Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002

Librarian, Read Thyself

The Rambling: “Why would you enter a dying field?” “You need a master’s degree to shelve books?” “Must be nice to sit and read all day.” Such commentary is a rite of passage for librarians, inflicted by everyone from family members to university administrators. Equally often, however, the remarks are effusive: “I LOVE librarians!” “Librarians are superheroes!” “Librarians will save the world!” Contemptuous ignorance and broad-strokes adulation are two symptoms of one pervasive problem: as a society, we have a woeful understanding of what librarians do, a side effect of which ignorance is that librarians frequently try to do everything with two years (part-time) of formal training, a median salary of $59,050, and shaky public standing. The ostensible praise, then, is no less troubling than the smirking denigrations. Indeed, librarianship is so habitually devalued, ignored, or misapprehended that it has developed insidious coping mechanisms. Fobazi Ettarh details these compensatory measures of self-preservation (with heaping sides of job creep and martyr complex) in her 2018 essay “Vocational Awe and Librarianship,” which has made a deep impact within the profession and warrants attention in parallel fields. We may be overworked, undercompensated, and misunderstood, but what we do is special; this beatifically embattled disposition is vocational awe. Libraries are “special” because we tend to see them as bastions of democracy, progressive havens for intellection and innovation. In recent years, they’ve also become havens for those in need—of books, music, and storytimes, yes, but moreover of internet and tech access, restrooms, four walls and a roof. These attributes do make libraries special, but they also make them a terrible symptom of this country’s truths. We have virtually no safety nets; homeless shelters and social workers are overwhelmed; childcare is grotesquely expensive; addiction is rampant. These needs have been neglected, consolidated, and displaced largely onto libraries…”

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.