December 10, 2023

Gender in Tech Librarianship

Certainly I’ve written about this issue before, and I will keep writing about it until there are no more reasons to do so. But the reason why I’m writing about the issue of gender imbalance in library tech is because I was recently at the Internet Librarian Conference in Monterey, CA, where my esteemed professional colleague and completely famous Sarah Houghton, “Librarian in Black” had organized a panel on this very topic.

The panelists all gave a brief statement from their own experience and perspective (a mix of both women and men), then a microphone was carried around the room for the attendees to provide their own perspectives and stories. And the stories of harassment, put-downs, insults, marginalization, and worse, just rolled right in.

Unfortunately, I was surprised. Surprised because these were not the kind of subtle kinds of discrimination that I knew went on and that I try to prevent or alleviate. For example, packing a speaking panel with men, which happens all to often and a reason for which I have refused to participate at times. No, these stories were much more obvious, egregious, and, in some cases, breathtaking — and not in a good way.

At the end of the program I left depressed. Depressed that such things were happening on a regular basis — not yesterday, not a long time ago, but today. Depressed because since I’d never witnessed anything near what many of the stories related, I was mystified about how I could help prevent them.

But at least getting this out in the open is a start. The unfortunate thing is that those who really needed to be there most likely weren’t, nor will they ever be. So it’s up to us who were in the room, or would have been had they had the chance, to work harder to make all of our workplaces welcoming to all. Until that day arrives, we will soldier on.

At this conference we had the opportunity to have the necessary information sharing. Perhaps at the next one (and ongoing throughout the year in virtual form) we could share some strategies for making things better. That’s a program I could get behind.



Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Alex Zealand says:

    Do you know whether Sarah, or someone else, has submitted a similar panel for Computer In Libraries 2014?