Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Glorious President Speaks

The Glorious President of ALA spoke last week at the University of Buffalo. As with all ALA presidents, she is doing her best to bore a lot of people by emphasizing the same few points over and over. The emphases of the current Glorious President seem to be stereotypes and diversity. These sound like tiresome themes to me, but apparently the Buffalo crowd ate it up. According to the article, "Gender Week wrapped up this past Thursday with a lecture that shattered the stereotypical librarian image depicting a prudish, middle-aged, silence-loving white woman."

Shattered, no less. And how did she shatter that stereotype? Of course she referred to that NYT article on the "hip" librarians. Whereas some people thought the article was stupid (well, I at least thought it was stupid), the Glorious President loves it and seems to quote it all the time. We should all be more like these "hip" librarians, and less like the boring "white women [that] still make up the majority" of librarians.

"The article depicted the new, hip librarian as a person who could combine skillful use of technology with locating the right information upon request," the GP said. Did it? I don't recall that from the article. I recall it depicted a bunch of "activists" and "creative types" who wore used clothes and had a lot of tattoos and used librarianship as the functional equivalent of waiting tables to support their real lives. But then the Glorious President corrects herself.

"Reporter Kara Jesella described a group of 20 and 30-something librarians, gathered in a bar, drinking margaritas, wearing retro clothing and sporting an abundance of tattoos."

Yes, that's how I remember it.

Her lecture was entitled "Librarianship: A Testbed for Gender and Diversity Issues." What I like about the title is the way she's so upfront about her true agenda. Her agenda is political, and she wants to use librarianship and hence librarians to promote it. Librarians are her guinea pigs, the experimental subjects the Glorious President needs to usher in her utopia. According to the article, the lecture "also focused on how the history of the library system in the United States defines its present-day mission for librarians to advocate for social justice." The prose is a bit stilted, but I think you get the point. Our mission as librarians is to advocate for social justice. The great thing about the phrase "social justice" is its vagueness.

This isn't what I recall from the ALA's mission statement, which says that the "mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all." If that's the mission of the ALA, then doesn't it make sense that the mission of librarians should have something to do with information services and access to information? By the twisted ideologic of the Glorious President and her regressive minions, only if this interest in information lets us advocate for social justice.

That's the only thing that makes sense if our mission is to advocate for social justice. So forget all that stuff about collecting, organizing, and disseminating information and go man the barricades. The revolution could begin any minute, and you know librarians will be in the vanguard. Except for the AL, of course, because come the revolution I'll be the first up against the wall.

Her speech went over well with some of the crowd who aren't as critical of the politicization of librarianship and using librarians as tools for an non-library political agenda as I am. "Roy's message of social activism appealed to [a] graduate student in library and information studies.

'I am glad to hear that the purpose of my profession is to ultimately change the world,' she said."

I bet she's glad. That way librarianship isn't so boring. The purpose of librarianship is to change the world, presumably one library card at a time. And another starry eyed idealist enters the profession, probably willing to work for peanuts so she can change the world, if she can find a job.

The Glorious President then discussed the "Diversity Counts" study, for what would a speech from the ALA president be without mentioning "diversity," another term as vague and devoid of exact meaning as "social justice." But then again, the advocates of "diversity" and "social justice" count on this vagueness.

This time we learn more than that librarians are mostly white women and that this is a bad thing. Now we're told as well that "the study showed that librarians are becoming better educated than ever before." That seemed unlikely, but fortunately the GP clarified that statement. "'Over the ten years (between 1990 and 2000), the number of degreed librarians increased by 21.6 percent,' Roy said." Oh, I see. They're not necessarily better educated, it's just that more of them have library degrees. Very different thing.

I would have been speechless after a performance like this, but the organizer of the event had to find something nice to say. "As ALA president, Loriene heads a very influential organization that lobbies Congress," he said. That was sweet. The "influential" part was a bit of a stretch, but the ALA does indeed lobby Congress, and we can see just how successful they've been in stopping CIPA, DOPA, and the death of Net Neutrality , among other things. We should just say it's the thought that counts.

I look forward to another nine months of being told that I'm not hip enough, or diverse enough, or concerned enough with promoting an extralibrary political agenda to be a good librarian. If I were a good librarian, I'd be the kind that the GP could hold up for praise in her political speeches. I'd be something other than a boring white woman, I'd go on about how my social activism trumps my professional responsibilities, and I'd have some tattoos. It should be a fun ride for us all.

41 comments:

Dances With Books said...

Did we all read the same NYT article? Where does the GP get the idea it depicts "hip" librarians as "as a person who could combine skillful use of technology with locating the right information upon request"? I thought it was a bunch of guys and gals just sitting around sipping fancy drinks named after Dewey numbers, wearing used clothing and just hanging out. To be perfectly honest, I am not even sure you could call those people librarians (oops, did I just say that?) So, we all need to get some tattoos now? Nothing against tattoos per se, but the article seems to say that to be hip, you need some.

Oh well, at least the crowd liked the speech.

And a lot of white women is a bad thing? Hmm, food for thought. Then again, I would be all for adding a few women of other colors too. You won't find me discriminating ( ;) ).

Dances With Books said...

P.S. And I suppose a few handsome fellows would not be a bad addition either.

undead_librarian said...

More library degrees = "better educated"? Not so much - agreed.

Anyhoo, what I don't understand about all this is why the regressives assume that librarians haven't been engaged in social justice all along. The very idea of providing free access to books was revolutionary from the beginning. When did that stop being the case? Public education and by extension public libraries are both still radical - even dangerous - ideas in most places on Earth. When did we lose sight of that? It irks me to no end, the regressives trying to shame librarians like this. Librarians, by the way, whose only crime is being white women who take pride in the very important work they do every day.

Just a librarian said...

Personally, I'm a bit peeved at anyone who stands up for a group of people as our "representative" (although I choose not to belong to ALA because of people like her)to merely push her own agenda. I don't think anyone has gotten a clear idea of what librarians really are from the GP or the NYT article. What's so wrong with being a group of dedicated professionals with the main purpose of helping people freely access information in whatever form it is provided in. Who cares if we're tatooed, sporting funky haircuts, or visiting nude beaches while simultaneously providing IM service? I don't get this need to make our profession "sexy" or "trendy". More concerned with keeping our profession relevant. Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

I had Dr. Roy as a professor in library school. She was a good instructor but whenever anyone brought up the idea that librarians were underpaid, she became very emotional about librarianship being a calling and how you shouldn't go into it if you want a high salary. This is our public face for the next year. Sigh.

Jenn said...

As a 30-something minority urban librarian with tattoos I try to do my best to counteract these qualities by wearing glasses, keeping my hair up in a bun and acting quite prudish. It's sometimes hard to give directions to the restrooms with my lips pursed as tightly as they are, but you do what you've got to do, don't you? Sssh.

Norma said...

A Testbed for Gender and Diversity Issues

Would fit in with most mainline Protestant denominations, which USAToday says has 36% who think religion is important, compared to black Pentecostals who score 85%. Do you suppose moving away from basics might have something to do with this?

Anonymous said...

"whenever anyone brought up the idea that librarians were underpaid, she became very emotional about librarianship being a calling and how you shouldn't go into it if you want a high salary"

so she's advocating for lower salaries? SCARY I'm a recent graduate and while I don't expect to be paid like an investment banker I feel I should at least make more than a public school teacher with a master's earns for only 9 months of work.

with her in office the next salary survey should be interesting

AL said...

I second anon@1:03. Thinking of librarianship as a calling leads to lower salaries and quite possibly embittered and disillusioned librarians. The librarians who think of it as a calling are the ones who completely immerse themselves in the identity of librarian. Obviously Roy doesn't think it's a calling for her, because she's not a librarian.

Anonymous said...

All of you do know that the only people who are aware of the ALA are librarians and the zealots who want to ban sex from the universe until their minister says it's ok, right?

I mean that's it. Those are the only people who know about ALA.

I can appreciate the frustration it must cause to have the President of our sort-of professional organization say stuff you disagree with.

But come on. Really? Come on. No one cares except the people who are complaining because they're sure everyone cares.

Case in point, from the article:
"As ALA president, Loriene heads a very influential organization that lobbies Congress."

Not really. Halliburton is an influential lobbying organization. The oil industry is influential in Congress. Agri-business and weapons-makers are influential.

In terms of lobbying power the ALA ranks somewhere behind The Raw Foods Alliance and Society for the Preservation of Spanish Rice.

janitorx said...

"whenever anyone brought up the idea that librarians were underpaid, she became very emotional about librarianship being a calling and how you shouldn't go into it if you want a high salary"

Well, then she can forget all about diversity in the profession. Lower-income students of all races aren't going to incur debt for a graduate degree to enter a low-paying profession. Sorry, you can't have it both ways. In fact, by continually referring to librarianship as a calling, and thereby not doing anything to improve salaries, you are essentially ensuring the profession will be filled with upper-middle class women whose significant others are the primary breadwinners. Genius.

Anonymous said...

If you want to see a bunch of tattooed people you can check your neighborhood prison, construction site, or warehouse. Oh, you mean hip? How about the local coffee shop? Or music scene?

Librarians ALSO? And what do the patrons think of this, who tend not to be construction workers or music scene wannabes? You know, the ordinary people wanting a good book to read or help in their school report. Yeah, that Federal Depository logo tattooed on the old bicep sure makes a good impression.

I'm actually proud to say I've never been a member of the ALA. No Banned Books Week, no political agenda......I'd much rather join the Greater Library Network of Outer Regional Moose County, Rural Chapter, than be a member of the ALA. :(

And yes, no one outside the library world knows or even cares about the ALA. :0

Totsi Mantrumpet said...

The only way librarians should be professionally concerned with social justice is in the sense that they fight tooth and nail to maintain the accessibility of information, dangerous or otherwise, to ALL citizens. The politicization of the ALA suggests everything BUT this broadmindedness to me.

And the NYT article was the most obnoxious thing I've ever read, almost made me drop out of library school.

strumpet pixie said...

Yeah, that Federal Depository logo tattooed on the old bicep sure makes a good impression.

Hey! I've got a tat of the us road sign symbol for library near my crotch!

*just kidding*

When will these people realize our patrons are far too self-absorbed to even assess our hipness? Some of these librarians are a narcissistic bunch, aren't they?

Kevin Musgrove said...

"Gender Week" ?

Egad. I have fallen through the looking glass.

Politically (and I'm speaking as an old-fashioned English Socialist here) this sort of nonsense has nothing to do with social justice and everything to do with smug, self-satisfied people settling back in a cosy corner of the universe to talk what we over here would call "utter bollocks."

Anonymous said...

Hey! I've got a tat of the us road sign symbol for library near my crotch!

*just kidding*


I get a kick out of those twenty-something kids with tattoos that are rows of Chinese characters, and yet they have no idea what it says. Someday many years later a native speaker will be asking them, "Why does it say
'I'm an idiot' on your forearm?"

Some of these librarians are a narcissistic bunch, aren't they?

True, but their cats love them anyways.

Kevin Musgrove said...

p.s. Anyone who sees librarianship as a calling needs their ears syringing.

contrarian said...

I can just hear the cries of the Humorless Unionator accusing all of you, and AL in particular, of racism and making her child feel bad. Whaaa!!

strumpet pixie said...

I get a kick out of those twenty-something kids with tattoos that are rows of Chinese characters, and yet they have no idea what it says. Someday many years later a native speaker will be asking them, "Why does it say
'I'm an idiot' on your forearm?"


I don't know if this is an urban legend, but I did hear about Asian tattoo artists giving annoying Asiaphiliacs obscene kanji characters.

As a former gov. docs librarian, I am really puzzled by the FLDP tat. I am beginning to wonder if someone is drugging these nextgens. If so, can I have some?

Brent said...

Is AL for net neutrality? I never read a political statement before from her. Interesting!

By the way, if there is net neutrality, it is just going to be a government regulating nightmare. It will likely deter innovation, and everyone can be equally miserable.

Lucille said...

"I'm an idiot" may be an urban legend, but mistranslated Chinese tattoos do exist. I've seen one that said "diarrhea".

hanzismatter.com collects examples of tattoos and other sources of such bloopers.

Anonymous said...

How about this Care Bear with a rainbow on her belly for the ALA Diversity Committee logo? Of course, diversity means "all of us" so why not all the Care Bears, except for Grumpy bear, who might have a tendency to disagree with the other Care Bears.

Anonymous said...

Of course, diversity means "all of us" so why not all the Care Bears, except for Grumpy bear, who might have a tendency to disagree with the other Care Bears.

Me Bear would fit right in.

Anonymous said...

I feel the hate. AL--'the woman with no face'-- takes her stand. Red eyes, AL.
I think the president is doing a doggone good job.
WHAT do you do but hate?

Anonymous said...

The ALA does NOT work in the interest of librarians. It only works in the interests of libraries.

Which means lower salaries for us if the ALA gets its way.

STOP THE ALA FROM RUINING THE LIVES OF ANY MORE LIBRARIANS! Write to us at unemployedlibrarians@gmail.com

This is what social justice looks like folks - working together to stop groups like the ALA from hurting us.

Kevin said...

"WHAT do you do but hate?"

Actually work in a library, I'd guess.

AL said...

So the "commenter with no face" dares to criticize? So supposedly I hate everyone I criticize? If I think the ALA president is doing a lousy job and say so, then suddenly I "hate" her? Save your selfrighteous sermonizing for someone who cares.

janitorx said...

"whenever anyone brought up the idea that librarians were underpaid, she became very emotional about librarianship being a calling and how you shouldn't go into it if you want a high salary"

Lower-income students of all races aren't going to incur debt for a graduate degree to enter a low-paying profession. Sorry, you can't have it both ways. In fact, by continually referring to librarianship as a calling, and thereby not doing anything to improve salaries, you are essentially ensuring the profession will be filled with upper-middle class women whose significant others are the primary breadwinners.

Hey Anon 2:36, care to comment?

I think the notion librarianship as
a calling is one of the reasons why so many people are emotionally invested in their work; this tends to cause more conflicts. Every subtle nuance is taken personally. People become very territorial about their work. Because it is a calling, you feel compelled to assert yourself, grandstand, and self-promote, and this often marginalizes your fellow colleagues. I daresay thinking of librarianship as a calling could deleterious to one's psychological well-being.

janitorx said...

"whenever anyone brought up the idea that librarians were underpaid, she became very emotional about librarianship being a calling and how you shouldn't go into it if you want a high salary"

Lower-income students of all races aren't going to incur debt for a graduate degree to enter a low-paying profession. Sorry, you can't have it both ways. In fact, by continually referring to librarianship as a calling, and thereby not doing anything to improve salaries, you are essentially ensuring the profession will be filled with upper-middle class women whose significant others are the primary breadwinners.

Hey Anon 2:36, care to comment?

I think the notion librarianship as
a calling is one of the reasons why so many people are emotionally invested in their work; this tends to cause more conflicts. Every subtle nuance is taken personally. People become very territorial about their work. Because it is a calling, you feel compelled to assert yourself, grandstand, and self-promote, and this often marginalizes your fellow colleagues. I daresay thinking of librarianship as a calling is deleterious to one's psychological well-being.

If you are in the librarian-as-calling camp, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Are you happy?
2) Do you have a fulfilling personal life?
3) Are you in good physical health?
4) Do you make good lifestyle choices?
5) Do you cherish your free time?

Anonymous said...

The people here belong with Randall Flagg, that's for certain.

Anonymous said...

Annoyed Librarian you are so annoyed. I think you need to find a new profession.

AL said...

Very clever. Thanks for reading. Perhaps all the people who annoy me need to find a new profession. It would save me the effort.

JD said...

How the hell did someone like Roy get elected? I admit I didn't vote, but surely her opponent could've been better. Is there an impeachment process?

AL said...

In my opinion her opponent was better, and I voted for him.

andlorr said...

I'm a librarian with a tattoo. But the director of the library makes me keep it covered up. TEH MAN IS STIFLING ME OH NOES!

For the record, I'm a white woman too. But I'm the sole breadwinner in the family, so rich != me.

Anonymous said...

I've just decided not to renew my ALA subscription. I'm going to put the subscription money into my IRA so that when I retire I can continue to lead my frivolous, self-centered lifestyle.

I make a point of doing nothing self-sacrificing or of value to general society when I am outside of work to serve as a balance to my job. This includes spending money on over-priced library-oriented drinks. Instead, I invest in Halliburton stock.

Anonymous said...

I too had Ms. Roy in Library School. It would be a huge stretch to classify her as a "good instructor". Her meandering and unfocused lectures almost led me to drop out of the program. I felt embarrassed to be in a graduate program with such anti-intellectual instructors. So, you can imagine my shock when she became president?
But, then again, intellectualism is not exactly an important trait in the ALA, is it?

Despite all this, I do still love my job.

LibraryStudent--Why? said...

You are all so funny and right on. Well, everyone except anonymous 2:36 who can't take anyone challenging her perfect little world. Oooh!

Re: Kevin's comment from the English Socialist point of view: Ya der hey [YA dare hey], as we'd say in Wisconsin. "Smug" is exactly right.

Look how expensive it is to join ALA, even for a student. First there's the ALA fee. Then each little committee/round table costs extra. Is that progressive? Where do the volunteer librarians get the money?

I agree with all you progressives: that NYTimes article WAS just plain silly. It made me mad at the time, though.

K said...

Wow. So refreshing to read all this...kind of upsetting, too. But nice to know that most are on the same page.

SexiLibrarian said...

Now we're told as well that "the study showed that librarians are becoming better educated than ever before."

I saw that article and had to hold back on my gag reflex. I've always said that the MLS is simply a secret-handshake into a private club. I mean how hard can it be to shelve a book and know the DDS? Of course I'm being facicious - I know there is more to it than that. But it's interesting that all librarian jobs require an MLS from an "ALA accredited institution". Is that so that only ALA mantra is taught? And ALA like-minded students are sent forth into the profession? How are students supposed to be encouraged to come up with new and fresh ideas if those schools giving birth to new librarians only teach to the ALA way of thinking? And since when did an "Association" (that is, in reality, a Political Machine) get the authority to dictate collegiate cirriculum at the graduate level in public schools? Especially when there aren't boards to certify our skills like a lawyer or doctor? Is that the same for the AMA? I could be speaking out of turn. If so, I don't care - I still feel the same way.

I got a tattoo before I wanted to be a libarian. Does that mean I'm hip to the core? And shame on whoever picked on Make a Wish Bear. That was my favorite!

Anonymous said...

that's University AT Buffalo