Thursday, August 09, 2007

More Hip Librarians

It's not just those New York librarians that are hip and sexy. No, they're hip and sexy in Connecticut as well. If you don't believe me, just read this article: A Dowdy Profession Turns Hip. And if the title's not bad enough, check out the subtitle: "Technology turns library science from spinster to suddenly sexy." Wow! If that's not HOT, I don't know what is! I bet some of my colleagues would love to turn from spinster to suddenly sexy.

The title and subtitle are promising, and the article definitely doesn't disappoint. "When someone mentions a trendy or sexy career, does librarian come to mind? Maybe fashion designer, race car driver or even software engineer, but definitely not librarian - that is, until now." I can't believe there's not an exclamation point at the end of the sentence. And librarians are being compared to such careers as "race car driver," widely considered a trendy or sexy career by 10-year-old boys everywhere.

And why are librarians suddenly so HOT? It's certainly not those musty old books, and, despite the librarian fetish so many people have, it's not the glasses and hairbuns. It's the technology! "The next generation of librarians will serve a technology-dependent world with a user-centered focus." That's so catchy and stupid, I bet it came from the ALA.

But are we really sure about this? Perhaps we're being duped with one of those urban legends. Fortunately, "no less an authority than the New York Times has noticed that library science has become a hot career." They don't call the NYT the paper of record for nothing.

It turns out that librarianship is a social bellweather as well, at least according to the latest person forced to come up with quotes for stupid articles about librarianship. "Evolution of the field and technology go hand-in-hand," says Loreine [sic] Roy, a professor at the University of Texas/Austin's School of Information and president of the American Library Association. "Librarianship is a social field that reflects what's going on in society - and what's popular." What's going on, AND what's popular. That's the library!

And not only are libraries more techno, they've sold out and gone commercial. "Nancy Moscoso-Guzman, Hispanic services coordinator at the New Haven Free Public Library, agrees. 'Due to the dramatic change of technology, we are now seen as 'brokers' of information, the patrons are considered customers - and the library is looked at as more of a business.'" Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I don't consider myself a "broker" of information, I don't consider my patrons "customers," and I don't look at the library as "more of a business." I'm not sure many librarians or library "customers" think this way. So who is the "we" now seeing libraries this way?

Not only are we more techno and business-like, but we also just happen to fit in with the latest trendy buzzword. We're also "diverse." "The physical appearance of librarians has also evolved from the well-worn spinster stereotype of yore." One could probably have written that same sentence 50 or more years ago, but stereotypes are so comforting because they don't require us to think or actually know anything. That's why I employ at least five stereotypes on any given day.

And we're cool! "Cool librarians look cool to other people," adds Roy. "A former student of mine, who happens to be a member of a punk rock band, visited a bunch of third- and fourth-graders during his internship. The young boys [he visited] thought it was cool that this young man was a librarian who also played in a band. He gave the profession a 'cool' factor and the students another way to look at how this profession could be cool." Wow!!

It wouldn't be an article partially stoked by the ALA if we didn't have some blather about the "librarian shortage," always just around the corner. "The aging U.S. population is another reason librarianship is becoming popular to a younger generation. There will be an increased need for librarians due to the rapidly approaching wave of retirements." Sure there will be. I thought we'd driven a stake through the heart of that particular vampire, but no, Dracula lives.

"We [library professionals] are projecting a baby-boomer retirement wave between 2010 and 2015," explains Roy. "Therefore, within the next decade more job openings will become available in the field of librarianship." Oh, that's it. "Within the next decade." I've been hearing that for at least a decade.

We also get a great quote from the chair of the library school at Souther Connecticut State University: "Some people become librarians to preserve a organization's library selection, others enter the field for the users," she explains. "This is a profession for those who have already enjoyed life and want to devote their efforts to society." That's right, we've already enjoyed life. Now we can suffer as librarians for the common good. We are the world.

But just wait for those retirements. "There will be a need for more librarians but they have to be passionate, dedicated and committed people to become librarians," says one librarian. That's right, not the slackers we have now. However, if there's really going to be such a need, are libraries going to be able to choose just among the "passionate, dedicated, and committed?" If you're all that, wouldn't you want to be something besides a librarian?

A kind reader sent this on to me, and at first I thought it might be a hoax. It's so foolish, it's like it was written for the AL. But no, it's no hoax, just the normal foolishness.

37 comments:

Bunny Watson said...

That librarian in the picture accompanying the article is the definition of sexy.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, baby, shapeless polyester brown shift. Almost too hot for a family newspaper. An that Larry Fine hair and cool retro 1977 specs. U cant spel SXY w/o spx!!

Seriously,

(a) slow news day/PR passing as an article
(b) agenda pushed by ALA
(c) agenda pushed by deans of Library Skules to fill coffers of same.

The last bit is as shameless as those fake training schools that have students apply for loans and then teach them next to nothing.

http://www.barryyeoman.com/articles/scamschools.html

Taupey

undead_librarian said...

Bunny - L.O.L.

Yet more drivel from the ALA press machine about all that coolness @ your library. I'm exhausted just from reading this. Will they send out a memo when it's finally time to stop begging for acceptance? When will we be allowed to go back to simply helping our patrons find what they need?

Brent said...

I must have the wrong friends, because they don't think I am cool at all.

Anonymous said...

I am starting wonder if librarianship is a cursed profession. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

The worst (or funniest) is this:

"library science has become one of the most desirable career paths in the job market."

My first job took 11 months and over 100 resumes to land in the Library From Hell.

I guess maybe I shouldn't be -too- bitter about this, I mean I haven't worked in a library in two years (thankfully at least I have a job ) and after having sent out another 150 resumes with one phone interview I'm suddenly finding out I'm in one of the hottest professions out there?

Yes, all those people telling similar stories are wrong; not only am I in a vibrant and fantastic field of opportunity, I am also hip and SEXY! Just look at me! I......I.....I can't do this, I'm feeling like a bad Austin Powers impersonation.

sidelinedlibrarian said...

So when will "action figure librarian" become punked out?

I've been waiting since the NYT article that mandated we are now cool.
And hip.
And into technology (with the required caveat that "men are more interested in the technology aspect"), and thus this is something that makes us more "diverse"

Admit it AL--there's a guy under your desk posting these blog articles, isn't there?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the guy under the AL's desk is John Berry.

AL said...

"Admit it AL--there's a guy under your desk posting these blog articles, isn't there?"

I'm not quite sure what that means, but if there were a guy under my desk, I hope he'd have something better to do than post blog articles.

sidelinedlibrarian said...

I'm sure he does, considering that "more men are interested in the technology aspect of the job"

Kevin Musgrove said...

I came into the public library sector hoping to bump into lots of ladies in cashmere jerseys and pencil skirts with their hair swept back and glasses perched cutely just off the bridges of their noses. It was a consoling thought that was soon dashed.

Having worked with library technology for two decades I can honestly state that it is not in the remotest least sexy. And it doesn't respect you after it's f***ed you either.

tailgunner said...

AL Says: It wouldn't be an article partially stoked by the ALA if we didn't have some blather about the "librarian shortage," always just around the corner.

Oh yes. And now my state library association is claiming this shortage on a state level. If there is such a shortage, why did it take two years to land a position and I had to move out of state to boot!!! There is a shortage alright, a shortage of library jobs.

Kevin Musgrove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Musgrove said...

Judging by some of the human detritus you see littering chiefs' meetings, there's always room at the bottom.

Bitter Public Librarian said...

For once I wish someone would write an article about the true nature of public librarianship. It is a miserable, hellish existence. I look forward to getting out as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

I'll just say a bit about the "passionate, dedicated and committed" part. I was the one who took a staff job with my MLS out of desperation to stay in the library field.

I don't think there's anything humanly possible I could have done to show how committed I was to becoming a librarian. As a staff person I took on projects, published papers, and by the end of my time there was the general fix-it person and was working the equivalent of two full time jobs.

I had wonderful references from faculty members, fellow staff members, and patrons. Yet the librarians were against me, usually saying something like my social skills were poor.

I had the same degree and education they did yet I was constantly being reminded to know my place, and never do things like even talk to people in Reference.

Time and a little perspective have let me see the problem was petty people who didn't want someone to stand them up or make them look bad. If I was such a liability you think someone other than the librarians would have noticed.

I finally had enough and quit, librarians attach too much to thinking they're paid for their job title and not what they do. I don't think I'll ever work in a library again, after all the staff job is the kiss of death, but at least now I'm not feeling like I'm being boxed in a corner.

"Passion, Dedication and Commitment?" How about doing the job and not talking so much about how great you are?

Anonymous said...

My cranky two cents on the putative librarian shortage:

My wife is a registered nurse. There really is a nursing shortage. If she puts a resume up on the internet, she immediately gets e-mails and phone calls from recruiters wanting her to interview for real jobs, available right now. Any time she wants a raise, she can just get another job. Her pay has been going up several thousand dollars per year, for several years. Experienced Master's level nurses can easily make six figures these days. A nurse can blow into town on Friday morning, and be working by Monday. That's what a "shortage" looks like. Does any of this sound like the library field?

There is no librarian shortage.

Anonymous said...

Lord, what a depressing post.

Do you see any other profession or vocation, any other that generates such incredibly stupid puff-pieces?

Again proof in writing that the intellects of librarianship's leaders have hit bottom and are still digging furiously.

Aarrghh....

Anonymous said...

"Do you see any other profession or vocation, any other that generates such incredibly stupid puff-pieces?"

Nope, and do you see any other profession that repeatedly regurgitates the same tired old crap about the 'great librarian shortage'?

Yeah, I've been hearing about that librarian shortage for around 10 years now. I can't change my job and have seen vacant librarian jobs eliminated for budgetary reasons. This 'so-called' librarian shortage is a myth on the order of the "Bill Gates wants to give you all his money hoax", can't we all just move on now?

Anonymous said...

What a cranky, whining group of professionals. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to become a librarian. You're acting like this is Siberia and you're having to cope with the whims of Stalin. If you don't like it, then get out. People change professions all the time; this country is full of opportunity for those who are not afraid to change.

soren faust

Privateer6 said...

Soren,
I think the reason why people are complaining is that they were suckered into going to library school and paying for a MLS on the notion that jobs will be waiting for them. The frustration and anger arises from after spending time and money getting a degree, they find the degree is worthless because jobs aren't out there.

Anonymous said...

I understand that; I'm a librarian and am pretty disappointed by the profession, but there must be a way to make the best out this situation. An MLS can be an excellent second degree, for instance—in fact, an MLS with, say, an MBA or some other master’s degree can really open up a broad spectrum of opportunities. To me it's depressing and shows a lack of understanding that the only things being said about this profession is 1) it's hip, whatever that means, or 2) it's the worst profession ever, which is also bull. I have to think there's some kind of middle ground, something positive about this profession. Concerning the job prospect issue, I agree that there’s been too much hype about the so-called upcoming onslaught of job openings. On the other hand, the DOL does show that this profession in particular is primarily made up of an aging workforce, and along with the mass baby boomer retirements expected, it makes sense why some would say that in the future, there will be a lot of job openings. What these same people leave out is that it’s just not now, not for recent graduates, anyway. Another thing I think affects the situation is that what economists call “human capital” i.e., skills, education, &c. is becoming harder to gain and keep up with. Professional jobs of all stripes are becoming more demanding in what they expect of the applicant. It’s no longer simply library school that’s going to get you that job. The library schools are notoriously unaware of this and are graduating students unprepared for the job market. The best thing anyone can do is take the matter into their own hands and find a way out or find a way to improve their own value. I wouldn’t wait around for this profession to make any smart and progressive moves on your behalf.

soren faust

janitorx said...

Bunny brings on the funny!


I think the reason why people are complaining is that they were suckered into going to library school and paying for a MLS on the notion that jobs will be waiting for them.

My former state of residence has a pretty large LIS program and the professors continually tell students the jobs are there for them to nab. Professors neglect to tell students about salient issues such as tenure track, public library work hours, paying dues in the workplace, etc. Even my former state's library association clamors for new blood in the profession, but I don't see tons of jobs posted the state library jobs clearinghouse website. In fact, most of them require the 2+ years professional experience. The very few entry-level positions available have excreable salaries--even for that low cost of living area of the country.

I would strongly recommend new librarians hunt for jobs in states that do not have an LIS program. Although distance ed contributes to the market saturation of librarians, there are still more opportunities in these states.

I finally had enough and quit, librarians attach too much to thinking they're paid for their job title and not what they do. I don't think I'll ever work in a library again, after all the staff job is the kiss of death, but at least now I'm not feeling like I'm being boxed in a corner.

"Passion, Dedication and Commitment?" How about doing the job and not talking so much about how great you are?


Web 2.0 brings out all the narcissists in our field. Now they can all blog about how great they are, etc. I've often wondered what some of them are like in person. Is there verisimilitude with how they are in person?

Anonymous said...

Anyone else alarmed by this paragraph:

"Of the 1,663 students registered for courses in the MLS [master's of library science] program [at SCSU] last year, one-third of the students enrolled already have higher degrees [in another field], whether it's a master's or Ph.D," adds Sche.

1,663 library students? Is this overrecruiting on a grand scale or what?

janitorx said...

The best thing anyone can do is take the matter into their own hands and find a way out or find a way to improve their own value. I wouldn’t wait around for this profession to make any smart and progressive moves on your behalf.

In my case, I job hopped several times. This worked for me. I put up with a very toxic work environment for three years and kept my nose to the grindstone. Make no mistake, this environment took a huge toll on my mental health and did cause some problems in my personal life. Despite internecine rivalries, I implemented some new things and truly enjoyed being a team player with members of my former consortium. It paid off. I finally landed a great job and relocated 1/2 way across the country.

janitorx said...

"This is a profession for those who have already enjoyed life and want to devote their efforts to society."

What's the subtext here? This is a profession for upper middle class women (status earned by either marriage or family money) whose husbands earn exponentially more than they do, so it's ok to offer altruistic opportunities as a proxy for a decent salary.

Anonymous said...

The salary thing is a joke and a half. Pre-kindergarten teachers are making almost $9 more an hour on avg. here in the Balt/DC area than I am and they don't need a master's degree

soren

Anonymous said...

The salary thing is a joke, the retirement thing is a joke, and the hip thing is a joke! I am so tired of hearing about how librarians are suddenly hip, and I'm one of the hipsters (hey, I have tattoos and listen to Minor Threat, so I guess formerly punked-out now equals hip). Anyway, I guess my point is that librarians have a tradition of, if not looking hip, being substantive and progressive-- which, in my world, is truly hip! Now, if those older counter-culture librarians would just retire already...

Anonymous said...

"Web 2.0 brings out all the narcissists in our field. Now they can all blog about how great they are, etc. I've often wondered what some of them are like in person. Is there verisimilitude with how they are in person?"

Amen! And yes, the 2.0 narcissists are just as bad in person. Funny, I happen to work with exactly 2.0 of them.

janitorx said...

Amen! And yes, the 2.0 narcissists are just as bad in person. Funny, I happen to work with exactly 2.0 of them.

Bwah! I thought maybe they were using blogging as means of reinventing oneself.

Anonymous said...

You mean, "repurposing" themselves, right?

Bitter Public Librarian said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with being disappointed in the profession. I chose to get the MLIS because I enjoy research and information organization. I did not get into the profession to tell patrons not to use their mobile phones in the library. Some of the lumps I work with, however, are fine with it. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. After working part-time in public libraries for the last three years, I realize that it isn't for me. I could wait around hoping for an academic position to open up, but I am not going to do that. I am making the best out of the situation by applying for positions outside of the traditional library setting.

Unemployed Librarian said...

Want to rock the boat a little?

A few of us are gathering together to improve the employment prospects of those who have already invested in the degree.

Can you help? Write to us at:

unemployedlibrarians@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

if you can get into a position, medical librarianship is a wonderful field.

Spouse of an Annoyed Librarian said...

I think the headline was supposed to read: Librarians: More Hips -- the article obviously got garbled somehow.

Anonymous said...

please tell me you saw the "evolution of a librarian" t-shirt in this week's ALA direct emailing? god help us.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why these types of articles seem so offensive? I actually get annoyed by the librarian stereotypes so it's nice to see something that doesnt paint us as dowdy. It describes librarians being as being "hip". Who cares? How exactly is this a bad thing?