Reading back through the comments to last Friday's post, I noticed one from a library school student seeking advice, the query being more or less, is it really as bad as it seems after reading the AL. I have some sympathy for library school students; after all, I was one once myself. To be honest, when I started the AL I didn't consider that any students would be reading. It was more one professional griping to other professionals for fun. This sounds a bit inappropriate considering that a lot of library school students are probably even older than I am now, but when students first started reading and responding to the AL, it felt a little like the children were eavesdropping on the adult's conversation. I don't mean to sound patronizing, it's just that the discussions here usually tend to revolve around issues of relevance only for those who have left the cozy library school world of group work and tedious assignments for the harsh professional world of group work and tedious assignments.
For example, I rarely address the plight of the non-professional library worker, though more through ignorance than negligence. I work with many non-professional staff, but I don't tend to think of them any differently than the professional staff. In the immortal words of Depeche Mode, people are people. I know in some libraries there is a more rigid class structure than I'm used to, and a lot of ill treatment by both the library patrons and the so-called professional librarians, but I'm not the one to address that. There should be a blog called Annoyed Library Worker for that, and I'd be happy to add it to the blogroll.
Once I began addressing library school and folks began commenting one way or another on the experience, I should have expected some library school students to read, and, as you all know, I'm happy to dispense advice as if it were water, murky and bilious water perhaps, but still water. My previous advice still stands: get out now and save yourselves! Despite my advice, people keep entering library school, no doubt attracted by the ALA's Top Ten Reasons to Be a Librarian.
So here's the query, to which I'll respond in parts. Please feel free to advise this student as well. Some of you seem to think I'm too harsh and bitter and not perky or constructive enough. Here's your chance to set the record straight for this student. I'm going try to be perkier and more constructive than usual as well. We have to be gentle with the students, because we need them to graduate and get jobs so they can support us in our dotage at the old librarians' home.
"Over the past week I've been reading the AL's blog and have been horrified of what I've read! I'm currently in the process of wrapping up my first quarter in an MLS program and am feeling very doubtful about my career decision after having read all of your comments."
That's understandable. I've been a librarian for years and am still feeling doubtful about my career decision. Remember, if you're able to get a job, you won't have to work very hard. The expectations are low in every area, from performance to fashion. You won't get paid much, but you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're saving the world one library card at a time. No amount of money in the world could replace that feeling.
"Of course, I'm not founding my fears on the comments of strangers alone, as I've been working a VERY part-time student assistant position at my local public library and have, on more than one occasion, referred to our fine institution as nothing more than a glorified Blockbuster. The attitude of patrons can only be described as demanding and cruel, as they treat us library workers as if we were sub-human scum."
Your institution probably is a glorified Blockbuster, but in this you are not alone. That's how the librarians of the future prefer it, so get used to it. As for being treated as sub-human scum by the patrons, this should change after you become a genuine professional librarian. Then you'll be treated as ordinary human scum, which is much better. No, I shouldn't say that. It must depend on the library, because I've never been treated as scum by library patrons, only by some of my colleagues.
"I realize that no career is going to be a picnic, and this is, after all, a public service position, but I'm beginning to feel that I am truly squandering my money on a degree that will leave me working for a mere $6 an hour, which is what all non-salaried staff at my library currently makes. It's very discouraging to hear employees that have been with the library for 4-5+ years complain about not even having the money for routine car repairs or clothes. How will I pay back these student loans if I can't even afford an oil change?"
Hmmm, the $6/hour does sound low, but surely the professional librarians get paid much more, perhaps even as much as $12/hour! How will you pay back the student loans? That's a different question. My advice is, don't take out any more loans, because you'll probably still be paying them back out of your Social Security. Don't borrow money for library school. Don't pay any outlandish tuition for library school. If you can't go cheaply in-state or get some sort of assistantship or get your employer to pay for it, think about doing something else. On the plus side, you might not even be able to afford a car, so worrying about an oil change is a sign that you're a hopeful person. Hopefulness goes a long way, except in a car with no oil.
"In my heart I'm clinging to the idea of working in the libraries because of my love for books (I know, I know ...it's stupid) and sharing that love with others. However, even the patrons that DO use the library for reading resources are checking out "light romances" and popular fiction ...basically, GARBAGE."
This warms the cockles of my heart, and there's nothing I like more than hot cockles. If you love books and reading and think most pop fiction is garbage, it definitely sounds like you're in the wrong place. The public library is the place to get pop fiction garbage and DVDs. Add Internet porn and video games, and you have the raison d'etre of the library. You should set your sights on an academic library, where there still are people who love books and reading and where one rarely finds the atmosphere of an Internet arcade cum rec center. It's not all as bad as your library. The grass really can be greener. Not much greener, certainly, but what do you expect.
"Advice ...? :( You're all scaring me!"
I'm all out of advice. It's up to you, kind readers, to share your wisdom.