Thursday, April 11, 2013
The Marginalization of Librarianship.
Let me preface this post by saying that I'm not saying that this is happening at EVERY library. I do not have a finger on the pulse of the nation-wide public library realm. Granted, what is going down in my library is only known to those in the system, so who knows what is really happening in any neighboring library system.
Also, your library might be on the right track and has not given up on real librarianship and maybe your MLIS school isn't selling out to fill in the seats. Good for them, honestly, no sarcasm in that statement. It is just that those seem to be the minority in the library world and no one seems to care that the profession is being sabotaged from within: library management and library schools.
There has been some debate within my library system about the shift to hiring paraprofessionals. This is just one of the many issues at my library. The justification for not needing Librarians is that the job has changed and patron needs have changed. B#llsh*t, the job only changed because the positions have been marginalized to glorified paper jam clearers. There is so much more to librarianship, but admin can't see it because there aren't any numbers to justify it. It is easy to say that degreed librarians aren't needed when you limit what a librarian can do on the job. Just to be clear, I am in a paraprofessional position, I am not saying that my coworkers in the same position cannot do the job. It has gotten to the point where these positions could be filled with anyone with enough training.
I believe that this affects what library schools teach or don't. Let's be real, public libraries are the biggest employers of librarians and MLIS schools reflect this. Unless you are taking a specialized course related to school media or archives, the public library is the "course du jour" for lectures. Personally, I saw a strong disconnect between what professors taught and what actually happens at the public library. In fact, in my reference services class, I honestly believe that that professor had never worked the information desk.
And then there is the ALA who absolutely DOES NOTHING while this all goes down. Sure, maybe they'll jump on the latest bandwagon of whatever is in the media spotlight in an attempt to get some attention thrown their way. But overall ALA sucks. You would think that they would have a heavily vested interest in fighting for librarianship.
While I'm on a ranting rage, library marketing SUCKS. The library only seems to be concerned about the patrons it currently has, what about the potential ones that make up the majority of tax payers? Every year it's a survey about "What can the library do better?" And every year the responses are always the same because the only people who take the time to do the surveys are current patrons. Why not engage the people who say that libraries are pointless and are a waste of their money? Why not prove them wrong, sure some can be convinced while others will remain staunch to their own biases. I have tried bringing this up but it falls on deaf ears, sure my peers at the branch level agree with me but try talking to upper management and you'll find them in their ivory tower.
And another thing about upper management, they too have a strong disconnect about what actually goes down in the branch. How are they to say what duties should be done at the branch level when they only base their decisions purely on numbers? They also cannot grasp the fact that each and every branch is different. "Same ish, different library" holds true, but each branch has their own way to deal with said ish.
The amount of cronyism and yes-people-ing that goes on in management and admin is disgusting and one of the reasons why so many people are looking for outside jobs. The only way to get promoted is to drink the Kool-Aid. A true Good 'Ole Boy system. Voice an opinion that goes against the mainstream and you're met with fierce retaliation or being ignored for the rest of your career.
It is incredibly sad to see the system implode upon itself and not be able to do anything. By the time fall rolls around, I will have worked for the library for 7 years. I love the library and I have worked with some amazing people. I cannot even imagine what the library will be like in the next 7 years. Library management seems to be "leading us" in the wrong direction and it worries me that other libraries might follow this trend.