LISNews, in this post points to this article and this blog post about fashion guru Paula Ryan handing out fashion tips at the 2007 conference of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand.
It seems that the communications coordinator is selling this as an opportunity for librarians to combat their dated image whist Ryan is saying that she has no preconceptions about how librarians dress.
As you might imagine, the librarians are all in an uproar.
How dare you insult us like this, they cry. How dare you tell us that we need lessons in style? How dare you suggest that we dress sloppily or in an outdated way?
It's an interesting question, I think, whether style has any bearing on how our users see us. Are we less approachable if our hair is in a bun than we are if we are sporting tattoos and hipster clothing?
The biblioblogosphere has already addressed this question ad nauseum with the publication of "A hipper crowd of shushers" in the NY Times, so I'm not going to focus on hipster librarians vs. the stereotypical librarian-type.
What I do think is interesting is that when a library association tries to offer a session about how to make oneself more fashionable, its members take that as an insult.
It doesn't appear that attendance at this session is mandatory. It seems, instead, like this is an opportunity for those who want to get some style pointers to get a chance to hear a fashion expert speak. It would be a great opportunity for librarians new to the profession to learn about how to dress professionally and it would serve as a refresher course for those whose wardrobes could use a little pick me up.
I applaud the LIANZ for trying to help its members appear more professional and, yes, more stylish. For me it isn't about wanting to combat a stereotype. For me it's about looking professional. I think, sometimes, that new librarians are at a loss for how to dress in order to gain the respect of their colleagues and their users. As a young professional, I know that I carefully consider my clothing options to make sure that I am dressed like a "grown up" every day that I come to work. I take pride in the job I do, and I like to reflect that pride in my appearance. I choose to dress professionally because I respect myself, my job, and my profession.
I don't want respect from my users because I wear the latest (and most expensive) fashions. I want respect because my ideas are good and because I can help connect them with the information they need to make their lives better. In an ideal world, it wouldn't matter how I was dressed as long as I could provide those services. But, in any profession, there should be a clear distinction between what is appropriate to wear to work and what is not.