Monday, February 25, 2008

Demoting Librarians

By now many of you have read about the poor little Marathon County Public Library in Wisconsin. That's the library where three of their librarians are being demoted and having their pay cut. The library is eliminating its professional librarian positions "in favor of creating three customer service librarian positions and one lead customer service librarian spot." It turns out that a "customer service librarian position" pays $10,000 per year less than a regular old "librarian position." Customer service isn't all gravy, I guess. The more librarians start to sound like they have an MBA instead of an MLS, the more suspicious I become, but I seem to be in the minority. Customer service, here we come!

According to the board, they have some financial problems there in Marathon County, and the choice was to cut some pay or fire some librarians. Who knows what the real story is, though. Eleven staff members have left in the past year, and a couple of the librarians accuse management of trying to drive out older librarians. All in all, it doesn't seem a pleasant place to work.

Except for the pay cut, this would seem to be the sort of thing that the twopointopians and the frustrated trendsetters and the gaming librarians all want, but there are probably some crusty librarians who'll be upset by this.

From the article: "The reorganization also aims to meet the ever-changing needs of customers, she said. Librarians today do less complex work, she said -- calling for pay adjustments and more technological assistance. [What does this mean?]

'We're really becoming a community center,' she said. 'Our public has different requirements of us.,"

That's a lot of "she saids" in three sentences, but let's ignore the sloppy writing and instead focus on the "ever-changing needs of customers." Isn't this the kind of thing we always hear from the twopointopians any time they try to deny they're not a cult of technology? "No, we're about focusing on the customers!" It turns out that focusing on customers isn't really anything you need librarians for. Clerks at Walmart focus on customers, just like clerks in a library. If you try to be all things to all people and have no idea what a library is for (except to bring in "customers"), what do you really think will happen? You'll be treated like a retail clerk, of course, or perhaps a program planner or something else, but certainly not a professional librarian. Librarians have to focus on building expertise and promoting that, not on bending over the reference desk with a big "kick me" sign on their bottoms saying they'll do absolutely anything to get people through the doors.

Let's examine the library director's public rationalization for cutting salaries. "Librarians today do less complex work." Is this true? I'm not sure about that, but it's certainly possible. I'm not even sure what librarians do these days. My job has become almost too complex to describe. But I can be sure that the more generalized libraries become, the less likely they need librarians. Librarians used to have special functions that they learned in library school. When library school students can spend their time in "graduate" seminars playing videogames, then they're not really learning any special skills. Teenage boys play videogames, and we all know they're the stupidest people on earth. And if these librarians don't have any special skills, then what makes them any different from mere ordinary mortals without MLS degrees? You don't need a graduate degree to play videogames or use Twitter or schedule community space.

"We're really becoming a community center." Isn't that what so many librarians want? They don't want to be book warehouses or perceived as places for quiet study or reading or justify their existence because the commonwealth needs educated citizens to survive. That's so stuffy and old fashioned! No, they want to be fun and vibrant and happening, where people come and drink coffee and play videogames and dance. Those librarians get excited about stuff like this (which has to be one of the most annoying and insipid blogs not written by a librarian I've ever seen. Anyone who uses creative as a noun is a moron). Libraries want to be cool. Here's a description of what one Wisconsin public librarian does: "I plan and promote library programs for a living." This is from a post called "The library as community center," and the author makes it sound exciting and important and, what's more, beneficial to the library. The library should be perceived as a community center, and the more people come the better it is. That's all great, but it doesn't take professional librarians to plan and promote library programs, and there's nothing peculiarly librarianesque about program planning. Librarians need a public service mission beyond that.

Many librarians want to turn libraries into community centers, but there's one interesting thing about community centers that a lot of excitable librarians haven't noticed. Community centers don't need librarians. They don't need people with "advanced" degrees in libraries or information or whatnot. They just need people to staff the cafes and plan stuff. Librarians pandering to the public trying to be all things to all people just succeed in making themselves look ridiculous. This might be good for the "customers," but it's not good for libraries or librarians. It's very nice of these selfless librarians to sacrifice their profession for the needs of the "customer."

Several readers sent this story on to me, wanting me to unleash the wrath of the AL on the library board of Wausau, WI. "Let's give them some bad publicity," one wrote. I don't know the full story of what's going on in that library, so I'm not going to unleash my wrath on anyone. But I do see this as possibly the beginning of a trend, the trend to deprofessionalize public librarians by turning libraries into recreational infotainment centers instead of focusing on the traditional mission of libraries to provide books and information. We need libraries because we need an educated citizenry. We need libraries because there are people who can't afford books and magazines and computers, and they need help, too. We need libraries because children need to learn the joys of reading. Libraries provide most of this now, at least any libraries worthy of the name, but that's not enough for some librarians. They don't like the educational mission. They want to be all things to all people. They want to play videogames and have dance parties and reduce the dissimilarity between libraries and malls. Libraries must change! They've got to move with the times!

Well, they're moving with the times, all right, and the people paying the price are librarians. I sure hope the "customers" are benefiting. The twopointopians and the frustrated trendsetters and the videogamers have made the bed, and now the Marathon County librarians have to lie in it. God help us all.

78 comments:

Anonymous said...

when AL and John Berry agree on something, the apocalypse is truly nigh upon us.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame the twopointopians and gamers for the ongoing disintermediation of information professionals from the day to day information needs of the vast majority of information seekers. What most people want to know most of the time is adequately accommodated by automated resource discovery methods without resorting to the services of a live, degreed librarian. When they need it, they need it, but most people can go a long time without really needing access to a database to get through life. Libraries and librarians simply don't have the resources, funding or wherewithal to bring all the information resources available today under bibliographic control, and why would anyone want them to? Heck, librarians are some of the most consistent and knowledgeable users of Google and Wikipedia. They just never will admit it. Give the 2pointers and gamers credit for at least trying to get people into libraries just in case they might someday need an actual librarian. Too bad there won't be a librarian there to help them. Continuing to conflate the expanding role of public libraries as information and community centers with the diminishing funding the public is willing to put into them makes for satisfactorily annoying blog posts but does little to get at a long term accommodation of the public's real need for information services above and beyond the reference book and overpriced database. Academic librarians with cushy tenure positions need not apply.

Anonymous said...

AL, if you haven;t noticed...society today is larger, lazir, and dumber then it has evern been before. Book intelligence is of little value now - the reall valuable stuff is being made by the "creatives" - as if the dorky gay graphic artists needed another name for themselves.

Realx - you might make it to retirement. I will not. I will have to seize the library world and hold it in dictatorial control...as it is currently held by the journal database publishers, the Newagers, and those people over in OCLC.

Merc Kat!

Anonymous said...

Oh, now, some librarians have very complex jobs. Those are the ones left doing all the library work now that local work has been taken out of the hands of branch librarians, so that they can better set up the games. Or something. Local librarians are not, after all, to be trusted with knowing whether or not a book is a paperback, or a work of nonfiction rather than fiction. That can only be trusted to the fine folks at Baker and Taylor. Dumb old librarians are great for babysitting the computers, though.

Anonymous said...

This sounds more like good old corporate creep, wherein formerly public organizations start taking on aspects of big corporations.

OTOH, I've come to a startingly conclusion about my life---I've never seen a library that was a good place to work. Nope, not a single one where I didn't hear about endless political squabbles, money problems, and people rotating through like a revolving door.

So maybe this is really more of the same disease with a different name.

Anonymous said...

OTOH, I've come to a startingly conclusion about my life---I've never seen a library that was a good place to work. Nope, not a single one where I didn't hear about endless political squabbles, money problems, and people rotating through like a revolving door.

In general, it seems that public libraries tend to be snakepits. Plenty of academic libraries are as well, but even those in question do not have a door that revolves at the same rate as many public libraries. The situation is very discouraging for anyone interested in public libraries. I would counsel these people to consider community college libraries instead.

Anonymous said...

"Academic librarians with cushy tenure positions need not apply."

I must take issue with that statement. While it may seem that what happens to public librarians has nothing to do with us in academia, that is not true. If society can start demoting us in one venue, it's entirely possibly that this mentality will creep into other libraries. And as a profession, it's our responsibility to be aware of what happens in any library situation and to be willing to stand behind our colleagues.

The thing is, I'm a public library user as well. I find this whole situation deplorable. But I have to agree with AL that librarians have lost our focus. This makes me think of a recent listserv discussion I've been following about how librarians (and many other professionals as well) have no real idea about what they want to do when they hit the job market. While we can't lay all the blame at the feet of the twopointopians, I think the mindset of librarians as "fun" places is causing us some problems. And I think we can still market ourselves as viable places with useful reasons for the public to visit us. Libraries are still one of the best equalizers in society where your race, gender, and class are less important than the need for some sort of information. People are still walking through the doors looking for help and I think we have to be less snobbish about admitting that we can use Google and Wikipedia better than the average Joe.

As to libraries being bad places to work, I don't know that we are any worse or better than any other type of job situation. Maybe the fact that we can't decide what role we should play is creating tension. This leads to unhappy management and unhappy employees.

Ed Crank -- Librarian said...

A lot of this has to do with the image of librarians and the way the "profession" is run.

Instead of promoting standards, cracking down on libraries that don't use professional librarians, and furthering professionalism, the ALA is busy denouncing Kenya as a bad place.

Sigh.

Can you imagine a hospital demoting doctors because people find out a lot about diseases on the Internet and can find their own treatment?

The AMA would make it so you wouldn't bring your guinea pig to that hospital. Practicing medicine without a license.

Or, can you imagine a law firm demoting a group of lawyers because you can find laws, and regulations, and court cases and stuff on the Internet? Defending yourself has never been easier, right? The Bar Association would have you in court faster than you could say Clarance Thomas. Practicing law without a license.

Where are the licensed librarians? Oh thats right, we don't need that kind of training. We can play video games in school and still get our degree. [And to those who say "OOOO you played board games when you were kids." Yes we did. Even in the library. But, we did not play Twister against the librarians to eliminate a fine.]

Unfortunately, the chance to really promote librarians as a real profession has passed. We can all shake our heads and gripe about people losing their jobs and positions disappearing, but, it is our own fault.

Once we were cutting edge in the information revolution, but sat back and watched the parade go by.

Me? I probably will stay in my place to get my pension. Will someone come along after me?

Absolutely.

Will they need a degree?

Well if they were busy playing Guitar Hero in school, try the community center.

boobarella said...

"We need libraries because we need an educated citizenry."

Well said. But I have to think there is a way to marry the "twopointopians" with the traditional library in a way that will benefit the patron. I can't imagine that there isn't.

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

Just remember, there are (apparently) McDonald's in which the person listening to your drive through order is in India and types out and finalizes the order, which appears on a screen for you and your local employee. Why? Because McD's can save a few (really few) dollars and eliminate a minimum wage position.

How long until budget conscious public libraries replace positions with similar technology, i.e., a smart person in a low wage country who helps you formulate catalog serches or Google queries or points you to resources for things Google cannot do?

--Taupey

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

or advises you how to spell "searches."

Dances With Books said...

I, for some strange reason, have not removed myself from the NewLib discussion list. The latest thread now is giving the names and contact of the board members of Marathon along with, get this, and I am quoting: "If the ALA fails to deal with them appropriately, what will we do to make sure these individuals are held accountable for their actions in the upcoming months and years?"

So now they are pretending the ALA is going to be the library police? Ed Crank has a point then, if we were professionals and behaved as such, we could make a stand. But since so many librarians want to basically deprofessionalize the profession, there you have it. We should be blaming the twopointopians and any other so-called librarian who wants to be more like an arcade attendant. They are making the bed. Too bad a lot of good librarians may have to lie on it as well thanks to them.

As for AL and Berry agreeing, I can see the Four Horsemen coming over the hill right about now.

The.Effing.Librarian said...

wow. me blogging the same topic as "the" AL; either AL was looking over my shoulder this weekend or I'm starting to pay attention to the real library world. either way, I'd better go post something about asses or farts before people start forming a good opinion of me.
oh, but to comment on this, yes, librarians are screwed. but the good news is, I can probably make more money in the private sector by helping seniors attach photos to their email.

Anonymous said...

"ALA as library police." HA!

The ALA is the American LIBRARY Association, not the Americal LIBRARIAN Association for a reason. Hospitals have AHA. Physicians have AMA. Libraries have ALA. LibrarIANS have what?

As far as ALA is concerned, librarians demoted? No problem. Libraries closed? Problem.

Oh, ALA may make some statement, or better yet, pass another meaningful resolution. But it doesn't really matter as long as the libraries are there doing something, anything.

Ed Crank -- Librarian said...

. . . The ALA is the American LIBRARY Association, not the Americal LIBRARIAN Association for a reason. Hospitals have AHA. Physicians have AMA. Libraries have ALA. LibrarIANS have what?. . .

My point exactly.

Librarians want to be considered professionals, but have no way of saying what is a professional librarian.

Excuse me, I have to go lay down a monster riff on Guitar Hero. I am going up against a lawyer and the winner has to Sheppardize a case.

j- said...

The library system in question is not in a highly populated area of Wisconsin--I imagine the entire county is in a cost-cutting scramble as their tax base shrinks.

Read some of the comments on the linked story. Highly amusing. They also confirm the fact that the County doesn't seem to know how to manage its money.

When the rest of these apparent geniuses that live in the county [if the comment posts are any indication] lose THEIR jobs in the upcoming depression, they'll be wishing a librarian was there to help them find something free to read, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

OK, OK, I can't resist my 2 cents. I've worked in all kinds of libraries in my decades as a librarian and found that public libraries get BUSIER when the economy is bad. Community Center--yeah, they'll need that when folks need to search for retraining opportunities, how to start their own business (cause they got fired from their job), how to sell their house cause they can't afford it, how to live off the land and grow their own food, etc. etc. You'd be amazed at the questions you get at a public library when the economy goes sour! You need skilled, very skilled librarians more than ever to try to stretch your budget to meet INCREASED USE which seems to come when you can't afford more expensive entertainment and have to make do. "Making do" with your older clothes rather than new, with home cooked food rather than restaurants, with doing or making it yourself requires more books, more programming, more homework help, resume writing workshops, more college funding workshops, etc. etc. Libraries thrive during bad times. Really really wrong decision here!

Anonymous said...

Just because they are busier doesn't mean they need a full time Guitar Hero working there.

Minks said...

This is AWESOME! I soo saw this coming too. Many librarians today do not earn their pay, and now the secret is out. You have to have the skills to warrant your salaries... and I would say 50% (wild speculation) do not.

Answer these questions to see if you are worth over $40k year...

1) I have taken one or more HR classes in college and am versed in standard personnel management. I have managed people, successfully.

2) I have taken at least one accounting class in college and understand basic balance sheets

3) I have taken at least 2 economics classes and understand the Law of Supply and Demand and budgeting.

4) I am well versed in MS Excel and can use it to apply #2 and #3

5) I work well with people and am well versed in negotiation. I have an open mind, and tend to do what is right for the organization as a whole, regardless of stubborn personal beliefs.

6) Can handle stressful situations. Can handle emergency situations.

7) Able to delegate work and not micromanage.

8) Through the H.S. and college experience, have gained a knowledge in locating information at the library.

9) I have a practical undergraduate that alone makes me marketable.

10) I have worked in a library for over 4 years.

If you have 6 or more 'Yes' answers, you may be worth over $40k a year. If you have all 10, congrats, you are definitely worth over $40 a year. I suspect most of those reading this blog are all part of the 'all 10 club',, but still,, you get my point.

I am certain everyone noticed that there is very little 'librariany' stuff in my 'are you worth it' quiz. That is because there is very little in your standard librarianship that makes you worth over $40k a year. Yea,, hard pill to swallow I know... but I can prove it....

I know many people with just a HS diploma or bachelors degree,, many many many, that do just as good job at the ref desk as most librarians. They have mastered the reference interview and use those skills to find whatever the patron can dream up.

Seriously, how much do you think somebody that can help you find information is worth? Remember your Law of Supply and Demand before you answer that question.

I would like to end by stating that locating information is still going to pay more then a rec clerk is paid. Wiping sweat off smelly bicycle seats is always going to pay less then sitting at a ref desk... because more people can wipe sweat then can perform a ref interview. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Why do we need librarians at the local level anyway?

Cataloging is done nationally.

Reference is just pointing to the computers.

Isn't it time we just hired clerks to watch the books? (And I am talking public, academic, and special library)

Anonymous said...

Dance Dance Demotion

Was I a professional librarian? For over 33 years, I raised the money to buy the books, pay the staff, and keep the building functional. I answered the questions, bought the computers, cataloged and entered the data, paid the bills, and even attended some of the "professional" director's meetings. Did doing those things compensate for not having an alamls? Did our "customers" who praised the collection, voted to build a much bigger building, voted yes many times for operations tax levies, and who borrowed enough to keep us among leading circulation per capita libraries ... did those "patrons" think I was a professional? I doubt that question ever was important to them. Did the county commissioners and library trustees ever ask if I was a professional? I doubt that question ever entered their minds. If you do your job well, whether you're a cook, a clerk, a carpenter, or a roofer, you're still a professional. No piece of academic paper can make you a pro.

Now that I'm gone the staff is having bake sales to buy the Dance Dance Revolution. Is that professional? Does it show commitment?

Signed
The Crook Librarian

Anonymous said...

This is above all the all-too-frequent story of disrespectful and dysfunctional library management, coupled with an incompetent and clueless governmental unit (in this case, a county). I am wondering why the director says that the community wants more of a community center. Perhaps that is what the generic "consultant" told her? Geez. And then they wonder why the gap between those who do and those who administer widens each year.

Library Betty said...

As a corporate librarian, I have seen the results of a 'misaligned library' -- they get cut. As much fun as it is to dream up new missions and pursue self-deluding powertrips -- if you don't provide real information to solve real problems -- the corporate library is closed. If you have a valid mission, know it and pursue it. Technology is great, but if it doesn't help you achieve your goal -- it's just a toy.

The whole community center approach is flawed -- everything is a community center now -- Starbucks, the park district or the mall. No one else offers the public experts who help them learn whatever they need to learn on an as-needed basis. Libraries have a market to compete in self-education. Why compete with restaurants, video arcades, bookstores and the indoor water parks in the realm of 'fun places to be'?

I love the mission of the public library and serve on committees at our district with public librarians. It is such a shame that fulfilling their real educational role has taken a backseat to being a fun place. Not all publics are going that route, but it is all the library press seems interested in.

All this reminds me of something I heard early on from a veteran corporate librarian, "You are only a professional, if you act like one."

a nonny-like moose said...

Wow, what a piece of work. Assume I'm overpaid, cut my salary, demote my title, and then expect me to fill the old job along with the one that a teacher/event coordinator would do as well. And for less!

She'll be running for state office in no time.

Anonymous said...

If you can't justify your job.

Buh-bye.

I am not going to pound my tax dollars into another Dance Dance Rat hole anymore.

Sorry.

Either produce or get off the pot.

Anonymous said...

Update on story is here: http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008802230473

The Director keeps digging herself a bigger hole.

esjohnson21 said...

It would be nice if librarians could come to a consensud on what a library is and what it is for. I don't have an eloquent answer, but I know it is not this:
"Brookline sculptors’ collaborative, will present “NOT-BOOKS: An Exhibition of Installation Art in the Library,” from March 3 to April 15, at the Coolidge Corner Library" http://www.wickedlocal.com/brookline/homepage/x866626777
"The varied works will examine the changing role of libraries as centers for transmitting human understanding, preserving culture and reflecting our social identities."

Libraries are now becoming museums. WE ALREADY HAVE MUSEUMS to do museum things.

Thanks.

soren faust said...

Minks,

Your criteria for what makes someone "worth" 40K seems arbitrary. What does this have to do with a poorly funded public library demoting librarians?

Two HR classes? Why two? Why not three?

A "practical" undergrad degree? So what? and there's a bunch of Business majors out there who have no idea where Ukraine is or why WWII ended.

"...at least 2 economics classes" If I can understand the Law of Supply and Demand (and even graph it) as well as set a budget after only taking one economics class, then why take two? Unless, of course, I want to be an Economist.

I can bet you, especially in the case of a public library, that those deciding on the funding could not care less if you know how to use MS Excel really, really well. Or that you know the difference between Micro and Macro economics.

Fabulist said...

This reminds me of something that happened in the local school district. They got rid of school librarians and replaced them with paraprofessionals ie little old ladies with no training.

“Assistant Superintendent Ray Morgan said the decision was mostly a financial one, and although the librarians with teaching certificates and library training were doing a great job, most of their work can be done by an employee with less education.” - Wednesday, 15 March 2006 Daily Herald, Provo, Utah

And when we talked about this in a library class I was stunned at how many of my peers agreed with him. My husband on the other hand (a teacher in this district) voiced the opinion that, if this were truly the case then why hire teachers. According to the logic of the district they could just as easily cut back on certified teachers and replace them with “presenters”, because isn’t that all a teacher really does present information to kids and who needs a degree or certification to click PowerPoint slides. My thought was replace the accountants with housewives. I know lots that can feed and cloth 1-6 kids on next to no budget and still make ends meet without cutting back on cool experiences.

RedLipstick said...

"The Library’s Mission is to attract customers to discovery and fun through exploration and entertainment."

This, from the library's web site, says it all.

Anonymous said...

"The Library’s Mission is to attract customers to discovery and fun through exploration and entertainment."

This, from the library's web site, says it all.


and if you can do that without a library degree and $10k under what the prevailing wage is....

You have a problem with that?

You must be a communist and not own property and pay taxes.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the second article the reporter interviewed some library patrons who didn't think the demotions were a good idea either.

So much for giving the public what it wants.

Sounds to me like somebody (perhaps Phyllis Christensen herself, or someone on the library board) is out to destroy the library.

Nonanon said...

Whoever posted the newspaper article at http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008802230473, thank you. That was very informative. Please note that even in the age of cost-cutting money was available to pay a "consultant" to come to the staffing decisions. What I want to know is, how do I stop being a librarian, and start being a consultant?

Also, AL, I loved the line that clerks at Wal-mart care about the customer. What Wal-Mart are you shopping at?

Thanks for the post. Sad, but necessary information.

AL said...

OK, you've got me. I can't remember the last time I was in a Walmart, but I do remember a post at the Academic Library 2.0 blog about how librarians should be more like Walmart greeters or some such nonsense. I assume Walmart would like for their clerks to care about the customer. How about that?

Anonymous said...

I wish I could get away with how rude, unhelpful, slow, and generally disgusting most Walmart employees are (at least near where I live). I'm always shocked when I get someone who actually is pleasant. But for the low pay and crappy public they have to deal with, I can hardly blame them for being less-than-caring. You pay me $7.00 an hour and make me deal with cranky customers and see how happy I act. Oh wait...I already do that. Except for the low pay.

As to the thing about academic librarians, don't knock us. Most of us aren't earning tons of money and have our fair share of headaches to deal with. We exist in a culture that doesn't understand why were really here either and sometimes treats us like barely trained monkeys. We definitely do not get the respect of the usual teaching faculty. And in general, I have to say that I do much more work in a week than most of them.

As to ALA. They absolutely disgust me. Maybe it's time that LIBRARIANS actually create an organization for themselves. Or start really vocally protesting how lousy ALA really is. I hear plenty of people complain, but it is happening at the right times and with the loudest volume? If we want our organization to change, it's time we take control. Let's start a different revolution. I'm not talking about DDR.

j- said...

*Libraries are now becoming museums. WE ALREADY HAVE MUSEUMS to do museum things.*

But, dude, those yuppies who come to look at the art and sip chilled white wine might accidentally stumble past some books on their way to the the toilets for a bump--then they'll discover the joys of reading!

*Answer these questions to see if you are worth over $40k year...[silly questions snipped]*

Yeah, I don't know where you went to graduate school, but our program had a Library Management course...the rest of that junk is picked up along the way from K-senior year of undergraduate, thanks.

Annoyed Library Worker said...

Library Betty,

Well stated and AL, thanks for this topic.

Personally, I think that the community center approach depends on the library. Working at a library in a neighborhood that has no Starbucks, restaurants, or much of anything at all, having this type of programming makes sense, but it should be with the goal of a larger mission in mind. In the case of the system I work in, Admin cares more about hopping on the latest hotness to pump up statistics then finding away to use these programs to expose the community to the more tangible benefits that the Library can offer. More often then not Librarians are shackled into working the Circulation Desks, community outreach, and running social events and collection development and professional expertise suffers. Then it becomes harder for the Librarian to justify their worth.

Anonymous said...

Just suck it up and start selling coffie.

eriksandall said...

AL blames the change in libraries from bastions of knowledge to community centers on "twopointopians" and gamers. I doubt they have that much influence. Isn't it more likely this shift is the result of attempts by city officials and library administrators to spin their budget cuts into something palatable to the general public? Nobody wants their local library to cut staff, but if officials and administrators "reshaped" the library into something that would meet the public's needs above and beyond the old library, with the "appropriate" staff to boot, wouldn't they be supportive?

mdoneil said...

Why are librarians still denying the obvious fact that nobody gives a damn about librarians?

Obviously the library instant and the town in which it is located do not.

The ALA certainly does not.


People are arguing about $40K positions and their qualifications. I am a librarian (by virtue of having an MLS, and having worked in a PL) I want to hire an assistant to do what I do which is tangentially related, but in a very large firm not a library.

I could not offer $40K, the HR people would laugh at me for offering a salary so low. The position is posted on our public website, I have mailed both library schools in my state to post it for their student or graduates. I have asked the local SLA chapter to post it, yet I only have 1 CV from a librarian. I get stock brokers, recent college graduates working at air conditioning companies, car salesmen but only one librarian.

You want to know why no one cares about librarians, because librarians don't care about librarians. I have to prod the local university SLIS to post the job, my alma mater the other library school in the state (http://apps.lis.fsu.edu/jobBoard/) has yet to post it. If the schools don't care, the professors don't care why should the public.

Librarians if you want to get ahead get motivated. Sure I have an MLS, but I also have other skills. I can converse, I can write a coherent report, I can work and socialize with my co-workers and I don't stick out like a sore thumb (or the stereotypical librarian).

Other managers at MPOW are also hard up for people with research skills, but the librarians are not applying. These jobs will go to the undergraduates who paid attention to the librarian in school and learned how to use the reserach tools, and how to make it in the business world with social skills. Librarians without backbones lose.

If these demoted librarians had any stones they would simply quit. They won't because they know there are any number of people with MLS degrees willing to work for that crappy pay.

Why librarians are whining about 40K but not applying for the $60 & $70K positions amazes me.

I can't be the only one who has figured it out.

Anonymous said...

Following are the names of the individuals on the MCPL Board of Trustees who made this horrible decision:

Gina Cornell
Tim Gierl
Roger Zimmerman
Paul Buchberger
David Eichmann
Dorothy Scott
Scott Winch
Audrey Ascher

These individuals all need to be removed from the library board immediately. In fact, they should never again be elected to the boards of, well anything really. Would you want them on your board? Would you want to work with them? I wouldn't.

There. Now anyone who googles any of these people from now on will find this message.

Kristen said...

"I, for some strange reason, have not removed myself from the NewLib discussion list. The latest thread now is giving the names and contact of the board members of Marathon along with, get this, and I am quoting: "If the ALA fails to deal with them appropriately, what will we do to make sure these individuals are held accountable for their actions in the upcoming months and years?""

In fairness, that's Ian. His crank reputation is well-established throughout libraryland.


Re the art display, that's a red herring. Libraries have always had temporary art displays. Or at least they've been common for the last 40 years. And there is usually zilch involvement by the staff beyond initial approval. It's a local arts council type of thing. Oh and the public likes it.


And in terms of so many librarians not applying for corporate research jobs -- Many of them would rather starve than work in the private sector. It's a very idealistic profession.

Anonymous said...

If I was a library trustee in Marathon County, Wisconsin, I'd look at statewide library statistics to see how our library compares. I'd find the following:

Marathon pays a 49% of salaries for benefits versus a statewide rate of 38%. Marathon has 7.75 MLS librarians and 2 nonMLS librarians. Statewide the ratio is 685 MLS to 559 nonMLS.

Marathon spends 9.3% of its budget on the collection; whereas, statewide the rate is 11.8%Marathon has a circulation per capita of 6.6 versus a statewide average of 10.6.

As a trustee, I probably conclude we had a top heavy library staff and needed to make some budget slash staffing adjustments.

Signed the Crook Librarian

Anonymous said...

An interesting topic, but I have a question. When are we going to start doing more than just complain on a blog? If ALA isn't meeting our needs as librarians (or future librarian in my case) then why aren't we telling them to go fish and starting an organization that will speak to our needs and the needs, beyond DDR, of our patrons. Reference is more than pointing to computers and I work with another technician who is smart but doesn't fully answer the question.
MSLstudent

Crumbly said...

Heart-sick and p....d off at what is happening in the States as well as in the UK. A lot of it is our own fault but the irony is that many many surveys of local government show that libraries (old style) are one of if not the most popular service.

In the UK the rot began with the introduction of the insane dogma of "team librarianship" along with "matrix teams" for projects and, the deadliest of all, unqualified library managers.

I could never understand why these new-style managers weren't at least required to have a reasonably high or at least adequate standard of education or even some sort of recognised administration or managerial qualification.

Add to this Devil's brew the parthogenic creation of inane middle managers who were more concerned with their own status than the service and the current state of libraries was inevitable.

Playing with Guitar Hero etc is just the result of librarians being cut off from managerial responsibility and losing contact with their public's real needs.

Anonymous said...

Playing with Guitar Hero etc is just the result of librarians being cut off from managerial responsibility and losing contact with their public's real needs.

If you don't know your public's real needs, then you should get out.

Now.

I don't work in a public library, but in my special library, I know what I am supposed to do.

And guess what?

I don't wait for management to tell me what to do next. I go ahead and do it.

If it is bad, well then it is my fault. Just remember it is easier to say you are sorry than it is to ask for permission.

Kevin Musgrove said...

What is the point of having librarians in a public library?

Having gone to library school twenty years ago doesn't necessarily make you an asset to the community in perpetuity. There is the need for library skills at a community level but let's be honest, how many librarians actually spend all their time at work applying those skills? There is a dedicated core of librarians who deliver the goods, God bless 'em, but there's also far too many of the beggars who spend their time lording it over the paraprofessionals whilst delivering jack all themselves save an all-too-obvious contempt for the public. I'd happily lose those buggers. If I could replace them with good paraprofessionals with a commitment to public service I'd be ecstatic.

I'd be even happier if more library managers were actually managers rather than librarians made bad.

Anonymous said...

Public libraries are just now social service locations for the lower classes.

Anyone with money knows that you get better service at Borders and can find out answers for ALL questions on the Internet.

Give up the MLS and get a degree in social work.

soren faust said...

Yeah, and we all know just how awful the lower classes are. I'm surprised they're still allowed to roam free.

Now, the higher classes, that's something entirely different. They're so smart spending all that money on books from Borders, all those heady books too, which as you all know, Borders is so well known for.

Yeah, why would we want to provide relatively free library access to those who need it the most? I mean, what is this? America or something?

Anonymous said...

Free library access.

Remember, you get what you pay for.

Anonymous said...

Just remember it is easier to say you are sorry than it is to ask for permission.

Hmm. This (or it's more pithy version, "Easier to ask forgiveness than permission!") has increasingly become the motto of librarians over the last five years. That by itself tells me that there's something wrong with admin.

But honestly, most places I've worked, there's not much wiggle room, and even if you get something done, it will be undone if it's not approved.

As to our "Dreadful lower classes" friend... well, there's not much to say to that, is there? Either you believe in institutions that help level the playing field, or you don't. That's what libraries are for. At least in theory.

Anonymous said...

The concept of free library service has failed.

Shut the buildings down.

Get rid of the librarians.

Cut my taxes.

Anonymous said...

Should we be trying to get the private foundations to fund public libraries instead of the taxpayers?

If we could pull off a transition over the next 10 years or so, the taxpayers wouldn't have anything to complain about.

j- said...

*The concept of free library service has failed.

Shut the buildings down.

Get rid of the librarians.

Cut my taxes.*

The same could be said for "free" police service. They never show up quick enough, get drunk off-duty and start fights, shoot the wrong guys 50 times.

Besides, I can do the same job just fine with my own weapons and ammo, right? So let's shut the buildings down, sell the patrol cars and get rid of the cops, cut my taxes.

And "free" schools have obviously failed. Children don't learn anything but if they do it's just hate-America commie bunk. They all grow up to be baggy-pantsed hoodlums who have children out-of-wedlock as soon as they can breed, then go on the dole. I could do just as well teaching my children at home. Close the buildings down, fire the teachers. Cut my taxes.

This is fun. What other bulwarks of Western Civ can we eliminate?

Anonymous said...

If we could pull off a transition over the next 10 years or so, the taxpayers wouldn't have anything to complain about.

But then you are beholden to the foundations.

Face it, it is a lose lose situation.

Libraries began to fail about forty years ago.

It has been slow, but the decay has been there.

Anonymous said...

"Free Stuff" from the government is a relatively new concept and one that is failing.

One of the biggest lies one can hear is "Hi, my name is Kent Mansley, I am from the Government and I am here to help you."

Anonymous said...

Libraries are wonderful places to visit but I wouldn't want to work in one. But I do work in one, and it has been an extended exercise in humility, requiring unrelenting deferrment to my betters and the double-negative spewing masses (You ain't got no books about... it is spoken as a statement no questioning inflection at end of sentence). After nearly 10 years of witnessing this deprofessionalizing trend, I have decided to lay the blame on Library Administrators. The LA have enthusiastically embraced the trend, driving out the MLSs and then claiming they can't find anyone to fill the positions. I can only sit back and say, Really? This is a comment not a blog so I stop here.

Anonymous said...

If these ex-librarians are not careful, they may be demoted to blogger.

**shudder**

Anonymous said...

I don't work in a public library, but in my special library, I know what I am supposed to do.

Good to know...of course, the problem at hand is that the public library has long suffered from an identity crisis that is so often antagonized by the public user base it so serves. If you can economize or streamline the product to widen its usage without deepening its costs, then great. The library shifts to become the coffee bar without the cold air to move you along, the computer lab you don't have to pay for, the church fellowship hall without the religion, the day-care center with the academic toys and minds to guide, museum and archives without the added drive, and the community space without the rent; it does this all and more...

...and these people should be demoted despite added responsibilities?

Librarians would be stupid to apply to a place like MCPL and its intended target models: they're already faced with an environment that completely misunderstands not only the work needed to accomplish collection and research needs, but also completely belittles the scope and skills necessary to fulfill other tasks that can also be quite arduous. You would likely need more than a MLS to justify the jobs well, else you have a hackneyed project that will soon be the bane of the community.

...not to mention, if someone with an educational background would better fit, they too, would be overworked and underpaid.

Much like public pools and the needed training for lifeguards and other staff in a litigious age, libraries and librarians *do* have to adapt to expanded roles and responsibilities in a changing era.

...but that means they're value (if you honestly want a worthy functional institution) must be equally met.

...of course, I know this is all wasted once the anonymous libertarian trolls come out to play...

Anonymous said...

This title pretty much sums up why we still need librarians:

Fool's Gold: Why the Internet is no substitute for a Library.
by Mark Herring.

Anonymous said...

Nope. We don't need LIBRARIANS.

We do need libraries, but we can staff then with clerks. The technical stuff and thingies are done at some central facility in Washington DC or Ohio or somewhere [soon to be New Delhi] and the clerks can be there to check the books in and out and point out the location of the bathrooms.

The way technology is today, you can do this with a manager with an MBA and a couple of high school grads.

Anonymous said...

When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved.
- The Prince and the Pauper

I remember about 10 years ago the town of Needham, MA voted to close their library and they did. It stayed closed a couple years then they voted to reopen it, so I guess you can say it takes a couple years to starve a mind.

WDL said...

Wow. Great post AL. You have a voice that people listen to. I'm glad you said something.

I love all the anonymous people giving big advice.

maybe its just silliness and they are kidding.

i left public libraries, and do not plan to return ever, if I don't have to.

xo,
WDL

Anonymous said...

People post anonymously because their boss reads this too.

If she didn't, I would gladly post my name, but I could not afford to be demoted.

Again.

Liberry Girl said...

Uh, I'm confused. Seems to me librarians have been WANTING libraries to become community centers, entertainment destinations, cafes, arcades and retail book store-like. Now that the people in charge agree with them, librarians are melting down. Be careful what you wish for. Do community centers, book stores, arcardes and cafes need MLS librarians? DUH. Librarians may be doing themselves in by not focusing on the purpose of libraries as information centers and the importance of what they do in that context. I don't think we can blame any evil-doers here. We only need to start valuing libraries and librarianship. If we don't, who will?

Anonymous said...

The Marathon Co. PL director has a blog here: http://snedlibrary.wordpress.com/

I have yet to find an entry on how library work today is "less complex" and librarians deserve about $10,000 less than they did a year ago. Looks like the blog hasn't been updated in a while so maybe she's taking her time to fully develop this philosophy before she graces us with her insights.

Coudurio said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I really like the part about inviting everybody in and bending over and posting "kick me" to one's backside.

I truly believe that there's a proper posture for librarians to maintain when serving the public, and that posture is not on our knees.

Anonymous said...

So, mdoneil, how do I contact you? I’ll be happy to apply for your corporate jobs that pay $60K & $70K a year.

Although I am in a “very idealistic profession,” I’m finding that my idealism won’t pay my bills or fund my retirement, much less allow me to have a modest vacation from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Just to set the Crook Librarian straight. I work at this Library (lucky me hugh?) I don't know where Crook Libarian got his figures but they are wrong. We have 3 MLS librarians--2 in Reference, 1 in Children's--(the ones who are lucky enough to be demoted), the Director has an MLS and only one of the two managers does and we have one person who is a LAI who has a MLS but applied for the LA job anyway. We had one other MLS librarian (30 hours) but she left--guess why.......

Anonymous said...

Come on WDL

You worked at this library in Wausau......

WDL said...

If the WDL admitted to that claim, what good would it do? Seriously.

I have nothing to say for several reasons. I'll leave them to your vivid imaginations.

Carry on!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Minks. Obviously, these librarians did a poor job of distinguishing themselves from the paraprofessionals. No employer makes a move like this unless the employees are underperforming.

Anonymous said...

More than 100 years ago philantropist Andrew Carnegie saw the potential of the public library to be the center of enlightened learning in every community. He offered to build libraries if communities would contribute land, furnish money for annual maintenance, and exercise governance and oversight. He gave communities the incentive to participate in a national movement and between 1881 and 1971 invested the equivalent of $3 billion to build 1,869 libraries across this great nation of ours. The result of Carnegie's investment and the involvement of communities helped EDUCATE generations of Americans. His commitment helped fix the library in the American conscious as a SIGNIFICANT public institution that needed and deserved broad public support.

Anonymous said...

*The Marathon Co. PL director has a blog here: http://snedlibrary.wordpress.com/*

Well, are these librarians really going to appreciate "rich people" thinking when confronted with the reality of cuts in pay?

She is the kind of person who "sets goals" for her dog. Maybe this has nothing to do with the library, but still...

And let me guess, she probably wears plenty of horrible tacky sweaters (right WDL?) and has a great TEAMWORK poster in her office. The latter to remind her of the great machinations of the universe coming her way.

Anonymous said...

I currently work in a suburban library staffed primarily by paraprofessionals and part-time library assistants. We don't have the resources to staff a reference/information desk. We do have lots of programming and very nice meeting rooms that are well used by members of the community. We buy mostly popular materials; our nonfiction collection is very thin in terms of coverage and depth. However, our clientele accept the library as it is and express appreciation for our service. I have never been so depressed about being a public library librarian as I am now...

Anonymous said...

I currently work in a suburban library staffed primarily by paraprofessionals and part-time library assistants. We don't have the resources to staff a reference/information desk. We do have lots of programming and very nice meeting rooms that are well used by members of the community. We buy mostly popular materials; our nonfiction collection is very thin in terms of coverage and depth. However, our clientele accept the library as it is and express appreciation for our service. I have never been so depressed about being a public library librarian as I am now...

Anonymous said...

I currently work in a suburban library staffed primarily by paraprofessionals and part-time library assistants. We don't have the resources to staff a reference/information desk. We do have lots of programming and very nice meeting rooms that are well used by members of the community. We buy mostly popular materials; our nonfiction collection is very thin in terms of coverage and depth. However, our clientele accept the library as it is and express appreciation for our service. I have never been so depressed about being a public library librarian as I am now...

EB said...

The School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee wishes to respond formally to the recent job postings that called into question the professional status of the Master of Library and Information Science degree. We firmly believe that the role of a professional librarian should be valued, and, should be compensated appropriately as other professional degrees are. The value of professional librarians, and the complex work they do, should be taken very seriously. Libraries are indeed a public good, bridging information rich and poor and providing unfettered access to information. Professionally trained librarians, in collaboration with other library workers, benefit all members in a community. We encourage library administrators, library boards, and local officials to remember that the library has been shown to definitively improve the economic, educational, and social value of a community. Keeping this in mind, we urge those making personnel and budgetary decisions to maintain the professional status that communities expect and deserve in their libraries by providing a living wage that recognizes the value of trained librarians.