Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We Are the World

I had seen this article on minority librarians in San Antonio, TX, but hadn't posted on it. Now I've been beaten to the punch, but I'm going to punch anyway. There's a great post on a comment by ALA Executive Director Keith Fiels that already says more or less what I would say, but I'm going to comment some more. From the article:

"The average starting salary in the nation just barely hit $40,000 this year, according to Fiels. In San Antonio, the entry-level salary is $28,752.

Librarians are being lured to corporate jobs where they can make double their salary, Fiels said.

'It's a tough, competitive market out there,' Fiels said. 'But I think people who come in to librarianship do it because they want to make the world a better place. So money isn't always an issue.'"

Welcome to the ALA rationalization for why people go into librarianship. It's not for money. It's not to have a career. It's not even just to have a job. No, it's because they want to make the world a better place! It's because they want to change the world for the better, one library card at a time!

I can't decide if he really believes this stuff, or if he's just trying to excuse the ALA's poor record of doing anything to help raise librarian salaries by saying we're all just doing charity work anyway. Low education standards and duplicitous library school recruitment strategies certainly help keep librarian salaries down, and now we find out that we're not really interested in money anyway. Fortunately we're on the side of the angels.

This statement just confirms what I've said before, that the ALA has very little interest in librarians. The primary professional organization of American librarians does almost nothing to help librarians. Sure, if your major concern as a librarian is certain federal legislation, then they're happy to waste your money fighting losing battles. But if you are at all concerned about the pay and status of librarians, then you'll have to look elsewhere, because the ALA doesn't care about you. They only care about your dues. This statement by the ALA executive director acknowledges what a good person you are and says you don't want any money anyway.

Fortunately, you became a librarian because you want to change the world, not because you want to pay the rent. I'm surprised that Fiels didn't quote from the Sermon on the Mount.

"Librarians aren't concerned about salaries. Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, yet your heavenly Father feeds them!"

Changing the world! We're certainly full of ourselves. Are we changing the world for the better by videogaming? If I want to change the world, I'm certainly not going to do it through my library. Here's my message to all the folks who are attracted to librarianship because they want to change the world and they don't care whether they're paid to do it: Go Away! You're not going to change the world! Don't be so pathetic! And stop lowering the standards for the rest of us!

Librarianship isn't a charitable activity. It's a job, it's a career, it's a service. If you want to be charitable, go volunteer at a soup kitchen. Go feed and clothe the poor. Go teach illiterates to read. But don't think librarianship is some holy, charitable mission, because it's not.


Drew said...

This is absolutely the main reason why I switched my concnentration to Records Management. Why in the hell would I go to school for 2-3 years and pay $5,000 a year only to get a job whose starting salary is less than I make now? Not only that, but I'm going to be expected to cater to people whose main interest in the library are video games and online access to porn? Thanks but no thanks, someone else can take the high road.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

I am honored my little post got picked up here. You said a lot more of what I was thinking. It does gall me that the organization somehow expects us to be martyrs so that libraries stay open. And hey, rather than beat to the punch, we can see it as the one-two punch. Best, and keep on blogging.

Anonymous said...

When Jimmy Stewart's "It's a Wonderful Life" character George Bailey is freaked out over the scenario of his never having been born, he demands that his guardian angel Clarence to tell him where to find his wife Mary. After a good throttling, in a defeated, cracking voice, Clarence cries:

"You're not gonna like it, George. She's at the...LIBRARY! She's an old maid, she never married."

The ALA lives to defeat this vile stereotype. Lesbians can be librarians too, marriage does not define a person. The ALA respects all persyns...

Anonymous said...

Just an observation, but since my experience in library school and now well into the profession, I've noticed from time to time the presence of a cult-like mentality among some librarians. By cult mentality, I mean a strange spirit, a sort of belief held by some that the profession is sanctified. Having grown up around a religion often defined as a cult, I have noticed that there are self-perceptions between some librarians and the members of this religion that are similar. More specifically, there seems to be a disconnect from reality about the nature of the profession. Perhaps an exaggerated sense of professional-worth exists among some. Very possible, the ALA perpetuates this, but I also think that the profession attracts its fair share of “interesting” people. That said, I think librarianship is a great profession, but really! so are many other professions. And as for the pay? downright criminal. And if you think as a librarian that your profession is such a valuable thing to the society, then you are obviously the only one who does. Professional basketball players get paid what they get paid for a reason and its not because of their dedication to the betterment of humanity. It gives cause to think about what’s truly valued.


Bob H. said...

Soren, you've peaked my interest - what cult did you grow up in? Are you a Hari Krishna?

anon 4 said...

Maybe the ALA is deliberately fostering this belief that librarians are somehow the most valuable people on the planet, despite all evidence to the contrary. I like being a librarian and all, but the hype is unbearable sometimes.

Privateer6 said...

I actually made the comment in one of my library school classes that the general public do not view librarians as professionals and that ALA should be doing more to improve the image, which may eventually raise salaries. I was told by my instructor that "We are professionals," and didn't get it. The ALA has done NOTHING to improve the image or the professionalism of librarians. In fact with all their politics and focus on non-library issues, I think they are hurting the image librarians.

I have to agree with Drew, I am so very glad that I am going into archives and records management. the Society of American Archivists DOES work in the interests of archivists, unlike the ALA.

Anonymous said...

Well said Annoyed Librarian! Money may not motivate us into this profession but we sure need it to pay the bills - bottom line!

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Hey privateer, I recall hearing that line in library school once or twice as well. It seems it's not only the national organization, but the LIS faculty as well. Hmm.

Best, and keep on blogging.

Anonymous said...

It's been so long since I've seen "It's A Wonderful Life" that I'd forgotten about that bit with the librarian.

I got into librarianship forst and foremost as a paycheck, but also because I thought it would be a small way of making the world a better place. I'm all about breaking the stereotype, and there are plenty of us out there who do. Stereotypes, unfortunately, exist because they're in some part burdened with some truth. Some of the idiots I work with are doing their best to keep librarianship down in the black hole that it's been in, and they'd be doing this in whatever profession they're in.

I used to wait tables and bartend. It paid all right, but came with its trade-offs. The biggest trade-off I've discovered in librarianship so far is this: a secure-ish job and benefits in exchange for having to deal with some of the most stagnant and miserable people on this godforsaken planet.

It's enough to make a man want to strap on an apron and a black t-shirt again. At least they unofficially condone drinking on the job...

Anonymous said...

bob h.

I grew up on a Catholic and Jehovah's Witness household, my father the former and my mother the latter.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, that sounds funny...I grew up "on" a household

or, does it?

Anonymous said...

The ALA isn't helping in this area so let's abandon it. Let the organization die with this generation. AL is doing a good job at weakening the organization, perhaps she can have the honor of driving the stake through its heart when we force the ALA to disband.

There is a blog for the Young Librarians for Better Job Prospects - they might be able to help.


Contrarian Librarian said...

The Social Responsibility Round Table is the cult-like group that is primarily responsible for perpetuating this self-inflated view of many librarians. They think librarians can influence the choice of supreme court justices, save victims of Katrina, and stop genocide in Darfur. And many on the ALA Governing Council just follow along. This is why I decided to drop my ALA membership and keep that part of my low-paying salary for myself.

Anonymous said...

ALA created the ALA-Allied Professional Association in part to advocate for improving library workers' salaries. ALA-APA is a service to ALA members and the entire library community. Recognizing that many wage decisions are local, our advocacy includes tools that help library workers help themselves.

Those tools include programs at Annual Conference on negotiating better salaries and affordable healthcare, and hosting speakers like Evelyn Murphy, author of Getting Even. The tools include the soon-to-be updated Better Salaries and Pay Equity Toolkit, a free download from www.ala-apa.org, which has helped groups and individuals raise their salaries.

We publicize salary/budget wins and loses, and talk about living wage and minimum wage issues in Library Worklife, our monthly newsletter. We also are working to bring the issue to larger audiences outside of libraries.

We are collecting, publishing and analyzing data on actual salaries for 68 librarian and non-MLS Salaries - http://www.ala-apa.org/salaries/alaapasurveys.html.

Finally, we give you an opportunity to serve on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers Committee, which works on programming and other ways to help the profession's pay - http://www.ala-apa.org/CommitteeVolunteerForm.html.

If you'd like to get involved, contact Jenifer Grady, jgrady@ala.org or 800-545-2433, x2424.

Keith Michael Fiels said...

As the subject of this particular annoyance, I must point out that anyone who has ever spoken to a reporter is all too familiar with seeing one's comments taken out of context. When asked why someone would take a job in librarianship if they could make more money elsewhere, I think it is self-evident that they are not doing it just for the money.
Aside from this, I have worked hard since I came to ALA to make the ALA-APA a reality, and the APA is now working hard to improve salaries - not just with rhetoric, but with real strategies that should achieve real results over time. ALA-APA's new Director Jenifer Grady has posted on some of the ways we're working on improving salaries. She's doing a great job, but we need you to get involved in what is going to be along, hard job.
Thanks for letting me give my side of the story,

Keith Michael Fiels
ALA Executive Director