Monday, September 10, 2012

Old Librarians vs. New Librarians, What about the Middle?

I only thought that a few select readers visited my blog, because quite frankly, this blog is generally all over the place.  My personal thoughts and views mostly come off as negative and snarky, and the majority of librarians/library workers disagree, sometimes vehemently, with me.  So it was a nice surprise to see a reply from Miss Gina Milsap about a post I made about her comments when she was running for ALA Presidency this past year.  I really do believe there needs to be more open discussion and debate within the profession if it is to make any progress in the digital world.

I wanted to make my reply a post instead of a comment to bring this to "The Front-page" so to speak.  Seeing as how comments on this blog are open to the public, I'm going to repost the comment here [edited to insert line breaks]:

"Sorry to be so late to the party. I just found your post. With respect, you've misinterpreted what I meant. That's the problem with not having a real conversation and not seeking clarification. In my library, we've created a cohort of librarian leaders. None of them are in formal leadership at this time, but we are investing in them with training and assignments to be leaders and to demonstrate the value of librarians within the institution and in the community. I had wonderful mentors as a new librarian and I'm paying that forward with less colleaguesin my own library and around the country.

 Here's what I meant with my statement about new graduates moving into management. Look at the data --- we are graduating more entry level librarians than there are positions available. So, what does a new graduate do? He or she either seeks a job out of the profession or seeks a position for which they may not have all the qualifications, specifically experience. My point was that we need to look to library education to help prepare newly graduated librarians for the reality of the workplace they're coming into. If the only job available is supervisory, how do we help them improve their chance to stay in the profession?

That is what I'm seeing as a library administrator with 35 years of experience in the profession and 16 years as a public library director. Not all librarians will make good managers, regardless of their tenure in the profession. The goal should be to identify those folks whether they're already in libraries or in library school and make sure they're prepared to lead and manage effectively. Thanks for the opportunity to comment."

First off, thank you for the reply!  Better late then never and thanks for the dialog.

Okay, I wish I had more library mentors.  I have latched on to my supervisors and more experienced librarians and I constantly pester them with questions and bug them for their opinions about the library and the profession as a whole.  I love that they all have completely different backgrounds; ie, not an English or History major, worked outside of the public library realm, etc.  

I still have to disagree with the idea of hiring newly minted MLIS grads with library management positions, and this is coming from a recent MLIS grad (Dec 2011)!  Even if there were drastic changes made to MLIS curriculums, which I doubt would ever happen, it would be foolish to do this.  I know this isn't a direct comparison, but you don't see recent MBA grads stepping into CEO positions.  Book smarts =/= Branch smarts.  I never believed that a MLIS grad could go from the classroom straight to the info desk successfully and efficiently.

Personally, I believe there are many issues with the current state of MLIS schools; letting everyone in and graduating everyone.  There are A LOT of MLIS students who have no experience working in library, I am not saying that they don't belong in MLIS school.  It is just that they have no idea how the library day-to-day goes.  Okay, so we both agree that there is a deluge of MLIS holders and a drought of entry-level jobs.  Even if there are only supervisory positions open, what about those who aren't technically "old librarians" nor "new librarians."  There is black and white, but there's also a lot of gray in between.  It's not like MLIS schools haven't been continually pumping out MLIS's.  There has always been a steady stream of graduating librarians every year.  There are a lot of librarians with between 5 and 10 years of solid working experience in the library.  I am sure that some of them would be excellent for these supervisory positions.  It would be a huge disservice to this select group of qualified librarians to not promote them.  Especially after all the crap they've gone through with the recent and on-going budget cuts, changing hours and procedures, trudging through this "new normal" and "doing more with less."  I was with the library before it all hit, I have seen staff morale take a nose-dive.  How much more damage will be done when you bring in a new graduate to supervise older, more experienced librarians?  Or does library management not even care about its greatest asset --- the employees, not the branches or collection.

I have also seen several of these "middle librarians," for a lack of a better term, jump ship to other places because library management is doing nothing to retain and nurture them for their positions.  I am extremely worried that libraries do not seem to have a solid succession plan in place for when this "greying" takes place, nor do they care to seriously consider it.  They seem to be more obsessed with the right now and not about the near future.
Now, I'm not saying that just because someone has worked in the library for x amount of years that they should automatically become a manager.  I'm saying that the odds of finding library management material already within the library ranks is astronomically higher than someone sitting in the classroom right now or in the future.  I also believe that current library management is to blame for the lack of entry-level librarian jobs because they are the ones who have begun hiring paraprofessionals instead of librarians.  Is this the future plan for libraries now?  MLIS holders for management only positions and paraprofessionals for the info desk.  But that is another blog post for me to rant in.

I admit that I'm only a lowly info desk worker who doesn't know what upper management does during the day.  But I see first-hand how their decisions affect the bottom-line.  Again, I really am grateful that you responded, it is nice to hear from upper management, I doubt that my library director would have been so open to discussion. Thanks again Miss Gina!

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