Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Biddies: Library's Good Ol' Boys

Not to be confused with Bitties.
Every long standing organization has an exclusive network of members, better known as Good Ol' Boys.  The Library is a woman’s world, there is no denying it and it will stay this way to the end when these myopic librarians run the field into the ground.  Within the few levels of the public library hierarchy, there, not-surprisingly, exists a network of these women who have banded together and only look out for “their kind.”  

I always knew how clique-y my library coworkers were when I first started out as a page.  You can see them huddled together, whispering about coworkers at the desk and in the backroom.  I never had the proper word for them until my friend mentioned one of her older coworkers refer to them as “the biddies.”  Brilliant.

In order to "be down" with The Biddies you have to look like them, whether in physical appearance or dress.  You have to act like them, think like them, manage like them, and talk just like them.  Something I don't find easy to do when I see them mismanaging left and right.  You have to play by their rules even if they don't make any sense at all.  It's their way or the highway. 

Within the library system, there is not much room for any employee movement, vertical or horizontal.  If it isn't bad enough that one can't work their way into a management position, you could be stuck at one of these mismanaged branches with no choices but to suck it up and stay or leave the system in the hopes for greener pastures.  Nowadays, when a position opens up, there are a lot more applicants than ever before.  That is if your resume even gets any consideration in the first place.  Even when positions are only open to current library staff, you can still get screwed over by the biddies.  As the saying goes, it’s not about what you know, but who you know.

The Biddy Network has done nothing but erode staff moral throughout all the branches.  Two employees apply for the same promotion, both currently work the same position and have similar education and experience, but only one is forwarded to interview because the other is deemed, "unqualified."  An employee jumps from being a page to a circ manager when other better qualified circ people applied as well.  If this only occurred once or twice, I would chalk it up to a poor pool of candidates, but this happens every single damn time a position opens up, no matter what level it is.  I could go on and on with examples I've collected during my time at the library.

Even when your name gets forwarded for a position and you set up your interview you can't help but feel it's a waste of time.  Management already knows who they want for the position, but because of requirements/laws, they have to hold interviews all under the pretenses of "fairness."  Sitting at the end of the table as an interviewee it feels very patronizing.  I feel like cutting through all the BS and saying, "Let's keep it real, you already have someone in mind for this position and it isn't me.  So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time."  Sure, I could turn down the interview to begin with, but that would just give the biddies further reason to blacklist me from the beginning of the hiring process: "Bibliotecher - doesn't show any motivation."  I falsely tell coworkers who ask how the interview went that, "it was good for experience."

You don't have to be someone who doesn't follow rules or is a complete pain to work with in order to be blacklisted by the biddies.  One of my old coworkers would repeated get turned down for positions, while those around her would move up.  She's smart and a hard-worker, something that never gets any recognition.  She just isn't a carbon copy of what the biddies look for.  They are very judgmental and narrow-minded; you could describe them as xenophobic.

The way the biddies run everything it can be considered organizational inbreeding.  Hiring and promoting more "yes-people" to appease their group ego or whatever their delusional motive is.  Because libraries have been run like this for so long, they are constantly fighting for relevance, for the institution as a whole and the profession.  If libraries actually let in and promoted capable people who "think differently" they would realize how complementary it would be to their mission.

Diversity breeds stability...


  1. You have no idea how much that resonates. We have a small biddy clique here, and they are making life hell for everyone else. Inbreeding indeed.

    1. Oh CLAN-B, I know it doesn't count for much, but you're not in this struggle alone. Soon we shall revolt and overthrow them.

  2. Recently found your blog and have been sucked in. I don't think my old library had biddies this bad, but I was flat-out told that most new positions are written with the person they want to hire in mind. Volunteered for three years, including while I was in library school. Couldn't even get a job at the circ desk(To be fair, the latest children's librarian and I got along very well...there were just no jobs to be had).

    1. Hey Anon,
      I'm glad there's someone out there that enjoys my digital ranting. It seems to me, like my opinions about "The Library" vary wildly from the doe-eyed, overly optimistic types.

      I do hope that you've been able to find a full-time librarian job since then.