It’s A Man’s World

There’s been some buzz on the librarian blog circuit (you know who you are) on second-most perennial controversy in librarianship: gender. Namely, the gender with the XY-chromosome hookup.

Or as a friend of mine in library school summed it up: “There are three kinds of men in librarianship: studs, duds and gays.”


Okay; that was a little flip. But I do want to talk about the “studs” part of the aphorism: systems librarianship. As far as my female classmates were concerned, there was little doubt as to what career track the ones we deemed as “straight-men-with-a-clue” would take: computers and networks (though the less-than-tech-savvy subset opted for work as vendor reps and the brilliant ones became lib school faculty). Even with the recently added panache of the web, for most men considering the profession, classic librarianship (i.e., reference librarian or cataloger) is the educationally butchy equivalent of nursing. A sad situation, I know, but a reality nonetheless.

So why is systems librarianship so attractive to the regular joes who wander our way? That’s easy:

  • Equipment/Hardware: The time-honored siren song for men. Before there were computers, there were automobiles. And before automobiles, there was the steam engine. And so on, back to when we were monkeys boinking each other on the head (or for your intelligent-design devotees, Day 6). No matter how one slices and dices it, whenever a complicated and expensive object is involved, there will be guys clustering around trying to figure it out, or more importantly, figure out how to make it even more complicated and expensive.
  • Jargon: Specialized language is good, because specialized language means most people won’t even begin to understand what you’re saying. Which means that most people will think you’re a genius, which leads to:
  • Potential Gurudom: Ta-dah! End result? Endless (and almost-all-expenses paid) invites to the hot-ticket presentations at library conferences.

But I kid. Some semi-serious thoughts the next time….

What I’m Listening To: Bicycle Bicycle You Are My Bicycle by Be Your Own Pet. Because I’ve been thinking of fixing my bike to ride to work, though every time I tell a co-worker of this, they inevitably do a spit-take across my brand-new white jean jacket.

My Sweet Lord: Billy Preston passed away last month at 59. Billy was on the bill at the first concert I ever attended: George Harrison’s Dark Horse Tour at The Cow Palace in San Francisco (yes; there’s really a place with that name in SF). When it wasn’t scary (everyone except me and my friends was on some sort of hallucinogen) it was dreary (George’s singing–ragged; Ravi Shankar’s playing–endless). But Billy was the bright spot: a huge bouncing afro and smile sitting at an organ, singing Nothing from Nothing, pulling the audience out of its chemical stupor to clap along. I hope he’s playing Outa Space somewhere…well, out in space….