I’m so excited to share with y’all today another librarian style profile! This is a series I do to highlight different kinds of librarians and different style perspectives of librarians. This profile features Yoko Hirose Nagao, a library consultant in Japan.
About a month ago, Yoko contacted me to let me know that she had included my blog, Librarian for Life + Style, in a self-published booklet she had put together for her company, a booklet for Japanese librarians and information professionals about style and breaking librarian stereotypes. How cool is that?! I was thrilled to be included — and her comment that “I believe your blog will inspire Japanese librarians/Info professionals” made my day!
So then sensing an opportunity, I asked Yoko if she would consider sharing her own style journey on my blog, and she agreed. 🙂 I’m so excited to highlight Yoko’s perspective on librarian style, as well as her non-traditional journey in librarianship and library-related support services.
Thanks so much, Yoko, for sharing your story and style!
Brief bio and background as a librarian (or MLS experience):
I graduated from Japanese university with the bachelor’s degree in Library and Information Science in 1988, then started my career as a school librarian in a private elementary school. But less than a year I quit the school and joined in a database company which produced several databases mainly targeting public and academic libraries. I worked there for 14 years. For the first 5 years, I was working as an indexer for a magazine article database. The indexer job is now completely extinct though. Then I shifted my career and worked for sales and marketing for the rest of 11 years.
In September 2002, when I was 36, my husband died of a disease. He was 42. I strongly felt how life is short and how unexpected things could happen at any time, and thought about how I can live the rest of my life. So I decided to quit the company and to go to the U.S. to change my life in a big way. I had then four children who were 13, 11, 8, and 5; two boys and two girls. They all went with me. I joined in a master’s course at University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences, and started a new life as a triple-jobber: student, mother, and a librarian. I was hired as a reference librarian in a half-time faculty position for the Japan Information Center of East Asian Library at U Pitt.
I got an MLS in 2005, and luckily got a sales position in Tokyo just before graduation in Thomson Scientific (later changed to Thomson Reuters, now Clarivate Analytics). My children and I came back to Japan in the summer in 2005.
Then I worked for the company for 10 years, mainly as salesperson of citation databases and analytical tools for academia. In 2015, I left the company and started my own business. Now I am doing a library-related business, including consultancy work for a private company that is managing public libraries in Japan.
How would you describe your style?
Actually, I had been a sartorially challenged person for a long time. In that sense, I was a very stereotypical librarian.
However, in 2014 when I was 47, I met a woman through my alumni network, who had been working in the cutting edge of fashion business. She was then doing image consulting for people, like company owners or politicians. I asked her if it’s possible to style me because I really thought I needed a change. She was happy to do that, then totally changed my style from the top to bottom. Before styling, I was always in black and gray as if I was going to funeral, but my friend said I need more color, especially primary colors such as orange and yellow. So now I’m always trying to keep the theory that she taught me: less than three colors in total, wear the right size, color my hair with a color other than black, and never tug my hair back tightly.
(When I went to the office after the styling, my HR colleague called someone sneakily and asked who is that woman sitting Yoko’s chair. She couldn’t totally recognize me. Not only her but many my colleagues were surprised).
Do you have any strong opinions or thoughts about the connection between style and your profession as a librarian?
I’m not a librarian now but closely working with public librarians. What I always feel is many of them don’t present their attractiveness on the outside even though they are intelligent, knowledgeable and funny on the inside. They even seem to think styling is “low taste” compared to talking about books.
But if they got more interested in style, they could be more powerful because style is a very useful communication tool, and librarianship definitely needs communication skills. In order to appeal to others how libraries are important in the time when everything is thought to be searchable by Google, librarians need more proactive PR skills about the importance of libraries.
Do you have a “casual Friday” policy at your work? Or do you institute your own personal “casual Friday” dress code?
I am now working independently, so what I have is “casual everyday” wear. Only when I need to meet someone special outside, I wear suits, but it doesn’t happen often times. That’s one of the reasons I am happy to be independent.
Do you plan your outfits in advance, or go with how you feel on the day?
Like I said above, I still don’t know which blouse is matched to which pants, skirts etc., so I plan my outfits according to my consultant friend’s theory.
Do your casual and work styles differ?
When I go to library for work (as a consultant) I’m try to be in black, because librarians wear uniforms in black and white, and I don’t want to stand out.
Any other personal style tidbits/faves you’d like to share?
I like kimono. It is now unusual for Japanese women to put on kimono by themselves because it’s very hard, but I can wear by myself. I started to learn how to wear kimono in 2007, when I wanted to be on the podium ofan award ceremony in kimono for a company’s world sales meeting. Now I go out in kimono to some fancy restaurants, concerts, kabuki, etc.
Thank you so much, Yoko!
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