Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Marathon County Library Leaders Strike Back!

LISNews had a couple of posts yesterday pointing out responses from the president of the Marathon County Public Library Board of Trustees and the director of the Marathon County Public Library to criticism of their move to demote, reclassify, and/or fire and rehire at a lower salary some librarians in Wisconsin. The Marathon County Public Library seems destined for a movie-of-the-week treatment, if you ask me.

The president of the board of trustees responded to the Wassau Herald (itself!). According to her, the articles about demoting the librarians "seem to reflect a lack of information and, in some cases, outright misinformation." In other words, they are the work of ignorant liars. Strong words! Fortunately, the trustee board president sets us all straight:

"In your articles, which were published on the front page last month, it was reported that certain positions at the Marathon County Public Library would be reclassified into newer, lower paid positions. In actuality, the existing master of library science, or MLS, librarian positions were eliminated, and four new MLS positions were created."

Oh, well, that's completely different, isn't it. Those newspaper articles were just complete bollocks, obviously. They weren't reclassifying any positions into newer, lower paid positions. No, they were recreating those positions into new, lower paid positions. Something tells me that subtle difference is lost on the librarians in that library. Of course, from what I've gathered, everyone who could leave left before this happened, so the remaining librarians must have seen something like this coming.

The basic problem, according to this trustee board president, is that the librarians just aren't doing much professional work anymore. "For example, the reduced amount of work requiring a master's degree is a direct result of increased electronic access to information they previously provided. In 2007, only about 57 percent of the reference (complex) questions from the past year were handled at the Adult Reference Desk." I'm not quite sure what the significance is of the 57% of questions being handled at the adult reference desk, but obviously this trustee board president hasn't heard that "professional" library work is no longer defined by anything so elitist as answering complex questions. Did she consider whether the librarians were writing blogs? Or playing videogames? Or making wikis? Or posting pictures of their library signs to Flikr? These are the things the hot new librarians are all doing. They even teach them in library school. Aren't those professional activities?

She just doesn't mention things like this, so we can't know for sure what she thinks of them. However, something tells me that the twopointopian rhetoric about what librarians should all be doing wouldn't fly with many library board members around the country. The twopointopians say we need more librarians who are passionate about technology and change and radical trust and all that stuff. What libraries need are more librarians who can defend libraries to the general public and to library boards. But which do you think is easiest to blog about or give HOT talks about at conferences?

The library director herself hasn't been silent on this issue. Another Wisconsin public library director had the nerve to criticize the Marathon County director on the Wisconsin library listserv (or whatever it is):

"I understand tough budget decisions and the difficult times libraries are facing. However, I don't understand devaluing library staff in this way. Sending this message to library staff that their work is not complicated, not worth the money they have been earning, and not worth their library degree is harsh. It has to impact the service that library offers the public. And loss of these veteran professional librarians will definitely make the service there suffer."

But the Marathon County director pooh-poohed all this namby-pamby, touchy-feely nonsense. She doesn't think she's victimizing anyone. Victimizers never think that, just for the record.

"The reduction in reference questions does NOT necessarily mean less work at public service desks. Public service takes place at all points of contact with the people who enter our buildings or visit us on the web, be it the Reference Desk, the Circulation Desk, the Information Desk as you enter the building, or in the stacks as books are being shelved."

This sort of makes it irrelevant whether only 57% of the questions are answered at the adult reference desk. But wait!

"The real question is 'How much of that public service work requires a Masters Degree?' If the answer is that a declining amount requires that advanced degree, then how can we justify maintaining the same staff to do less work?"

That's just mean! But let's engage this poor deluded director for a moment. How much of that public service does actually require a master's degree? How many of us in our heart of hearts can answer truthfully, all of it!

Let's take a look at this objectively. (As faithful readers of the AL know, I'm nothing if not objective.) The objective view would have to be that no one but librarians seems to give a damn about what librarians can do or should be doing.

The ALA certainly doesn't care. They prattle on about so-called "banned" books and promote videogaming in libraries, but they don't address any professional concerns of librarians. As long as you pay your dues and tout the ALA ideology, they don't care what happens to you.

Library schools don't care. Take a look at the course offerings and faculty research interests at the better "library" schools. How much of any of that has to do with libraries? Not much. Library school professors (or "library scientists" as they sometimes call themselves) train other library school professors. They don't work in libraries and sometimes they've never worked in libraries, and they are usually more concerned with "information" than libraries, especially in those schools which have dropped "library" from their name.

But wait, what about the prominent library bloggers? No, they don't care, either. The Shifted Librarian and the Webtamer aren't even librarians, and no one's writing about how to justify public libraries to an indifferent public or to library boards, as far as I know. It's much easier to promote videogames and library blogs than do anything useful. Play more games and use more social software and they will come!

Recently, a faithful reader emailed me. Among the comments were the following:

"This reader is not sure if your intention is to harm the public library to reduce your property taxes or some such nonsense. A few people who think this way post comments on your blog.

You have power, use it wisely."

I've yet to respond. (As an aside, I've been getting a LOT of email recently, and I'm falling behind in my responses. Please keep sending fan mail and stuff to get annoyed about. If I don't respond promptly, it's not that I don't love you more than your mother does, it's just that I'm so busy.)

Personally, I don't think I have any power at all, but let me be blunt. My intention is NOT to harm the public library. However, I can't help but point out lunacy when I see it.

The problem with public libraries isn't that they don't provide useful and necessary services; it's that they can't figure out how to justify their existence to the public and the powers that be. The ALA does nothing. Their idea of advocacy for libraries is their Washington Office, which as far as I can tell backs the losing side in any legislative battle they enter. They have nothing to say at a local level. The library schools aren't doing anything. They've long been accused of not teaching anything practical about libraries, and increasingly they seemed to be focused on anything BUT libraries and their struggle for existence. The twopointopians and the gamey librarians are doing worse than nothing. They're dressing up amateurish nonsense in the guise of professionalism and they think they're doing libraries a favor.

Some of you may be overjoyed at what's happening in Wassau, WI, and some of you may be outraged. Some of you might not care one way or another. But don't make the mistake of thinking this will be an isolated incident. Until public librarians can justify themselves to people who don't care about twopointopia or gaming or informatics or "banned" books, this is the sort of thing that will happen. Some of you reading this hate libraries and want to change them into some techno-funland. What you'll end up doing is getting rid of public librarians and eroding public libraries. I hope you're enjoying yourselves.

And for all you library school students looking forward to being public librarians (rather than gamey "librarians" or twopointopians), good luck. You'll need it.


Anonymous said...

To be fair, AL, what good is a skillful defender to the taxpayer who will see the services and compensation for said services as frivolous?

The institution (library) will see change in its purpose and services regardless of how its defense fares. These are the concessions of compromise.

Anonymous said...

I am with you AL on this issue. I also believe that there are many in the library profession who are causing the demise of professional librarian positions in public libraries. We can not completely blame the public for how they use their libraries whether it be for computer gaming or to check out movies when it is the library profession that promotes this ideal for public libraries and funnels money towards this. Promoting literacy has apparently dropped from the agenda of some public libraries. I saw the writing on the wall four years ago when I worked as a public librarian so I am not terribly surprised by what is currently happening with the professional positions.

Madge said...

Another great post AL. People have always asked me why after years working in public libraries why I don't get my MLS. The answer that I give has a lot in common with what you've stated here. Why would I spend the time and money on a post graduate degree that doesn't command the respect (or the salary) that it did even 10 years ago?

Anonymous said...

Oh, please don't go blaming the ALA.

They are, after all, looking after the interests of libraries, not librarians.

They only depend on librarians to give them tons of money so that they can shoot down the profession.

They want libraries to survive, but not necessarily librarians. At least not professional ones who will answer questions and promote the Dance Dance Revolution Nights.


All that time and money spent on an MLS and I should have been putting that money under my mattress.

Anonymous said...

AL, you hit the nail on the head with this one. Keep up the good work.

ALW, the post graduate degree has never commanded respect nor salary. It's a woman driven field, and no one respects us or pays us. People are usually in it because they love books, information, or helping people.

Anonymous said...

If you got into the profession because you "love books", boy are you going to be sad when you get tossed out on the street by the twotopians.

Buh bye.

And you wonder why librarians don't get the respect that other professionals get.


Anonymous said...

Amen indeed. I have said now and then that maybe what needs to happen is for a few more public libraries to be closed down for our profession to effing wake up.

This is definitely a must-read post. Too bad the people who should be reading it and heeding either don't give a crap or are just as hypocritical as the powers that be in Marathon. Maybe we can eliminate the director's job there, then "recreate" it at a lower salary? After all, how much skill does it take to be director in that library?

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can eliminate the director's job there, then "recreate" it at a lower salary? After all, how much skill does it take to be director in that library?

The famous defense against that: "to ensure the best qualified leader to serve both the lofty needs of both the community and the institution, the salary must be competitive enough to ensure a consistent pledge to the management of the highly valued institution."

It reads as such a threat that without a highly paid leader, nobody below can take charge of anything competently.

Anonymous said...

There are so many things wrong with these two internal statements that I could spend all day writing this post (not an option). I'll concentrate on two for now.

1) Where exactly is this "plan" that keeps being referenced? Who wrote it? Was there any input from staff? Who is this consultant with the cushy lifetime job at the county? What sort of experience does he/she have? I've got both an MSLS and an MBA; I should be hanging out my consultant shingle on this - there IS a difference between the library and other govt departments. This plan should be public information.

2) The director said something about the original Website was made by a librarian; the newly-updated site was by those who are "savvy" and not librarians. The inference is that librarians can't contribute anything positive and "savvy" to the Website. I've taken a look at the new Website. It is totally soulless. Why aren't they using those librarians to create great content? Perhaps content isn't in the plan if it doesn't involve meebo, flickr, and all of those great tools.

Anonymous said...

There is no organization that looks out for librarians.

If a director wants to hire poodles to do the work, more power to them.

ohhhhh, booooohoooooo, librarians are being slighted.

If you had any gumption, you would be out there making sure that the "profession" was being advanced.

As it stands, librarians are only looking out for themselves and making sure that they can go to conferences where they can down as many martinis as humanly possible.

Anonymous said...

Just remember to wear a matching tie and hankie combo.

And for you girls out there, a matching shoe and purse combo.

That is all that matters in the library world, looking good.

You can know $hit, but if you look good, you will go far.

Just ask the WDL.

Anonymous said...

Something tells me you hit on WDL and he rejected you.

Amanda Werhane said...

One correction: it's "Wausau," not "Wassau."

I should know - my first library job (at the age of 16) was at the main branch of the Marathon County Public Library in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

Accessing information is going to continue becoming easier. Those that have problems with the technology used to access that information become fewer (old people). Printed materials shift to online only (already happening). What then? Where does this leave old fashioned librarians?

Librarians as we have known them for the last century will be dead! Gone. No more! Ka-put!
There are two routes the new librarians can take...

They can become hipsters and turn libraries into rec centers. This is a position lots of people can do. Anytime lots of people can (and want) do it, it will pay less. Expect $12 an hour paychecks.

They can become managers. They can oversee the daily operations of the libraries and work with the other departments to get things done (get the lot paved, carry out library expansions, etc.) They can oversee budgets. They can be digital collection developers. They can manage & support the information systems (*hint hint*,, this a really good one). They can select the online databases that put their brethren out of work. They can be HR staff and manage the $12 a hour folks running the Guitar Hero nights. Ask yourself, how much are you responsible for? I mean responsible as in if you screw up, your ass belongs to somebody. If you are not regularly making fairly meaty decisions that if you screw up, you are in doo-doo,, look out... I see $12 an hour in your future.

Painful truth is, while libraries still do need librarians, they do not need as many as before. Plenty of kids nowadays can search the web better than many librarians. We need to focus on the hard stuff. Nobody likes hard stuff that requires skill and brains... but that is what will keep your salary high.

Skill + Education + Responsibility + Hard = Job Security

Skill - Can anybody do your job with a year of training? If yes, you are not skilled. Good luck!

Education - In the case of the Library Masters Degree, this is more of a financial barrier to entry then anything else. Still, a barrier none-the-less. I think the MLS programs should be WAY harder. WAY harder. Some people do pick up useful undergrads that make them far more valuable then a crappy undergrad and an MLS.

Responsibility - Like I said above, how much you are responsible for is a barometer of what you are worth. If what you are responsible for fails, and nobody really cares and you are not at risk of loosing your job,,, then it does not count.

Hard - Is it like work? Would you do it for free? The harder something is, the more it pays and the harder it is to get people to do it. If you go to work loving your job, chances are somebody else will too,, and they would be willing to do it for less.

Anonymous said...

Hard - Is it like work? Would you do it for free? The harder something is, the more it pays and the harder it is to get people to do it. If you go to work loving your job, chances are somebody else will too,, and they would be willing to do it for less.

I disagree, the real meter is not how unpleasant it is but how valuable the profession is perceived. I know plenty of jobs that are physically demanding, mentally draining, and downright miserable. They may pay somewhat more than McDonald's, but they also struggle to keep employees as workers burn out or move on.

A job that requires a innate skill or talent which not everyone has offers the best chances for success, and I still believe it's possible to enjoy your job.

As for the rest, I've felt for some time that libraries will devolve to managers being the "librarian" and hourly workers maintaining the rec center--er, library.

I think nothing shows more how badly libraries have slipped than the "teaching" requirement many academic libraries obsess over. Yes, you have to have substantial teaching experience to be considered, even if the teaching experience is showing people how to use the databases and "classes" once a semester on how to use the library--which really an hourly worker could do just as well.

I used to have this hope that I'd live long enough to see the last library close, and be standing on the sidewalk to throw a heap of dung at the librarian as they leave. However, just as today there are still blacksmiths who make horseshoes long after the horse stopped being a serious means of transportation, fossilized and useless libraries will likely linger forever in academia.

Anonymous said...

Something tells me you hit on WDL and he rejected you.

Just like everyone else in this world.

No wonder I became a librarian.

jmomls said...

*As it stands, librarians are only looking out for themselves and making sure that they can go to conferences where they can down as many martinis as humanly possible.*

Firstly, not many librarians drink martinis. Most of them are either too square or sissified for nearly straight booze.

Secondly, AL you should disallow anonymous comments. If you're going to attract boring one-note temperence-minded trolls, at least put them through the motions of signing up with Google/WordPress/Whatever.

*I used to have this hope that I'd live long enough to see the last library close, and be standing on the sidewalk to throw a heap of dung at the librarian as they leave.*

Why such an attitude? Did you flunk out of library school or simply fail to get accepted to library school?

One could extend this attitude of yours to the public schools. They do a far worse job than your library and taxpayers throw far more money down these ratholes. Teachers can be replaced by the internet and CD-roms, right? Heck, if everyone just home-schooled we could close public schools down completely--just think of how much your property taxes would plummet then, right?

Then you could stand on a lot of corners and throw dung at a lot more targets. I'm sure you've got plenty saved up.

Anonymous said...

*As it stands, librarians are only looking out for themselves and making sure that they can go to conferences where they can down as many martinis as humanly possible.*

Firstly, not many librarians drink martinis. Most of them are either too square or sissified for nearly straight booze.

Secondly, AL you should disallow anonymous comments. If you're going to attract boring one-note temperence-minded trolls, at least put them through the motions of signing up with Google/WordPress/Whatever.

It aint temperance, it is the hedonistic attitude of many librarians that "well it work for my site, I don't give a rat's a$$ about yours because only academic/special/public/medical/legal/insert your type of libry here count and the rest are idiots."

Now pass the booze and let's forget about everyone else.

Sarah Maximiek said...

The one thing I am forever thankful for is that my library school professors all had library experience - except one - who was worthless. I think it made a difference. They would say "here's the theory" and then "and here is the reality.."

But really, what do you expect in public libraries, were in many cases, its deemed acceptable to have non-MLS people be the director - and then they all get to justify their existence to a Board - most who have no bloody idea what librarians do?

I think it should be mandatory for every Board member to spend one day per week for two months shadowing a librarian - a different librarian - when they come on board. Then they can see what jobs a librarian does, and what the MLS is called for.

Anonymous said...

Why such an attitude? Did you flunk out of library school or simply fail to get accepted to library school?

How does one flunk out of library school? I'm just bitter at having wasted my money and a good portion of my life on a worthless degree.

One could extend this attitude of yours to the public schools. They do a far worse job than your library and taxpayers throw far more money down these ratholes.

Be careful, you're going to give them ideas.........

Anonymous said...

Do you think the WDL and I can exchange dickies?


As for flunking out of library school, I know someone who did.

Guess what?

He worked with me as a clerk a small public library and stayed on as I wen t on to bigger and better things.


I am a drone in th hive and he is a director.

soren faust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

In library school I did learn strategies for justifying public libraries to their boards and municipalities.

I attended University of Wisconsin-Madison.

ex-lib said...

I wonder what would happen if someone directed the newspaper reporter to ALA for comment on this sort of situation? It would be interesting to see them dither and maybe try to change the subject. It's pretty obvious what the situation here is. They needed fire hydrants and it all came out of the library budget. I think AL should consider writing a novel based on something like this. Movie-of-the-Week - You bet!

This sort of situation isn't going away. ALA dithers, Library Acade is busy with games, etc., and the long slide to the bottom continues.
Going into public library work is about like wanting a career in blacksmithing a century ago. Someone out in the Midwest should consider an online e-zine called RUSTBOWL LIBRARIAN. This stuff is incredible.

Brent said...

When asked why we need a masters, I say it is because you want well-rounded people that can relate to the literate. You don't want clueless people controlling information.

It seems like there is this underlying justification of existence in every writing, every post, by many writers in the library field. It turns me off because it's just sad. I guess it is part of my being.

At a public library, if a library goes the route of getting a "gaming librarian," there shouldn't be a requirement of a masters. He/she should be well-versed in games, have ability to communicate well, and have no record. Demanding a masters for positions at a library makes no sense, and that should be addressed. The "gaming librarian" does devalues the masters.

Then again, schools keep pumping out librarians, so why not demand a "gaming librarian" have a masters? There must be at least one unemployed, recent grad, looking to get in the door that plays games instead of working. But that is the exact reason the masters is being devalued...and that anyone can get it if they have money and time.

Kristen said...

The part that confuses me about the director's comments is that first she lists all the ways that (specific) non-MLS staff did things better than (specific) MLS staff and thus it would be poor customer service as well as poor fiscal management to NOT downgrade the positions, but then those downgraded positions still require an MLS.

Switching gears, most of my MLS faculty had full-time library jobs and taught on the side. Including a lot of public library jobs. And the focus was heavy on day to day administration and being relevant and being employable and etc. Probably not a coincidence that it turned out to be a very low-ranked program. Worked for me, however.

Brent said...

I suck at posting.

I forgot a word in the previous post: Demanding a masters for some positions at a library makes no sense, and that should be addressed.

Anonymous said...

AL, I hate to say it, but I'm afraid you made a mistake. Library school professors don't consider themselves "library scientists." They consider themselves "information scientists." Information science, as anyone with half a lick of sense in their head would suspect, is as useless as it sounds--about ten thousand times more useless about library science. Library science, if nothing else, is involved with the organization and accessibility of books, journals, archival materials, and such. I'm convinced that nobody on God's green earth knows what an information scientist is or even does, which is why I'll never calim to be an information scientist after I get out of library school.

It's a subtle difference and one that the other 199% of the population doesn't care about, but I thought I'd give you a "head's up" to keep the wrath of the library professors--oops, I mean "information scientists"--at bay.

Anonymous said...

I take issue with the "anyone can do it" attitude towards programming that is so prevalent in libraries, and which is echoed in comments on this blog. Not all programs are as inane as DDR or Guitar Hero. Most children's and some teen programs are very specific in their intent, which is to promote and teach literacy skills. As well as to promote the collection, and reading in general. Perhaps, technically, anyone can do it. But not just anyone can do it WELL.

What I do agree with is that you don't need an MLS in order to do this. Either a lot of GOOD training, a B.Ed. or Early Childhood Education degree would be better assets than a Master's degree in information science. Library schools are not great at addressing or teaching these program skills. But make no mistake - they ARE specific skill sets and if we assume that just anybody can do it, we end up offering lower quality service than we should.

Please don't lump all programmers in with the gamers, and don't assume that it's "easy" or "fun" either, just because it looks that way. Some of us have had a lot of education and training in order to get to the point where we make it look easy.

jmomls said...

*How does one flunk out of library school? I'm just bitter at having wasted my money and a good portion of my life on a worthless degree.*

Well, life and your degree are what you make them. You're starting to sound like one of those people who wants to tear the rest of the world down simply out of dissatisfaction with your own lot.

Like when Karl Marx lost his money on that stocks and said "It can't be me, it's gotta be the system man".

200 million dead people later...

*It aint temperance, it is the hedonistic attitude of many librarians*

Librarians and hedonism are two words that simply do not work together. Then again, I should've stopped reading when I saw "aint" [sic].

Anonymous said...

It was not long into my first Librarian job that I uttered the cliche: "I need a Masters for this???"

AL, you asked us to be honest, and critically speaking, in a perfect world the MLS would not exist. At best, it should be a Bachelor program, much like teaching requires a Bachelor of Education. That would help to keep Library Schools in line with the profession - teaching practical skills - and not so overly focussed on academic theory. It's good to know *some* theory, and history, and all that. But the need to justify "Masters level work" (and I use those quotes ironically) means that MLS students are not trained as librarians, per se. We're taught to think about librarian-ish issues. The technician diploma is actually far, far more practical and yet the people who have that college level degree will hit a salary ceiling faster than someone with a generic B.A.

However, we don't live in a perfect world. And the MLS does exist. It's not going away any time soon. So the sooner we start looking and acting like a profession, the sooner the public (and the Boards, and the library directors, and the staff we supervise, and the City Council who grants us our budget, etc. etc.) will take us seriously as a profession. I think that the reason we don't collectively stand up and reclaim a professional status that never truly existed is because, deep down, we know that a Masters degree is not *actually* required to do the job well.

All it does is separate those people who have a bit more ambition, and money, from those who don't (and are content to remain working in libraries with little or no hope of advancement simply because they don't have the MLS degree).

Anonymous said...

AL you are helping make retirement fun.  Thanks for being thought provoking.  In the few weeks since discoving your blog, I've come to treasure the humor of people like Ed Crank.  Still, as I read and reflect on what made me successful, a question keeps recurring: "What about the books?"Are the "gamey" "new" librarians book people, MLS or not? The only job I'd want somewhere like Marathon County would be in collection develop, getting the readers to return to the library.  (I hope Marathon had higher borrowing rates in the past.  Where are they on the HAPLR scale?)  Almost all of the many people who thanked me for managing a "high quality" library had one thing in common.  They were readers.  I agree with the previous writer's statement, "I uttered this cliche: 'I need a masters for this???'" My teaching certificate didn't prepare me for the middle school classroom, but the middle school classroom did more to prepare me to manage a public library than all the graduate library classes.Signed the Crook Librarian  (PS for you Aussies, I'm not using Crook in your context.  It's in respect of General George Crook.  He was acknowledged by Indians to be the most honorable of America's generals.  For a novel view of his work, Forrest Carter's book "Watch For Me On the Mountain" is worth reading.)

ex-lib said...

Using you analogy with George Crook, I'd say the Library field seems to be taking its cues from the Grattans, and Fettermans, with
the Custers assigned to ALA. Have you read PAPER MEDICINE MAN about John Gregory Bourke?

Back more on point, I wonder about the qualifications of the board here. How much did they or their spouses contribute to the election of some politico who appoints the board?

I just had an idea how to attract people to the library; hire a flagpole sitter and hook up with some radio station to have a "Dance Dance Marathon" [pun intended, I guess] a la the film "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?". With the economy headed where it is, I'll bet they'd get some contestants. Deja Vu?

Anonymous said...

The basic problem, according to this trustee board president, is that the librarians just aren't doing much professional work anymore.

So they are demoting one MLS and hiring Four MLS? the best, they can now schedule 24 hour reference desk service...


Anonymous said...

Like when Karl Marx lost his money on that stocks and said "It can't be me, it's gotta be the system man".

200 million dead people later...

It's nice to know that disagreeing with you must make me a commie, I'll let you know when I start channeling Che Guevara.

Kristen said...

"Librarians and hedonism are two words that simply do not work together."

You're just meeting the wrong librarians.

Unless you only mean on the job.

Anonymous said...

My experience with the MLS seems to have been different from most people's. While I earned my Masters, I worked my ass off at any library I could to learn the practical side of things and then, once I'd earned the degree, got a great job. I've found that falling back on the "theory" I learned in library school has been very helpful when there's been no one to ask about the practical side of things - which is almost always because I've always worked in very small, special libraries. The library school theory, 20-odd years of work experience in other fields and working at several different libraries give me a broader perspective when making decisions. I absolutely agree that the work wasn't as rigorous as I had expected for graduate school and the degree was far too expensive. But hasn't anyone ever heard of research? Before I made the decision to change careers, I looked at real job ads to get a sense of salaries and requirements and joined listservs ahead of time so I could find out what librarians bitched about (low salary a biggie and I decided right then never to work in a public library) and I made my plans accordingly. As I said, my experience obviously isn't typical of the librarians posting comments, but for what it's worth, I'm happy I got the degree, I wish it had been cheaper, it's been helpful in my work.

Anonymous said...

Do the Marathon County PL Board even have library cards?

soren faust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"Firstly, not many librarians drink martinis. Most of them are either too square or sissified for nearly straight booze."

You must be an academic librarian. Public Librarian's drink beer from the tap. Or whiskey and water as we did at my last retreat.


jmomls said...

*Like when Karl Marx lost his money on that stocks and said "It can't be me, it's gotta be the system man".

200 million dead people later...

It's nice to know that disagreeing with you must make me a commie, I'll let you know when I start channeling Che Guevara.*

Yep, comparing someone's line of reasoning to another's is the same as comparing their political beliefs.

[And Che is a p*ss-poor example of a Commie. If not for one iconic photo, nobody would care about him.]

It's not a wonder you're unsatisfied in life if that's the level of your reading comprehension and/or reasoning skills.

* Kristen said...
"Librarians and hedonism are two words that simply do not work together."

You're just meeting the wrong librarians*

Maybe, but I've known* quite a few librarians. Ever been to a party thrown by librarians and/or for librarians? First one is out the door at 8:30 and 85 percent of them follow shortly therafter. I guess you can't blame them--who'd want to hear endless rants against the current administration or stories about what their "fuzzy children" did last week?

Heck, just read a few random library-related blogs and tell me the stereotype of librarians is far from the mark.

*-mostly not in the biblical sense!

Anonymous said...

Hey AL, I see you have joined the Twitterverse. Didn't think that was your thing really.

AL said...

Not me on Twitter. Looks like some person trying pathetically to beat me at my own game.

Anonymous said...

The demoted librarians need to get this group to play a benefit concert on their behalf!

Anonymous said...

Watch for two more articles the Wausau Daily Herald (your favorite newspaper) is doing--one on changing libraries to come out this weekend. Don't hold your breath!

Anonymous said...

anon @ 12:34:

Your lack of experience in public libraries is what sets you apart. I work in a public library and am working on my MLS at the same time, and so far haven't learned anything applicable. The problem is that the coursework is useful, *IF* you are in administration, working in cataloging, or things like that. It's not so helpful if you have to deal with porn fiends, drug dealers, and homeless vagrants using the bathroom as a shower stall.

This is also why I'm not going to stay in a public library any longer than I have to. My dream job involves working the back room of a special collections or academic library, the kind where you can tell people to get the hell out if they don't have a Student, Faculty, or Staff ID.

Anonymous said...

"The Shifted Librarian and the Webtamer aren't even librarians"

LJ says The Shifted Librarian is a librarian. 3/15/03

WDL said...

Channeling WDL in times like this is a bit like relying on Elsa Klensch to solve the Middle East crisis. Its kind of you, dear anonymous.

And I still think you should have a nice handbag, regardless.

And on the MLS front...I got it because I knew I needed it to get the job I wanted, which in turn, made me want the degree.

My grad school experience was amazing, and I learned things that I use everyday. I'm sorry if people have landed in jobs where they can not excerisce these skills - and sorrier still for those who did not acquire those skills.

I had shadows that came for 4 (!!!) hours when I was a librarian...for graduate school. I had to spend an entire semester interning at a library WHILE attending grad school full time. What the hell did these people learn in 4 hours? One girl didn't even take her coat off! Its about the college....requirements must be stronger if we are to take them equally serious.


Anonymous said...

It's not a wonder you're unsatisfied in life if that's the level of your reading comprehension and/or reasoning skills.

Let's take a look:

Like when Karl Marx lost his money on that stocks and said "It can't be me, it's gotta be the system man".

200 million dead people later...

I dunno -J, Karl Marx died poor but he hardly lost his money on stocks, and as he wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848 and most of the deaths attributed to Communism happened in the 20th century, you need to read up a bit more. And if you couldn't see the humor about the Che Guevara comment---there's even a clothing line---then you're not only arrogant but humorless.

Congratulations, you're the ideal librarian.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to "Ex-lib" for the image of public libraries on a "long slide to the bottom." My image of the bottom is an old book warehouse with a dance floor in the teen section. (Thanks for the tip on "Paper Medicine Man" - I only know Bourke from "On the Border ...")

If any of you have seen the Marathon County libraries, are they becoming old book warehouses?

To Soren Faust, I'm appalled by that KKK link to Forrest Carter, too. But, he wrote a couple very fine books and is not a fraud as an author, regardless of his politics. I'm glad I read him before hearing the negative view.
Some Hispanics, and maybe some Indians, don't like Obama, either.
Does the KKK admit Hispanics and Indians?

Still the Crook Librarian

Anonymous said...

Librarians told to "keep quiet"


Anonymous said...

The Webtamer was until last year a librarian at St. Joseph County PL, and they do have great Web content (and I bet he had something to do with it):
Otherwise I wouldn't pay any attention to him.

webbygrl said...

Try as I might, I cannot figure out how to email you this cool article I found about how people still prefer paper books to electronic readers...kinda - that is until they see and play with the new readers. Maybe there is hope for libraries with books in them afterall!

Anonymous said...

WDL's comment about the 4-hour interns/shadows made me think right away, possibly without due reason, about the debasement of the MLS by its online availability from most ALA-accredited schools.

When did they all jump on board with this and say that you didn't need to be in the lecture hall to get this degree? Not that I'm in disagreement with the ideology behind it, because I can remember thinking how much of a waste it was to listen to an antiquated CompSci instructor fumble over C++ coding on a blackboard (not the online one) when we should have been learning the ropes in the labs. However, it was an undergrad program, and not an advanced degree.

The intentions behind the online MLS programs sound good and reasonable, but with it are also attached the stigmas of the "take it at your own leisure" and "this material needs little personal interaction" varieties.

Maybe it's my own naiveté, but I thought that if you were doing this stuff behind the iron gates, you were entrenched within the libraries; shadowing and working in the various collections, much like a slave. How wrong I must have been when I saw such an informal tone for the online variant!

But, even if the above is true, that the program doesn't need the lecture halls; the perception that you had to be physically present in the institution gave the MLS some added value. That almost anyone could take it at home, and then have the potential to run a public collection at a decent salary, all at the expense of the taxpayer, sounds like entitlement exaggeration to me...

...and I think Marathon and its consultant are in that mindset.

Anonymous said...

Shoot me now, for you will want to after reading this. The profession is changing! I live in Washington State where logging was a very popular profession for long time, but times changed and so did their careers. Please don’t be like the loggers who could not see anything positive in the changes that so deeply affected their lives.

The advent of the Internet in many homes has radically affected the library profession. Librarians are not needed on the level that they were a decade ago. My small public library serves mostly the lower economic (can’t afford the computer at home) population. Helping these people requires quite a bit of skill, professional skills, but our library profession refuses to change to neither teach nor honor these skills. Often it is the skills more closely akin to a social service worker or a police officer that one may use in a library setting. Many libraries are focusing on the Web 2.0 social networking and gaming to engage patrons. This works for many but not at the level that you people seem to desire.

Librarians help people! If the needs of the people change; then change. None of this is about you, nor me, it is about the people. If you can’t prove your value to the governing bodies of TODAY, you will lose. You can have a growing, life fostering environment in your library and still change lives. That is where the buck stops. Are your patrons happy? Do they value you? Do you fill and important need in your community? If the answer is yes then you should be supported, if not then something has to change. Why not you?
(by mistake I posted comments to the wrong entry- sorry for the duplicate)

webbygrl said...

nonny-moose...please take this reply as a discussion vs. a fight. There isn't one. I'm simply trying to explain my position. :)

I took my entire MLS online. Not only did I never set foot in a classroom, the closest I ever got to my university was on a trip once as we drove by where I pointed at the front gate and said, "I go to school there." However, the cirriculum was extensive. I wrote more papers than ever in undergrad, I had to interview every single medical librarian in the city (I reside in San Antonio - we have many), and I was required to create a final exam portfolio that if I didn't pass, I didn't graduate. (No pressure right?)

When some hear "online" they automatically assume "mail-order". I can assure you, the cirriculum at Texas Woman's University is far from that. Yes, there are some courses that are less stringent, however the Library Management course had more work in it than I've ever done in any of my other courses...graduate or otherwise.

The benefits of online programs are many and yes, I'm sure I could have benefitted from sitting in a classroom. But I honestly spent so much time in libraries doing research and interviewing for papers, I made many contacts and actually landed myself a job in the field at a decent salary. Sure, I'm learning on-the-job every day. But don't we all?

Anonymous said...

I apologize if the post read like a sharp critique against those who have taken the online MLS programs and their overall validity, webbygrl. I know at least five people who've received theirs online, and know that they're pressed to produce and equally entrenched in a collection as on-site grad students.

I wish I was relevant within the field to know what pushed the sentiment of placing the programs online when it happened. That perception thing, though, like the "mail-order" thing, did anyone in the ivory tower truly see this as a grave reality that would tarnish the field's reputation?

I remember reading an article talking about the need for a "new guard" of sorts because a large number of the librarians in the field were coming to the statistical ends of their career. Was the fear of scarcity a factor in making sure there was a new line of defense in case of a sudden mass retirement? Was there a fear that local archives would boom without anyone with know-how to best curate specialized collections?

Or is there a grain of truth to the "perception of ease" the field has? Is the material mostly "busy work?"

Why did schools like Chicago and Columbia seemingly jump ship?

It's obvious that there was some kind of technological reformation that happened in the field. It's a factor that most disciplines don't or haven't faced, but I can't help but liken the move to that of the first person stepping off a pontoon boat on D-Day. It's not a pretty sight seeing twopointopians running amok or community debasement of the institution and its workers. No longer needed to be guarded by the walls of dear old state, suspicions abound and perception wanes as to a discipline's validity.

I don't say this as an "old guard" curmudgeon who chides the online program, as I do see validity and value to it, but as a sharp critic of academe and its oft reckless and hypocritical progressiveness.

Anonymous said...

"Libraries must change", but how? The "ready reference" function died with the advent of Google. So did a large part of the entertainment function of books. But are gaming and social networking going to bring back people who don't like to read? Why would they come to "libraries" for this when they can get it from so many other sources? Meanwhile, libraries will lose the bedrock of their support, people who want quality books but can't or don't want to buy them. Maybe there aren't enough of those left in the United States to support libraries. In that case, the library will indeed die, whatever new "strategy" we try.

Anonymous said...

Seeing as the Director doesn't have to be director of anything complex then I hope her/his salary has also been cut substantially.
I have seen this way too many times and I fear it smacks of Director insecurity or as a way to keep other staff down. Boards should take a good look at what their Director and admin staff are paid and compare it to salaries actual library staff doing actual library work are paid. I fear in a lot of cases it will be a case of paying way too many $$$ to run an office rather than run a library at the coal face.

Emily Barney said...

@nonny and others concerned with practical skills in library school, esp. with online programs...

I'm in UIUC's online program right now. Most of my classmates are working full time at libraries, some are already reference librarians or media specialists or even directors. Some are taking the classes as continuing education, some as a way to get raises or transfer to another situation.

Many of my teachers are also working full time as librarians or in the PhD program after many years of experience in the field they teach now. A few are full-time academics, but that isn't the only way. If you want to talk about ranking (which is nonsense, of course) UIUC is highly ranked.

In my Media Literacy and Youth class we are talking about games, but we're also talking about the ways youth approach technology generally. We've read studies about online research habits and we're discussing what information they are not getting online and what they need to know to evaluate and use information more effectively in academic and informal contexts.

Books are wonderful, but they are not going to be the only format to gather knowledge from. You need to understand the potential of different formats, even games, to understand where and how people will look for and build knowledge in the future. I'd argue DDR is fluff, but MMORPGs are something to watch, especially as they grow internationally. :)

I think this library is missing the point entirely - librarians need to build on traditional skills and formats and add to that familiarity with new conventions and forms that are appearing now. That is hard to do - things are changing all the time, you have to be flexible and discerning to see what matters and what is just fluff. It takes a lot more time and attention span to keep up with than most people can do. Rejecting new technologies in the library as "twopointopian" if they have entertainment potential is silly. Embracing only new technology over meatier traditional stuff is short-sighted. I'm with soren on the golden mean here. :)

oh, and Chicago was known for an emphasis on LIS "theory" and Columbia for an emphasis on LIS "history" - how important are those now? My boss (who has worked in several prestigious academic libraries and the Library of Congress) says Chicago grads were completely useless, no real experience or understanding of day-to-day library concerns.

Anonymous said...

I have a rather different perspective on the value of an MLS. Last week marked my 35th year of working in special libraries or publishing companies, and I never finished my degree. Our graduate library program folded before I finished the coursework, and I never went back to it in the intervening years. I've been fortunate to have done extremely well, with a current salary that many would like to have. But I could not be hired today for most of the positions offered on our profession's joblines. There is rarely a clause reading "MLS or equivalent experience" in a library job ad. And what other profession (except maybe social work) requires a graduate degree for entry level positions yet commands such low salaries, particularly in the public sphere?

Anonymous said...

What a great post. As an MLS student who is soooo tired of hearing about Library 2.0, I could just hug you! Everyone talks about how social networking will keep libraries "relevant" - but ignores the results of library presence on the web (is there anyone going to the Second Life library to get a reference question answered?) Last week, in my literacy class, we got to hear the head of ALA's Office of Literacy and something else (I admit, I didn't care enough to pay attention), speak about her efforts with the Shifted Librarian to bring gaming to libraries. What that has to do with literacy programs is beyond me, but the class is taught by a past president of ALA (he reminds us every week so we don't forget), so my expectations have been low from the beginning. But apparently, according to the ALA, literacy can best be taught through wii games & DDR. Who knew?

Anonymous said...

"And what other profession (except maybe social work) requires a graduate degree for entry level positions yet commands such low salaries, particularly in the public sphere?"

Teachers, which is also something the university has betrayed, with undergrad education programs having monstrously messed up by having the profession forcing teachers to take on a Masters for a relative scale of compensation. There's no reason for needing "advanced" training if the programs would really produce sound educators through rigorous academics, instead of stuff like elementary education getting propped up by frat boys and sorority girls.

Instead, universities focus on building that ideal, yet quasi-useless, "liberal arts" path for virtually every study. "Breadth and depth?" Seems like more emphasis is on "breadth" in the undergrad programs these days. This is progressiveness?

I'm sure most of the MLS programs out there are "pretty good," but if the scope of the field is changing, and growing, then was compartmentalizing the path into an online program more wise than perhaps making the program a more substantive one? There are those who can obtain their MLS on a fast-track of a year and a half. As I look over the course offerings at various programs, I'm left to wonder if this is wise, too.

Perhaps the debasement of the salaries these people will face comes from "forward thinking" (I hate that phrase, because I think the people at Marathon are getting screwed here) to the likes of the alterations that the public thinks should be occurring at the university level. There's more than enough to make an undergraduate program out of, and enough management and special collections offerings to still forge a succinct MLS program or greater. And if you relegate the work of the "old guard" sitting at the desks of the public library to the thoughts above, then what you have are essentially well-paid workers with an asterisked undergraduate degree.

The convenience factor can, and looks like *has* gone both ways now.

Anonymous said...

Just saw an interesting job posting related to Marathon County:
Library Reorganization and Media Relations Consultants

Phyllis Christenson Consultants, Inc. is seeking qualified librarians to fill consultancy vacancies nationwide. P.C. Consultants, a newly-formed consulting firm specializing in media relations during library reorganizations, is uniquely positioned to influence local media outlets in situations of budget constraints on behalf of library directors. By leveraging common assumptions about the different requirements of libraries and their roles as community centers, our consultants specialize in preserving the compensation packages of library directors while restricting the effects of budget constraints to entry-level librarians.

Typical duties of consultants may include, but are not limited to:
-Observing the work of entry-level librarians in Librarian I positions
-Evaluating Librarian I's on their skills
-Contacting local media outlets to publicize the less complex duties of the the Librarian I
-Implementing long-term plans to reduce the number of Librarian I positions
-Reducing salary expenditures for Librarian I positions by replacing compensation packages with technological assistance
-Justifying the high levels of compensation provided to library directors and consultants
-Reclassifying and creative renaming of Library I positions, stressing customer service
-Forming positive and collaborative partnerships with Librarian I's
-Maintaining and enhancing high levels of staff morale among Librarian I's throughout the entire process

All consultants will receive the expert guidance of Phyllis Christenson, known nationally for her media relations expertise and successful maintenance of the director's compensation package during a recent reorganization of expenditures at the Marathons Country Libraries of Wisconsin.

To request an application or inquire about hiring a Phyllis Christenson Consultant at your library, call (715)261-7211 or follow the instructions listed on our website. Compensation varies by length of assignment with bonuses for successful decreases in expenditures.

Applications will be accepted between April 1, 2008 (the date of this announcement) and April 31, 2008.

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