I was reading the comments of a recent post about librarian pet peeve's on the Swiss Army Librarian, and several librarians expressed frustration with people who are surprised that we have advanced degrees, who think we read books all day, or who think that we are also students. I left a comment there but since I should actually blog for once, I figured I'd put my thoughts here as well.
I worked in a public library in high school as a shelver, but until I went to library school (and actually, I would argue, until I became a librarian), I still had no idea what librarians did all day. I'm not sure I'd have guessed they just read books, but I wouldn't have known they'd needed Master's degrees. And for that matter, not all people who make really great librarians have advanced degrees, especially in smaller public libraries.
I currently work at an academic library, and I'm fairly young. Sure, students think I'm a student, but that actually works to my advantage - they are more likely to consult peers than elders. Plus, at 28, I don't mind them thinking I'm 22 or thereabouts. :) Not to mention, I've contemplated getting a second master's here, so perhaps one day I'll be both a librarian and a student.
I've occasionally used comments about reading books all day to explain what it is we do. People may or may not be receptive to that. I've definitely had friends and acquaintances ask what exactly librarians do, and I'm always happy to tell them.
Now, if patrons are being very rude about any of these things, clearly implying being a librarian is lesser than another job, etc, that's a different story. But usually, in my experience, it's just ignorance not rudeness. I'd rather use the opportunity to correct the misconception than to dwell on it.