Should We Shush about the Stereotype? Examining Student-Generated Images of Librarians


  • Laurie Borchard California State University Northridge
  • Laura Wimberley California State University Northridge
  • Susanna Eng-Ziskin California State University Northridge
  • Anna Fidgeon


librarian stereotypes, academic libraries, student perception


LIS literature has long been concerned with the stereotype of librarians as spinsters.  This concern is often based on analysis of media portrayals without investigation of actual patron perceptions.  In this article, we examine the way students visualize librarians, and how that visualization compares to similar professions.  By analyzing student-created digital avatars of librarians, nurses, and software engineers, we find that while some aspects of the spinster stereotype are slightly more prominent for librarians than for the other professions, they only appear in a minority of student images of librarians. We conclude that the spinster stereotype of librarians is not dominant among contemporary undergraduate students, and so is unlikely to be a factor in library anxiety or usage patterns.

Author Biographies

Laurie Borchard, California State University Northridge

Digital Learning Initatives Librarian

Laura Wimberley, California State University Northridge

Research, Outreach, and Instruction Librarian

Susanna Eng-Ziskin, California State University Northridge

First-Year Experience Librarian