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June 1, 2024 51 mins

Being a librarian was originally a man's job. Then Melvil Dewey and his book-loving bros came along and changed all that. But while the feminization of librarianship offered a new occupation for women, it was built on old ideas about female nature and its proper place. Learn more in this classic episode.

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Annie and Samantha. I'm welcome to Stefan
Never Told You production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:18):
And as this is coming out, we are entering into
Pride Month and we were looking at classics to bring back,
and I thought about librarians because Kristin and Caroline did
a two parter on librarians, and as we've discussed previously,
unfortunately there has been an increase in book banning that's

(00:41):
only gotten worse since we've talked about them last A
lot of it is targeted towards LGBTQ plus material, and
it's really infuriating because in several instances the material they're
med at is not at the library they're attacking. Yeah,

(01:03):
so you can see the episode we did about how
that's really an organized effort to get books banned. But
also there's been a lot of interviews with libraries lately
saying like I've had to leave because I'm getting attacked
for all these horrific things, which is upsetting, upsetting. I

(01:23):
have many good, fond memories of libraries.

Speaker 3 (01:26):
So I just got my library card two months ago. Yes,
that's awesome, very delighted by all the options I have too.

Speaker 2 (01:33):
I love that libraries like also offer all kinds of
other things.

Speaker 1 (01:38):
Simpoint, I really do.

Speaker 3 (01:40):
She may be a whole pamphlet in the librarian phenomenal
love her. She was so excited when I walked in,
told me all my options they're the best.

Speaker 2 (01:48):
It's like, really, if you don't know, libraries offer like
a lot. I mean, the books are great, obviously, that's
there for it, but they offer like a ton of
other stuff you might not know about.

Speaker 1 (02:01):
So yeah, definitely check them out. Support your local library.

Speaker 2 (02:06):
But yes, in the meantime, enjoy part one of this
classic episode about librarians.

Speaker 4 (02:15):
Welcome to Stuff Mom Never Told You from Houstuffworks dot Com.

Speaker 1 (02:25):
Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Kristen and I'm Caroline.

Speaker 4 (02:28):
And by very popular demand, we're talking about librarians not
just in this podcast, but also in the.

Speaker 1 (02:36):
Next because there's so much to talk about.

Speaker 5 (02:38):
There is so much to talk about, and you are
just going to listen to me over the course of
two episodes. Try not to say librarians. And I'm not
teasing anyone. I'm not making fun of speech impediments. I'm
literally concerned about my lazy mouth.

Speaker 4 (02:52):
Well, and it didn't help that the email I sent
Caroline with all of my library sources that I would
reading was subject lined library sources.

Speaker 1 (03:03):
So now library is in my head.

Speaker 5 (03:05):
Yeah, well, library sounds like some kind of refreshing tonic ooh,
a library juice?

Speaker 1 (03:12):
Really go for a library right now? What flavor would
a library be? Something sour? I bet like lime and BlackBerry.

Speaker 4 (03:21):
Ooh, hello, let's make that happen. Can that be a cocktail?
Throw some gin in there, I'm.

Speaker 1 (03:27):
Sure it could.

Speaker 5 (03:28):
But about specific actual human librarians. True, we seriously did
receive so many emphatic requests for this episode.

Speaker 1 (03:39):
People out there who.

Speaker 5 (03:41):
Work with books, work around books, they do tend to
call themselves librarians. And yeah, we couldn't not listen to
you guys. Your request.

Speaker 4 (03:52):
We had to answer, well, because we mentioned offhandedly in
an episode. I think it was our episode about Hillary
Clinton's early life that we should revisit librarians because there
is a librarian themed episode of Stuff Mom Never Told
You from the Vault. I think it came out in

(04:14):
twenty ten, so we will be revisiting a little bit
of that. But I have a feeling a lot of
listeners either haven't heard that episode or it's probably been
a while since you have heard that episode.

Speaker 5 (04:25):
Yeah, because I mean children born that year are like
six now.

Speaker 1 (04:28):
I know, so so six year olds, this is for you. Yeah,
this goes out to you, and also all the librarians
out there.

Speaker 4 (04:35):
If, by the way, the two bossy dames who are
fantastic librarians who send out a weekly newsletter that you
should absolutely subscribe to, if they're listening, because I think
they might know who we are.

Speaker 1 (04:49):
Hello. I thought about you a lot during this episode,
just pondered them.

Speaker 5 (04:53):
I'm picturing you like sitting in your window looking out
at the moon.

Speaker 1 (04:57):
Because they're rad librarians. I mean.

Speaker 4 (05:00):
And in college, Caroline, I really wanted to work at
our college library. Why so as part of my student aid,
I had an on campus job and you could check
off the ones that you wanted, and the library was
where all the cool kids worked, Like a lot of
townies worked at the library, and it just kind of

(05:22):
sounded cool, like, oh, I just came from my shift
at the library, and they always had.

Speaker 1 (05:27):
Cool glasses and cool tattoos.

Speaker 4 (05:30):
And instead I ended up working at the print shop,
which had its own you know, benefits hashtag free copies.

Speaker 1 (05:38):
But still it was it was my dream to be
the college librarian.

Speaker 5 (05:45):
Well, it's funny that you mentioned like the cool kids
and the cool glasses and the tattoos and everything, because
that is sort of a latter day librarian stereotype. You know.
Over the course of these two episodes, we will discuss
stereotypes a bit. But you know, I've always had the
image of the old spinster woman shushing children. But I

(06:07):
feel like, more recently, the new stereotype that's been introduced
is like it is a cool lady job, and here
I am the alternative librarian with the tattoos and glasses.

Speaker 4 (06:17):
Yeah, and she has really cool glasses, some great tattoos,
she wears modcloth dresses, has fantastic vintage decor in her home,
and a record collection, and essentially is just has really
great esthetic taste and also so many cultural references.

Speaker 1 (06:39):
Because she's read so much cultural and literary references. She
sounds like somebody i'd want to hang out with. She's
kind of my ideal woman. I think it's what I'm
realizing right now. Sounds like you still want to go
work in a library a little bit.

Speaker 4 (06:52):
Yeah, I've also been thinking about librarians a bit though.
Caroline because I've been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for
the first time, Thank you Netflix. And Giles the Watcher
is a librarian and he fits the stereotype of your
of the He's not a curmudgeon, but he's a little

(07:14):
bit fusty.

Speaker 5 (07:15):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely, And it is interesting to see, and
I mean it makes total sense.

Speaker 1 (07:20):
It's pretty self explanatory. It's interesting to.

Speaker 5 (07:22):
See the evolution of the librarian stereotype and how it
exactly matches the trends that we see in librarian inging librarianship.

Speaker 1 (07:33):
Yeah, oh sure that'll work as well.

Speaker 4 (07:34):
Yes, And in this episode we are going to talk
about how librarianship used to be a dude's job and
how a guy named Melville Dewey came along and changed
all of that. And he also is the one who
created the Dewey decimal system. And while he often gets

(07:58):
praised for that, I mean he's kind of considered this
hero of librarianship, we have darker tales to tell about Dewey.

Speaker 1 (08:08):
Yeah, sounds like a he's a real joy.

Speaker 4 (08:12):
But the whole transition of librarianship from being a man's
job to a woman's job, which it still very much
is today is a really intriguing exploration of how masculinity,
ideal masculinity changed in turn of the century America.

Speaker 5 (08:32):
Yes, this is such a great episode to encompass all
of the themes that Sminty just loves.

Speaker 1 (08:39):
Like what, So we've got women in.

Speaker 5 (08:41):
The workplace, yes, but we've also got the professionalization issue
surrounding gender, so very professional when it comes to men,
but less professional when it comes to women and wages.
We've also got issues of the spinster and marriage and
relationships and who is allowed to be employed, both like

(09:05):
you know, legally and just socially, what is socially accepted?

Speaker 4 (09:11):
And just a boatload of stereotypes. Yeah, Victorian womanhood, gender norms.

Speaker 1 (09:17):
These two episodes, folks have it all.

Speaker 4 (09:20):
So in this episode we're going to be focusing on
men in librarianship, and then in our next episode we're
going to be talking about rad lady librarians and how
it became feminized, and we should say that it is
still very much a feminized occupation. So, according to stats

(09:41):
from the American Library Association, as of twenty ten, women
made up eighty two point eight percent of all librarians
and eighty one percent of all masters in library science students.

Speaker 5 (09:55):
Yeah, but it's not as diverse a field as ideal
it would be. Women of color actually comprise less than
sixteen percent of all librarians. And so this is another
very smintiesque tidbit.

Speaker 1 (10:13):
I love all the sintiesque tidbits.

Speaker 5 (10:15):
I know.

Speaker 1 (10:15):
I do remember tidbits. They were little cheese snacks.

Speaker 5 (10:18):
I don't think they make them anymore, but I ate
them so often as a child.

Speaker 4 (10:21):
I was about to say that smintyesque tidbits sounds like
like a British cookie.

Speaker 5 (10:26):
So we've got the library drink Library, drink library to
eat with our smintiesque tidbits.

Speaker 1 (10:32):
Oh man, I'm sorry.

Speaker 5 (10:33):
I will get back to the topic at hand, But
basically what I'm getting at is that, like teaching, and
we discussed this inner episode on teachers, if you want
to go back and check that out, men are disproportionately
represented at the top higher ranks of librarian ship and
library societies. So men make up forty percent of all

(10:53):
university library directors, and they earn a median one hundred
and eleven thousand dollars. It's basically always been this way,
even when the profession became incredibly feminized, and the ranks
were overwhelmingly.

Speaker 1 (11:08):
Filled by women.

Speaker 5 (11:10):
Men were still at the higher ranks of running the libraries,
and the bigger libraries too.

Speaker 4 (11:15):
Because of how Dewey and his male cohorts professionalized librarianship.
I mean, they essentially built this structure so that men
would stay at the top.

Speaker 1 (11:28):
Yeah. Yeah, We've got a quote about that later in
the episode.

Speaker 4 (11:31):
Yeah, and really quickly, speaking to the issue of diversity
and librarianship, we are going to talk about women of
color and librarianship and also libraries during the civil rights
movement in our next episode.

Speaker 1 (11:46):
To stay tuned. Stay tuned, because real red stuff to come.

Speaker 4 (12:01):
Let's talk about the original librarians who were fellows.

Speaker 1 (12:05):
They were well to do, educated guys. That's right.

Speaker 5 (12:10):
The original librarian, contrary to popular belief, was not the.

Speaker 1 (12:14):
Ghost from Ghostbusters.

Speaker 4 (12:15):
Oh remember I've never seen all of Ghostbusters.

Speaker 5 (12:22):
It's at the very beginning question mark up speak. They
go to the basement and she makes the Dewey decimal
cards fly everywhere. Oh yes, okay, probably so pissed about
Dewey being a jerk.

Speaker 1 (12:36):
AnyWho.

Speaker 5 (12:37):
Yeah, so the original librarians were dudes. They were curmudgeons.
They were curmudgeonly. As we have established.

Speaker 4 (12:47):
There's a great quote from an article about librarian stereotypes
and the development of them in American Libraries Magazine, which
I wouldn't mind subscribing to, which describes these the original
librarian image as fusty, white male curmudgeons.

Speaker 1 (13:05):
Yeah exactly.

Speaker 5 (13:06):
Yeah, so that's not even us slurring these male librarians.
So it sort of is Giles from Buffy. Yeah, totally.
I mean cardigans. I don't think that they didn't wear
cardigans back then, but you know, basically, so let's travel
back in time though, to this male dominated library era,
and this takes us back to the period before the

(13:28):
Civil War. We're gonna specifically visit Peterborough, New Hampshire in
eighteen thirty three, which is where we get the first free,
public tax supported library, and it was started by a
man named Abel Abbot. And I seriously like, I couldn't
get my internet to work before I came into the studio,
which is enraging. But I'm seriously wondering if I'm related

(13:50):
to him, because all of my people when they first
came to this country were in Vermont and New Hampshire,
and I have some Abbots in my family tree.

Speaker 4 (14:00):
You could be the descendant of all Able Abbott, which,
by the way, that's a great name.

Speaker 1 (14:04):
Abel Abbit. Well, when he.

Speaker 4 (14:06):
Arrived in Peterborough, he was on this mission to of uplift,
essentially saying, like, you know what, we should have a
place with books where everyone can come in and check
them out and read them if they want, so that
we can all become more virtuous and more virtuous Republican citizens.

Speaker 1 (14:27):
And we should note.

Speaker 4 (14:27):
That parochial libraries were established here in colonial America, but
this is the big transition to people actually paying to
support libraries, which the small town of Peterborough voted on
in a town meeting. They were like Able Abbot, that's
a terrific idea.

Speaker 1 (14:47):
We vote yay. We love places with books. Yes. And
then there was like one naysayer in the corner who's
like nay, and oh, Susan, sus all Susan than God,
all the town.

Speaker 5 (15:01):
But this makes sense that this was happening in America
at this time. So this was the Peterborough Library opened
in eighteen thirty three, and America was coming down with
reform fever.

Speaker 1 (15:13):
Oh yeah, This was the beginning of the reform era.

Speaker 4 (15:17):
So over the next few decades you're going to have
the rise of the temperance movement, labor reform, common schools,
which you can learn more about if you go back
and listen to our episode on teaching. They were also
advocating for prison reform, specifically not throwing debtors in prison.
The suffrage movement was coming about abolition. This was even

(15:41):
when we get the first vegetarian society.

Speaker 5 (15:44):
Yeah, and don't we have an episode? We have an
episode on vegetarian.

Speaker 1 (15:47):
Yes, we do. It's easy. Our catalog is large, it's bursty.

Speaker 4 (15:51):
Yeah, I feel like this is really everything's really coming together.

Speaker 1 (15:55):
And I know library episode.

Speaker 5 (15:57):
We've been getting so many emails lately, which makes me
very happy from new listeners, and I love being able
to respond in the affirmative that we do have episodes
in our back catalog that they are requesting.

Speaker 1 (16:08):
It's it's very fun and I.

Speaker 5 (16:10):
Enjoy I enjoy conversing with these new listeners.

Speaker 4 (16:12):
We almost need a Dewey decimal system for our seven
hundred episode plus library, although of course we would not
call it the Dewey decimal system for reasons. The listeners
will learn in just a little bit.

Speaker 1 (16:25):
Yeah, people are like, what is the deal with you
doing so much dewey hostility because women are so aggressive?

Speaker 4 (16:33):
Um.

Speaker 5 (16:34):
Yeah, so as you might imagine, because you know, christ
and I have definitely talked about this reform era and
the progressive era on the podcast before. But there were
a lot of ideas around virtue, people wanting to improve themselves,
help lift others so that they could improve themselves, and
free public libraries were part of that. They were considered

(16:58):
a sort of democratic gait way for citizens to be
able to better themselves and thus the country.

Speaker 4 (17:05):
And then you have the issue of common schools popping up.
These were kind of the predecessors to public schools happening
around the same time, but they really couldn't open these
schools fast enough, so libraries also became supplementary to public
school education because another background idea of all this, in

(17:26):
the whole push for virtue, was concerns that if they
didn't educate this younger generation of newly American citizens in
the ways of religion and Republican ideals, then you might, oh,
I don't know, have something.

Speaker 1 (17:45):
Like a civil war that would happen.

Speaker 4 (17:47):
Even though even though we got libraries, Unfortunately they could
not prevent a civil war.

Speaker 5 (17:52):
Well, I mean if, but if you look at it
from the other direction, it makes sense because if libraries
are part of a reform attitude abolition as part of that,
and educating people in the ways of, you know, not
being a jerk is all wrapped up in that, then
fighting to end slavery in public libraries seem.

Speaker 1 (18:13):
To go hand in hand. Very true. I like that
glass half full perspective.

Speaker 4 (18:18):
Now, Bostonians listening right now might be wondering why we
have not mentioned their library, because Boston does have a
claim to fame of opening the nation's first large public
library in eighteen fifty two. And I would like to
note that Boston the same year hired a female clerk.

Speaker 1 (18:40):
Oh fancy, so good on you, Boston, Good on you.
But the you know, the original is in tiny Peterborough. Yeah,
I'm sure I would love to go there. You know what, Caroline,
I think you can really Yeah, Okay, I'll have to
look into this.

Speaker 4 (18:58):
You just rent a horse and carriage from Uber.

Speaker 1 (19:02):
Oh yeah, and clippity clop to the East coast Cuber
Cuber carriage Uber or Huber for horses. I'm done. I'm done.
I'm done.

Speaker 5 (19:17):
So when these first libraries were being established, we've already
said that it was men running the show, running the
running the books, running the books, but it was associated
definitely with a higher class element of men working as librarians.

Speaker 1 (19:36):
But it was also associated with this idea.

Speaker 5 (19:39):
That you were a librarian because you had failed at
something else. Perhaps you had received a great education, but
you were not able to become a lawyer or a doctor.
So that's where we get the stereotype of the male
librarian who can't.

Speaker 1 (19:57):
Do so he libraries.

Speaker 4 (20:00):
Yeah, because it wasn't considered that much of an actual profession,
because oh, you're just babysitting books.

Speaker 1 (20:07):
What are I mean?

Speaker 5 (20:08):
It sounds great to me.

Speaker 1 (20:09):
You know, right, pushing a cart listening to music. I'm
telling you, God, if I had time to read. But
in this time, the masculine elite status.

Speaker 4 (20:19):
Was achieved through breeding, education and gentility, like hard work
was not the name of the game. So a leisurely
occupation considered leisurely in quotes occupation like librarianship was something
that would have fit into that ideal. Because there was
also this paternalistic mission of educating the poor through you know,

(20:44):
all of these books that you would essentially be babysitting
for them to come in and check out.

Speaker 1 (20:50):
And read reading.

Speaker 5 (20:54):
So earlier, you know, Kristen mentioned this, this shifting idea
of sculinity and what the ideal masculinity was. And this
happens after the Civil War. So rather than the ideal
man being this genteel elite who sits.

Speaker 1 (21:11):
At home, I don't know, smoking a bubble pipe, he
probably calls up a huber every now and then.

Speaker 5 (21:18):
As he probably owns huber.

Speaker 4 (21:21):
Well his father's father, did you know, when he first
came to this country and received a land grant.

Speaker 1 (21:29):
But so that's out.

Speaker 5 (21:30):
We were class warriors. Now we don't care so much
about being those genteel men wearing tights, and instead we
get the ideal of the capitalistic, self made man. You know,
we're leaving the babysitting and preservation of books and culture
to the womenfolk.

Speaker 4 (21:50):
Because this is also the era of separate spheres, you know,
this is the Victorian era is also coming in full steam,
and this shift in masculinity norms and the separation of
those spheres really positioned librarianship societally to become a female

(22:10):
dominated occupation, but at the same time it also fostered
a cultural and downright sexist reluctance to consider it a
bonafide profession like being a doctor or a lawyer, for instance,
because it was still associated with gentility. So that left

(22:33):
the male librarians of the day in a little bit
of a pickle because they're like, Okay, we realize that
this is rapidly becoming women's work, but we want to
be respected for this, so though, we're going to professionalize it.

Speaker 1 (22:48):
Yeah, and this is where Dewey finally comes in.

Speaker 5 (22:50):
All Melville Dewey, Melville Dewey, which is a really adorable name.

Speaker 4 (22:56):
It's a shame it's attached to such a jerk, the
labbit Melville Dewey.

Speaker 1 (23:01):
There's some good names in this effect.

Speaker 5 (23:02):
They all sound like cartoon characters too. But yeah, So
Melville Dewey and his book loving contemporaries mail book loving contemporaries,
I should say, wanted and therefore worked to professionalize the field.
They were like, we don't want any of this Lucy
gasey librarianing.

Speaker 4 (23:24):
Yeah, I mean, and Dewey was also motivated by that
shift into you know, the masculine ideal of the self
made man. So he was like, you know what, I'm
going to take advantage of this passion I have for
librarianship and this you know, mission to build these communities.

Speaker 1 (23:46):
But at the same time I need respect.

Speaker 4 (23:49):
So we're going to institute hierarchical organizing and standardizing of systems.

Speaker 1 (23:55):
Because at the.

Speaker 4 (23:56):
Time, you could have a library in Peter, New Hampshire,
which also doubles as the general store and the post office,
which wonderful, I know, right, a real one stop shop.

Speaker 1 (24:07):
Dudes love a hierarchy, it's true.

Speaker 4 (24:10):
But you have something like that, which might be a
little loosi er goosier, and then a Boston Public Library,
which is obviously much larger and are probably running on
different kinds of structures.

Speaker 1 (24:22):
So Dewey's million dollar idea, although I don't think he
ever made a million dollars.

Speaker 4 (24:27):
Off of it, was to basically institutionalize libraries.

Speaker 5 (24:34):
Yes, that's right, and we start to see the official
associations and organizations popping up. In eighteen seventy six we
get the founding of the American Library Association. So we
do have Dewey to thank for that, and he was
member number one, because.

Speaker 1 (24:49):
Of course he was. Of course he was, and he
like that.

Speaker 4 (24:53):
He's like the commenters on YouTube videos. First yeah, really
adding to the die.

Speaker 1 (25:00):
Oh yeah.

Speaker 5 (25:01):
And in eighteen eighty seven, Columbia College establishes its School
of Library Economy. So schools are being established. The next
stop on this journey is surely the continuing trajectory of
librarianship becoming even more professionalized.

Speaker 4 (25:19):
Right, but no, no, because the Columbia College was essentially
like going to a technical school, because that's what you
would be learning. It would be getting more of an
associate's degree rather than a full bachelor degree. Partially because
it was rapidly becoming so feminized. Because you know, libraries,

(25:40):
even from the very beginning, as is the case today,
did not tend to have huge budgets. They were supported
by taxes and also trustees, and they were like, you
know what, we need a lot of cheap labor, similar
as was happening in public schools at the time, Like, okay,
we need a.

Speaker 1 (25:58):
Teachers and librarians who is really cheap and does not
have a lot of job opportunities.

Speaker 5 (26:05):
Oh right, women, Women were a cost saving measure in
the same way that it's like let's use the cheaper
you know, desks, or let's buy robots.

Speaker 4 (26:15):
I don't know if those are cheaper. I don't know
how much of robots going for these days. Probably more
than I can afford.

Speaker 5 (26:22):
But we are about we're on now the precipice of
the Dewey period, and we're gonna introduce you more to
Dewey when we come right back from a quick break.

Speaker 4 (26:42):
So let's talk a bit more about Melville Dewy and
the whole Dewey period, which is the period of librarianship
from around eighteen eighty seven to nineteen twenty three. Because
I mean Dewey, yes, what is kind of the father
of librarianship.

Speaker 1 (27:03):
But he was an intense man. Yeah, that's I feel
like that's very generous.

Speaker 4 (27:10):
Yes, that is, so please tell our listeners more about
just like the type of dude that Dewey was.

Speaker 5 (27:16):
Yeah, dude, we did we stop trying to make such happen. Caroline, Well, yeah,
he was intense. He for one, he he absolutely hated
the idea of wasted time. He advocated for us, all
all of US Americans to not only adopt the metric system,
which isn't crazy, that's pretty smart, but he also advocated

(27:40):
for shortening words and everyone using.

Speaker 1 (27:45):
Shorthand. So was dewe we kind of ahead of his
time for tech speak? Yeah? Yeah, was he totes totes
ahead of his time? He was totes ahead of his time.

Speaker 5 (27:55):
But part of that uh tendency, I guess is that
he literally had his wife record how each minute of
her day was spent because he wanted to be sure
that his spouse was not twiddling her thumbs during the day.

Speaker 4 (28:14):
Are there some contemporary scholars who suggest that Dewey probably
had some type of OCD?

Speaker 5 (28:21):
Yeah, So we read this fascinating article giving a glimpse
into Dewey's background, and the authors write that he very
likely had legit obsessive compulsive personality disorder, which briefly lets.

Speaker 1 (28:36):
Distinguish that from OCD.

Speaker 5 (28:37):
So OCD is obviously when you have obsessive and compulsive
tendencies but they are unwelcome. You have intrusive thoughts and
intrusive compulsions and you realize it's terrible and you hate it,
but you're powerless over it, whereas oc PD, those compulsions
and obsessions energize you. So in this article, he's compared

(29:01):
to like an earlier Steve Jobs and his very likely
AICPD is also associated with his extremely turbulent and questionable
interpersonal relationships, which, as we are about to dive into,
were largely with women.

Speaker 1 (29:19):
Yeah, I mean, and.

Speaker 4 (29:21):
It sounds like from everything that we've read about doing that,
his mind just never stopped because, in addition to his
librarianship passion, he was also an innovator. Generally, he was
always kind of trying to start up little entrepreneurial side
hustles that would never really take off. And when he

(29:41):
really dove into librarianship, on the one hand, he sounds
really progressive at first because in eighteen eighty three he
hired six Wellesley grads to help him organize the Columbia
University Library, and of course Wellesley is a women's college,
and the Columbia University staff were scandalized at the idea

(30:04):
of this guy hiring women.

Speaker 5 (30:06):
That those vaginas were way too close. Yeah, get those
vaginas out.

Speaker 4 (30:11):
Of here, well, I mean, and how incompetent they must be,
and how could you be in such close quarters with them,
and Dewey, you know, is kind of championing them, being like,
no women have brains and they're pretty good at using them.
So point for Dewey, that's all. That's really the only
point I can give him.

Speaker 1 (30:29):
Though.

Speaker 5 (30:30):
Yeah, I feel like this is echoes of our look
into Jay Mary and Sims, where it's like, oh, god,
you contributed so much, but you were also the works
are our.

Speaker 1 (30:39):
Father of gynecology, as he's called. Yeah.

Speaker 5 (30:42):
So four years later, in eighteen eighty seven, Dewey insists
that women be admitted to Columbia's newly established Library School,
and again the trustees freak out, Oh my god, we're
gonna have all these hysterical women around us working with books.
This is crazy, And that's actually a little bit ironic,
like people who were freaking out to worry about hysterical women.

Speaker 1 (31:03):
Right.

Speaker 4 (31:03):
And also by this time, I mean there were a
lot of women working as clerks and assistants in librarians
but of course Columbia University at the time was exclusively male.

Speaker 5 (31:15):
Yeah, most of those women were able to keep their
uteruses from floating away.

Speaker 4 (31:19):
Well, they probably had to kind of, you know, tighten
their corsets, yeah, hold it in.

Speaker 5 (31:23):
Well, they got you know, when you get the balloon
at the grocery store, and they gave it a little
plastic discs to weigh it down.

Speaker 1 (31:28):
Yes, I think that's what they were doing.

Speaker 4 (31:29):
Oh yeah, they had weighted corsets, right, gotcha. Well, Dewey,
to his credit, was like, okay, listen to these trustees
are not going to officially let these women in. So
from what it sounded like, he kind of claimed a
little space like a closet.

Speaker 1 (31:47):
Yeah, basically, he had a shed.

Speaker 4 (31:48):
He found a shed on the Columbia University campus and
was like, ladies.

Speaker 1 (31:54):
Come on, just come into the shed.

Speaker 5 (31:56):
Ladies, ladies, ladies, that doesn't sound shady at all.

Speaker 4 (31:59):
I know.

Speaker 1 (31:59):
Ye, Dewey's shady shed.

Speaker 4 (32:04):
But he was training these women under the radar essentially
until finally everything came to a head and Colombia was like, listen,
this is not okay.

Speaker 1 (32:17):
You have to stop, like have to. We're you gotta
get out of this.

Speaker 5 (32:22):
She hate women and we hate that you're in the
shed with them.

Speaker 4 (32:26):
Uh So Dewey resigns in a huff, which, again like
good on Dewey. Okay, he like stuck by his guns,
and in eighteen eighty nine he's like, peace out Columbia
and he transfers the technical school to the New York
State Library, and as we'll talk about more in the

(32:48):
next episode, he did train during this period some superstar
students who became like pioneers in libraries, who created some
of the state of libraries that we still use today.

Speaker 5 (33:03):
Well, sure, I mean, like you said, Kristen, he was
absolutely an innovator, and he did believe in women's abilities.

Speaker 1 (33:10):
To do this work.

Speaker 5 (33:11):
And he also, man or woman, had incredibly high expectations
of the people who surrounded him. And so if you
were a like minded person who also wanted to have
a job, work outside the home, wanted to work around
books all day, wanted to push those cards, and wanted
to learn from someone brilliant, then it makes sense that

(33:35):
some pretty brilliant women would come out from under.

Speaker 1 (33:38):
His tutelage as well.

Speaker 5 (33:40):
It makes sense, But a lot of not so great
things came out of his working with so many women too.

Speaker 4 (33:48):
Yeah, they're On the one hand, he really got along
better with women than he did.

Speaker 1 (33:53):
Oh yeah with men.

Speaker 5 (33:54):
Well, he was surrounded almost entirely by women. He almost
refused to associate with other men.

Speaker 4 (34:00):
And in a way, he's kind of the Florence Nightingale
of librarians because weird, well, because Florence Nightingale stepped in
with nursing and was like, dudes, get out of here.
Women are better suited for this. Like temperamentally, women are
suited better to this job. They're nurturing and tender, and
men you just you can't. You don't have any bedside manners,

(34:21):
So get out of here. And in the same way,
Dewey thought that women were even better suited than men
for these technical jobs, more of the assistant ships and
doing all of the organizing rather than the administrating. And
the thing is, when he was, you know, running his

(34:43):
library school, he had some peculiar application requirements for his
female students, including their height, weight, hair color, eye color,
and a photo which I have a feeling that, like
in eighteen eighty nine, in eighteen ninety getting a photo
of yourself seems like you would be kind of hard, right,

(35:05):
you could like snap a selfie, but in his words,
he wanted to know that they would be attractive enough
because quote.

Speaker 1 (35:13):
You can't polish a pumpkin.

Speaker 4 (35:17):
What that has to do with organizing books and classifying them,
I don't know, but he didn't want any pumpkins essentially.

Speaker 5 (35:27):
Yeah, and one of these articles that we read in
the Library Association magazine by Joshua Kendall, you femistically referred
to Dewey as a quote serial hugger and kisser and
a literary litherario with quirks. Yes, seriously quirks. I mean
that makes it sound like your dad's or your grandfather's,

(35:49):
like creepy friend who you know, like we've all I
feel like we've all known that we've all met creepy Jim,
Like why yeah, creepy Jim Batman, why are you hugging me?

Speaker 1 (35:59):
Why are you?

Speaker 5 (36:00):
I don't want the sloppy kiss on the cheek, Like
this is gross. It makes him sound like a harmless
duttering Is that a word?

Speaker 1 (36:07):
Old fool who.

Speaker 5 (36:08):
Like I don't know what's bad and good, I'm gonna
hug you.

Speaker 1 (36:12):
Oh but he did.

Speaker 4 (36:14):
He absolutely did, getting you know, all of those heights weights,
and as Joshua Kendall emphasized.

Speaker 1 (36:22):
Not their bust size, he was like, there is a myth.

Speaker 4 (36:25):
That that Dewey wanted to know their bus size.

Speaker 1 (36:28):
That's that's not true. No, because he had the picture
with which to judge exactly.

Speaker 4 (36:33):
And this whole sexual harasser side of Dewey is something
that has only come to light in more recent decades
because earlier biographies of him, of course, didn't really talk about.

Speaker 1 (36:46):
They were like decimal system.

Speaker 4 (36:48):
He was really smart, and he had quirks, but he
I mean, he essentially sexually harassed many of his students.
We had two assistants that lived with him and his
wife in Albany, New York, both of whom were repeatedly harassed.

Speaker 1 (37:08):
And Joshua Kendall.

Speaker 4 (37:10):
I have a little bone to pick with Joshua Kendall
and the way he wrote this Dewey profile in the
Ala magazine, because he says, yes, there are records of
him having unwanted contact with his assistants, but they never
reported it to authorities. It was like WHOA, Okay, Well,

(37:30):
the term sexual harassment didn't exist for another century, mister Kendall.
But even though that term didn't exist, there came a point.
It was so egregious that he became known as essentially
a sexual harasser.

Speaker 1 (37:46):
However you would have called it at that time.

Speaker 4 (37:49):
And apparently things peaud And went public in a Library
Association meeting conference in Alaska, which that seems like a
pretty exotic trip to take where he made four librarians,
female librarians at the time, feel incredibly uncomfortable, and since

(38:13):
they were already in the profession, they.

Speaker 1 (38:16):
Weren't his assistants under his tutelage.

Speaker 4 (38:19):
They were like, whoa, Okay, there's a problem here, and
it is your hands on my body without my consent.

Speaker 1 (38:27):
Ah.

Speaker 5 (38:27):
Yeah, well, I mean no, they didn't have the words
sexual harassment to use, but you did have Tessa Kelso,
who was the Los Angeles Public Library director, who said,
for many years, women librarians have been the special prey
of mister Dewey in a series of outrages upon decency.
In other words, he is a sexual harassing creep.

Speaker 4 (38:51):
Well, and Mary Wright Plumber, who was one of his
original students who will talk more about in our next episode,
would eventually become the president of the American Library Association
in nineteen fourteen, and once she got in that role,
she refused to meet with Dewey.

Speaker 5 (39:10):
Yeah, but not only for her sake, But I got
the impression reading the article that it was also in
solidarity with other women who had dealt with his crap. Yeah,
the like, I promise I won't meet with this guy.
Like I don't want to talk to him, and I
know y'all don't want to be around him either.

Speaker 4 (39:24):
But as all of this was going on in the
background and sometimes in the foreground, the library education that
he and other male counterparts were architecting at this time
was really designed for essentially training.

Speaker 1 (39:41):
Yes, a lot of women.

Speaker 4 (39:42):
They were welcoming women into the fold, but it was
training them for lower level positions of being clerk's assistants,
maybe the heads of smaller libraries. To the point that
publicly librarianship was just considered this, you know, kind of
rowaway job for women. They didn't get paid really anything

(40:04):
at all. It didn't have a reputation of being super
respectable because you couldn't.

Speaker 1 (40:10):
Go very far in it.

Speaker 4 (40:12):
So the American Library Association was like, Okay, we need
to kind of burnish our image. So they said, you
know what high level librarianship being like a capital l librarian,
like a Dewey, that is something that you were born with.

Speaker 1 (40:28):
That's such crap.

Speaker 5 (40:29):
I know when I read that, I couldn't believe it,
because how can you whether it's eighteen seventy, nineteen seventy,
or twenty seventy, Like, seriously, how can you read that
and believe it, but librarrianship, no, I just can't like.

Speaker 4 (40:46):
But that also, but that also speaks to the paternalism
of the occupation at the time too, because they really
did think they I mean, they kind of had a
little bit of a christ complex about.

Speaker 1 (40:58):
It, sure well.

Speaker 5 (40:59):
And I mean, who it's not like they were saying,
you're born with it, whether you're a man or a woman, right,
and whether it's Mabelne, you are born with it because
you're a man.

Speaker 1 (41:11):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (41:11):
And that's something that the author of a paper we
were reading on the feminization of librarian pointed out sort
of an outrage at this idea of the suggestion that
being a librarian was something that you would be born
with because, as she wrote, because it also required being
born with a penis.

Speaker 1 (41:30):
Yeah. So yeah, although maybe you come out of the
womb with a little book.

Speaker 5 (41:35):
In your hand, well then yeah, maybe you are born
to be a librarian.

Speaker 4 (41:39):
So but with this hierarchy that they were establishing, you
have sort of a pyramid structure with the much higher
paid administrators usually men, at the top in place to
kind of tamp down on individuals being able to rise.

Speaker 1 (41:59):
Up through the ranks.

Speaker 4 (42:00):
So unlike university faculty at the time, which would have
been mostly men, if you were a professor, you could
make a name for yourself as a professor and would
probably be better known than say, the administrator of that university.
But with librarianship and same thing going on with the

(42:21):
development of public school teaching and the feminization of that,
you have these strict standards put in place to essentially
just like level the playing field, So you kind of.

Speaker 1 (42:35):
Have to stay in these little boxes.

Speaker 4 (42:38):
Yeah, and it's really hard to break through the ranks.
You kind of have to go around being a clerker
assistant and jump right into administration.

Speaker 1 (42:47):
But they weren't training them in the.

Speaker 4 (42:49):
Library schools because again they thought that it was something
at that time that you would be born with slash penis.

Speaker 5 (42:57):
And I mean, obviously in the next episode we're going
to talk more about women and feminization specifically, but there
was one source that we read that cited a male library,
contemporary male librarian who was saying all of this stuff
about how the fact that the lower ranks in libraries

(43:18):
were dominated by women is what ruined essentially ruined the field,
which is hilarious if it weren't so depressing because when
you look at this stuff, like things were engineered to basically,
like you were saying, keep women in their box or
in their lane, keep people from advancing up the ranks.
And so if you establish a system where the only

(43:42):
people who are in those higher ranked positions are like
clearly born to be there, and they happen to be men, well,
how can you break that bookish ceiling?

Speaker 1 (43:52):
I mean, you really can't.

Speaker 4 (43:53):
Yeah, I mean, it's also such an ironic contrast of
the lofty mission of those top library administrators of considering
themselves really the arbiters of culture and learning and virtue
for all of these communities and these developing urban centers,

(44:16):
but at the same time keeping women's work in the
field devalued.

Speaker 1 (44:22):
Yeah.

Speaker 5 (44:23):
And it's also worth noting, if we jump forward in
our timeline, that in nineteen thirty a seventy eight year
old Dewey settled for two thousand dollars a sexual harassment
lawsuit brought against him. And of course, again we don't
have the term sexual harassment yet, which should tell you
something even more that before people were literally and legally

(44:44):
protected from issues of sexual harassment.

Speaker 1 (44:47):
A woman sued him for his behavior.

Speaker 4 (44:51):
Which is why I suggested to Caroline that the Doe
decimal system should be renamed to what not Sure, but listeners,
I am open to suggestions because there's so many amazing
women librarians that you could name it after. But of course,
I mean, that's never gonna happen. But because we're only

(45:12):
just now really acknowledging the fact that Dewey in his
personal life was kind of a shady dude.

Speaker 1 (45:18):
Not kind of he was a shady dude. He was
a shady dude.

Speaker 5 (45:21):
But in that regard, I really am interested to hear
from our librarian listeners. I know, you guys have a
lot to tell us about Dewey, and so I'm interested to.

Speaker 1 (45:31):
Hear, Like, do you do you feel a degree.

Speaker 5 (45:34):
Of conflict when you look at him as the father
of librarianship who was also shady in the shed?

Speaker 1 (45:41):
Yeah?

Speaker 4 (45:41):
I mean, because that is the thing that his profiler,
Joshuma Kendall, in that Ala Magazine piece, was kind of
wavering between like the acknowledgment of like, Okay, yeah, he
was a quote serial hugger and kisser, but he was
so brilliant and he, you know, gave us this thing
which did revolutionize our learning, our public learning.

Speaker 5 (46:05):
Yeah, I mean Steve Jobs was also a creep, but
we all have iPhones, you know.

Speaker 4 (46:09):
I mean yeah, it's like, do the ends justify the
sexually harassing means?

Speaker 1 (46:15):
Yeah?

Speaker 5 (46:15):
And I mean I'm not saying that Steve Jobs is
the harasser. I don't know about that. I just know
that he was incredibly difficult, right and.

Speaker 1 (46:22):
Tempestuous.

Speaker 4 (46:23):
Well, yeah, they seem to have similar temperaments for sure.
But quickly, in terms of men and librarian stereotypes, because
it was so feminized so quickly by the time you
get into the twentieth century, you get the stereotype of

(46:44):
male librarians having to be gay because how could a
straight guy want to do quote unquote women's work. Yeah,
and it seems like from more recent research that the
stereotype has fallen away and that men don't feel, you know,
uncomfortable being librarians because they worried that people might assume

(47:04):
that they're gay, like they might have and say like
nineteen fifty or sixty. But in terms of that administrative hierarchy,
after World War Two, there was I think from the
American Library Association a recruitment effort specifically for men, to
get more men in libraries, but not as clerks or assistants,

(47:29):
but into administrative.

Speaker 1 (47:30):
Roles make libraries great again. Yeah, so it just it
just kept on going.

Speaker 4 (47:35):
So with this, we're going to close the book on
dudes and librarians. Dudes and dewey dewey dudes and librarians.
We absolutely want to hear from you about this.

Speaker 1 (47:50):
And male librarians listening. We want you to weigh into.

Speaker 4 (47:53):
We want everyone to weigh in, and also quickly thank
you librarians teachers. I feel like they are always so
undervalued in our communities but indispensable. So mom Stuff at
housetuffworks dot com is our email address. You can also
tweet us at mom stuff podcasts or messages on Facebook,

(48:13):
and we've got a couple of messages to share with
you right now.

Speaker 5 (48:22):
So I have a letter here from Ella in response
to our Boston marriages episode.

Speaker 1 (48:26):
She says, I think Boston.

Speaker 5 (48:28):
Marriages may be more common than we think among young people.
I'm not that aunt yet, but I have every intention
of being one eventually. My roommate, that's her quotes and
my ridiculous way of speaking, my quote unquote roommate and
I are both in our twenties. We share a bed
and a dog and often describe each other as our
girlfriend or partner to explain why we have no interest

(48:50):
in dating other people. But neither of us is into ladies.
We're just uninterested in traditional romantic entanglements. I'm a sexual
and she's a lapsed great person who's disillusioned with men.
And we save an awful lot on rent by sharing
a bedroom and a wardrobe. I've never seen a reason
why I would want to stop living with a roommate,
even if I could afford it, other.

Speaker 1 (49:11):
Than that's what's expected of me.

Speaker 5 (49:13):
It's a sleepover every day, and my ten year old
self is really and truly living the dream.

Speaker 1 (49:18):
Thanks for the awesome episode.

Speaker 5 (49:19):
I never knew what to call what we do before,
and it's genuinely a great relief to have a label
to apply to myself other than just weird.

Speaker 1 (49:27):
And if I ever marry her for tax reasons.

Speaker 5 (49:29):
The invitation is absolutely going to read please join us
in celebrating our Boston marriage, and everyone but you and
me will just think it's a weird reference to the
fact that we lived in Boston for a while. You're
totally invited, Well, thank you.

Speaker 1 (49:44):
Ella for that great story.

Speaker 4 (49:46):
So I have a letter here from Francis also about
our Boston Marriage's episode and France's writes.

Speaker 1 (49:53):
I grew up in the Bible Belt.

Speaker 4 (49:54):
And never knew that lesbian couplings were so accepted. I
don't have a personal experience with Boston marriage, but whatever
the male equivalent is, I do. My grandfather was originally
a New Englander, but after marrying my grandmother, they moved
to North Carolina, where my mother was born, and I
spent most of my life. I didn't know anything about
same sex couplings, and growing up in the eighties and nineties,

(50:16):
we frequently visited confirmed bachelor friends of my grandfathers. Not
until many years later did I realize those men were
actually long term, monogamous gay men. My parents are extremely
against homosexuality, but to hear my mother lovingly speak of
these men is interesting. I think a lot of our
society's issues come from not understanding the humanity of people

(50:38):
who are different than us and refusing to know them
as individuals with feelings and personalities.

Speaker 1 (50:44):
All that said, is there a term for men in
Boston marriages? I'd be interested to know.

Speaker 4 (50:50):
Love the podcast and now I forced my husband to listen.

Speaker 1 (50:54):
Well, thank you so much, Francis.

Speaker 4 (50:57):
I think that we could call male Boston marriages, what like,
maybe like a Philly.

Speaker 1 (51:04):
Marriage, Key West marriages, Key West marriages.

Speaker 4 (51:08):
Yeah, what's a really like dudely City San Antonio marriages?

Speaker 1 (51:16):
Sure well, keep your letters.

Speaker 4 (51:19):
Coming, mom, stuff at hellstuffworks dot Com is our email
address and for links to all of our social media as
well as all of our blogs, videos, and podcasts with
our sources. So you too can learn about Melville Dewey,
head on over to stuff Mom Never Told You dot com.

(51:39):
For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit
houstuffworks dot com

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