Librarians are more than their appearance, but their appearance is part of them. With that in mind, what advice would two successful information professionals give to their colleagues--particularly those hunting for jobs--about how to dress? And what advice would they give to those who want to "be more of themselves" on the job in terms of appearance?
In this article, two information professionals--Tony Stankus, an academic librarian who has been in the field for more than 40 years, and Mallory Olguin, a government librarian who earned her MLIS in 2009--share their thoughts on how clothing makes the librarian (and vice versa). They dress in very different styles, but both wear clothing that conforms to their job requirements. They also believe that how librarians dress matters, and that dressing without regard to the culture of the organization undercuts their attempts to be taken seriously.
Philosophy of Dressing
MALLORY: The fact that I get to decide how people will see me by the simple act of getting dressed in the morning is hugely empowering to me. I'd say that my aesthetic has toned down, particularly in recent years as I've finished grad school and started my career as a professional librarian. But my past experiences of living in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community in San Francisco still greatly influence my style, so toning things down doesn't mean that I like to blend in with the crowd.
My tattoos have become a particularly big part of my look, which is inevitable when you have as many of them as I do. They will always be there, though they may not always be visible. Generally speaking, I prefer to let my boss and co-workers get to know the quality of my work before I find out whether or not I can have my tattoos visible in the office. I want them to see me as an "amazing regular employee" before I let them meet the "amazing tattooed employee."
Even with my tattoos under wraps, I am often instantly recognizable at large professional functions, opening up a surprising number of opportunities that I may not have had access to otherwise. When my tattoos are visible, especially my more bookish ones, they tend to be a great ice breaker and end up starting most of my conversations for me!
TONY: Ever since I grasped the concept that people could get paid for falling madly in love with learning and encouraging this behavior in younger people, I've wanted to look like a professor. My models were depictions of avuncular academics in movies and TV, because there were no colleges in my town, and few people even went to college. The look I was going for then (and now) was horned-rimmed eyeglasses, tweed jackets, paisley ties, and a pipe, which I quit smoking only a decade or so-ago.
I learned the extra punch a suit could pack on special occasions from Ronna Davis, my past EBSCO representative (now North American sales manager for TDNet and a fellow SLA member), who taught by both her personal example and by giving me a copy of what became my bible for dressing when it particularly...