Courtesy of Library Journal…

Libraries and librarians are a regular occurrence in popular culture. From the occasional commercial to television and film, libraries pop up pretty frequently in any format you can imagine. Comics are dedicated to them, superheroes are evolved from them, songs are sung in them, and hellmouths are located underneath them. Libraries are a ubiquitous part of our culture, but are we listening to our audience? We need to look at how the public and culture at large are portraying libraries, listen to how they really perceive the library, and latch on to those ideas to further our place in society.

As libraries struggle to keep up with the competition both philosophically and financially — and we all know who the competition is — we need to look at ways to stay relevant, and not just offer great service and resources, because clearly that’s no longer enough. The librarian stereotype is pervasive in popular culture, but we need to look not at the librarian, but the library. We tend to focus on the figure representing the entity and not the entity in itself, when the entity is what actually drives the librarian.

When looking closely at the use of libraries in film, television, and print, one can start to see a few common themes emerge. I will argue that pop culture is telling us that libraries are mysterious (and possibly supernatural); Archives is futuristic (and potentially dangerous); and Library as Place is not just an overused library catch phrase. I believe that understanding those themes can help define the library’s place in the current and future culture at large.

Mystery Is Not Just In the Fiction Section

Libraries are mysterious. This is common knowledge. Ask any librarian if non-library people really know what they do all day. It’s not just what does a librarian do, but what a library contains. It’s as if having so much knowledge at your fingertips is frightening in some way, and extremely intimidating. Rex-Libris is a good example of this fear. Rex-Libris is a comic that portrays a librarian as a superhero dealing with “some pretty tough patrons. Gods, undead, alien warlords, vampires, time travelers from the past… and future.” The Librarian in Rex-Libris is powerful because he armed with “the most formidable weapon of all—knowledge.” He has read all of the books in his library and has unwrapped the mystery in the texts. If knowledge is power, then it is assumed that he who reads everything in a library can be the most powerful of all.

Read the complete article here: What Popular Culture is Telling Us About Libraries

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