Doctorate degree. You can bet if they don’t know the answer to a question they will know exactly where to find it!
- Tech and media-savvy – Millennials are open to technology that saves them time and money. Millennial librarians are no different, they are open to embracing tools and services that make things easier for patrons (self-check-outs, reserve rooms online, register online for events) and for themselves (event management software, library card scanners).
Millennials have done a great job of breaking the very cliché vision of what a librarian is and what they do. Perhaps it is even a little unfair to give all the credit to millennials, as most librarians, regardless of age seem to be on board with changing the negative stereotypes people have about their profession. Maybe it’s the sheer number of millennials pouring into the profession that inspires a fresh perspective. Whatever the reason, I’m sure we can all be happy that libraries are becoming more inclusive, diverse, welcoming, safe places for the diverse communities they serve.
About LocalHop: LocalHop is an event management platform that provides event marketing, web calendars, community calendars, reservation & ticketing, and room reservation to organizations and small businesses. LocalHop launched in October 2015 and has offices in Pontiac and Kalamazoo, Michigan.