Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Again, the Losyang Librarian

I finally got to watch In My Life, the Vilma Santos-Luis Manzano-John Lloyd Cruz love triangle. In all places, I saw it in a bus bound to Manila. I was on my way back home from Baguio after a successful storytelling session at the public library there. Somewhere on the road between Tarlac or Pampanga, the bus conductor popped a DVD copy of the movie for the entertainment of bored passengers.

It was a good copy. Bluray. The captioning was in English. No grammar mistakes and misspellings. What's more, it was well translated. It was not a pirated copy then. As for the movie, I enjoyed it so much I wrote a review at TCG.

But what I paid close attention to was Vilma Santos' character. This movie is one where the lead happens to be a librarian. It did not revolve on Vilma's character, Shirley, being a librarian though. Her being one was used to a amplify her monotonous and routinary lifestyle. She was once a Physical Education teacher -- lively, active on the go. Then life whipped her with failures and heartbreaks one after the other. Somewhere in between, she underwent a transformation. She retreated to a life made of procedures, processes and structures. Controlled and secure, she thrived in the library as a sarcastic, uncompromising and stoic person. Yes, masungit (grumpy), old fashioned and losyang (unglamorous). Bam! There goes the formula.

Here we see now the typical librarian as a stereotype. Note that in media, stereotypes are used to label something - a brand, a product, an object. Ideas and perspectives, information included, can be labeled as well. It is made. It is constructed. In printing and publishing, a stereotype is a metal plate cast from a model or a matrix. It is constant. It does not change.

Like it or not, the librarian stereotype exist. It will be used to present an idea of the profession as boring and it's practicing professionals far from being dynamic. What worries me more is the possibility of this stereotype to mutate as an archetype.

At the end of the day, we can all say that Vilma Santos' character as the stereotype librarian is merely a representation of an idea or a character used in a movie. But a movie is a form of storytelling. And storytelling is powerful. It does not help that In My Life is a well written and well crafted movie.

This stereotype will stick. The sad thing is, librarians, the ones who breathe and live outside the silver screen are far from the stereotype depicted in the movies and in literature. How can librarians reach their full potentials to portray roles that will help propel their institutions, offices and organizations to achieving its goals when this stereotype exist? How can this stereotype be broken when such a construct is already embeded in the minds of many an administrators and co-workers?

We, librarians, have our work cut out for us.

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