On Being the Library Web Chic
So I’m hoping you’ve seen Karen, Jane, or Dorothea’s posts (prompted in part by LITA’s Top Tech Trends lack of women) about techie women in the library profession. I want to raise my voice in support for exactly what they are saying. Dorothea nails it on the head when she say:
So there isnâ€™t just a glass ceiling in librarianship (and there is a well-documented glass ceiling; this profession is majority female, but its administrators are majority male). Thereâ€™s a glass wall, between women and systems librarianship. Subtle and not-so-subtle peer pressure telling us that them geeks, theyâ€™re Not Us.
For the most part my male techy colleagues in LibraryLand treat me well. At the moment, I’m lucky enough to work with (gasp) another women in system. However, having been to code4lib in February I can say it was one of the most educational, strangest and saddest experience of my life. The conference content was phenomenal, it is the conference that I’ve attended that I learned the most at. However, Dorothea was not joking when she said there were less than a dozen women in attendance and there was only one woman who gave a formal talk. Add to that a subtle clickishness going on with the #code4lib guys and the fact that I found myself doing a double-take at dinners when I noticed I was the only female at the table. When I got back to my hotel room and could decompress, I felt uncomfortable to the point of thinking that maybe I’d made a mistake in attending.
In the 5 1/2 years I’ve been a librarian (always involved in technology) its has always been this way. At my previous job, nearly all of the campus IT folks I dealt with were male. Nearly all the people involved in technology and libraries in SUNY were male. It drove me nuts. There were two tiny bright spots. One was that the Library Director’s boss, the head of Information Resources was a woman, a former librarian. The second was Natalie Sturr at SUNY Oswego who showed me that there were “supertechy” women and they’ve been around for awhile unrecognized.
Then the day came when I wanted to start a blog and was trying to come up with a name. I wanted to start my blog to talk about what I was doing and let other women know that “Yes, there are women working on technology things in libraries! Yes, there are women librarian coders!” So I thought back to when I started working at Cortland and people were learning my name. The guys in IT had a terrible time remembering my name (I’m awful at names so I don’t hold this against them.). I remember being at a function and meeting someone new from IT who all of a sudden realized who I was and said to me “Oh you’re the girl in the library who does the website.” The experience stuck with me and when went to name my blog I decided that I was proud to be “the girl in the library who does the website”. Hence, my blog name.
Still, I can name off the top of my head all the women I know in the spotlight for involved in technology and libraries. The ones I know who are “super-techy” or coders I can count on one hand. It frustrates me greatly that I feel like there isn’t a woman in systems librarianship who I can idolize and look up to. I don’t want that to be the case for future women in librarianship. So I work to help other women interested in technology in libraries to learn more. I provide support for the other techy women I know. I go to conferences and talk about what I’m doing. I try to promote and push myself and the other techy women (I hate doing this it makes me feel icky but NOBODY is going to do it otherwise). I wholeheartedly agree that we need to get together and act collectively on this issue.