How to Troll Librarians and Make Money in Five Easy Steps

 

librarianship-is-a-art

It’s pretty simple, really.

  1. Make a list of professions that includes librarians as the “best” or “worst” profession based on some vague criteria.
  2. Write a one or two paragraph justification for their inclusion on the list. Be sure to incorporate as many stereotypes as possible to ensure maximum outrage. (Good: “With everything now online…” Better: “These shushing people…” Best: “Surrounded by musty old tomes…”)
  3. Place this list on a webpage surrounded by ads. The more ads, the more profitable your link bait will be. Ad quality doesn’t matter so long as their checks still clear.
  4. Wait for the inevitable outrage.
  5. Profit.

There’s an article that is now making the rounds about the “least stressful jobs of 2013”. I won’t link to it directly, but putting everything in quotations into The Google will take you to it if you are still curious. As you can guess, librarians are on the list. While we’re not #1, the fact that we are on the list has caused some, ahem, stress.

The most prominent reaction to this non-stress stress was on Twitter through a hashtag appropriately named #librarianstress. What @bitchylibrarian and @winelibrarian started as satire was rapidly hijacked by other librarians expressing the stress that they feel on a daily basis. From difficult customers to hostile workplaces, I don’t believe there was a stone left unturned in the airing of the grievances. It even showed up as a top trend on Twitter briefly that afternoon as the number of tweets picked up the pace. Even as some (including myself) still played up the satirical elements, it was impossible to ignore the outpouring of statements and sentiments.

In taking a moment to look back on what happened on Friday, there are some observations I’d like to make. First, I found it remarkable that some people would actually chide others for saying that their job was stressful. It was rather judgmental and ironic for a profession that takes great pains to not do that when it comes to other people’s preferences, viewpoints, and opinions. This is a principle most commonly captured in collection policies and most succinctly summed up in the phrase, “Every reader their book”. It was a bit disconcerting to see tweets saying “Oh, your job isn’t stressful, stop whining” next to ones detailing personal harassment, confrontation incidents, and hostile workplaces. Yes, I will concede that such chiding could have been aimed at some legitimate whining, but without aiming it towards those direct comments it became inconsiderate generalizations. I would hesitate to tell anyone else their librarian position isn’t stressful without spending some time doing it.

Second, this kind of reaction touched upon a wide array of insecurities. Some of these are pretty close to the surface in the form of job security within tightening budgets. It’s hard to plan for a uncertain future, especially with some facing a constant struggle to keep their jobs. The threat of unemployment can wear down anyone over the course of time. Other tweets expressed a deeper concern relating to societal perception of the library as a institution, librarianship as a career, and the benefits that a library (be it school, academic, corporate, or public) provides their service community. Even minor slights like this article (and others like it) brings that feeling to the fore, eliciting a response to push back. It is part of the inherent reactive nature to the profession where services and highly sought materials are not always foreseen. The first instinct is to counter the notion presented, but it needs to be tempered with some objectivity.

These kinds of link bait web articles really shouldn’t be taken as gospel. It’s a list, a poorly written one at that, without research or merit. Should we take the word of a website using unknown methodology and specious rationale? This is the kind of stuff we warn our students and members of the public about and educate them in regards to evaluating sources for accuracy and authority. It suits the profession poorly to be taken in by the same drivel that we tell others to ignore in their own search results.

I understand the worry here, but I highly doubt that such dubious interent postings will result in actual erosion of public opinion. Even those who are ignorant of the value of libraries adjust their estimations after any sort of actual investigation; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Oh, I didn’t know the library did that!” when I’ve told them of a service or material. While these personal anecdotes are not universal evidence, it does give me hope that people change their minds when faced with new and accurate information.

In the meantime, don’t feed the trolls.

25 thoughts on “How to Troll Librarians and Make Money in Five Easy Steps

  1. I personally like the dialogue it started. Some pretty well articulated came out of this un-researched, trite crap. I think librarians should stay angry. As someone who faces the threat of mass-layoffs every 6 or so months, I’ve realized that the outrage keeps me going. I’ll be worried when stuff like this *doesn’t* make me all blood boily.

  2. “Should we take the word of a website using unknown methodology and specious rationale?”

    As I understand it (and I’m from the UK so this is based on what others have said), this was also reported on two TV networks as well as on a dodgy website. So, should this be challenged? Absolutely. If it was just the website alone, I’d kinda see your point. But it wasn’t.

    But I agree on the bullying of people expressing their own personal stresses in the workplace. That was disgraceful behaviour by so-called professionals…many of which with large Twitter followings. That people seemed so willing to join in, or stand by and allow the bullying to go unchallenged was equally depressing.

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  4. There were ads on the page? Seriously, if the point was to drive traffic to advertisers, they failed miserably. I managed to look at all ten professions and not see a single ad. On the other hand, if the only reason to do librarianship is for the satisfaction of helping people, and if there are that many problems associated with helping people, you have to wonder if more aren’t actually hoping to be paid a living wage for putting up with all the crap.

      • Actually, Andy, I don’t even know where I saw it. My point was simply that, if they were writing this junk just to throw ads at me, it didn’t work at all.

  5. I completely agree. When one person said: “You people complaining, YOU’RE whats wrong with librarianship.” That was out of line. I can understand satire and making fun of the panic such link bait causes in our community, but just because some librarians have lives that are, for the majority, stress free, doesn’t mean that there aren’t some librarians working on the front lines. I know intercity librarians whom I consider heroes for what they have to go through. Plus, no one likes to be told their job isn’t stressful by someone who knows nothing of it (“worst stress is a teen who’s report is due tomorrow” “books never talk back”).
    I think both satire and sincerity should have been welcome in the conversation

    • Amen to that. I found that even more infuriating than the piece itself. How nasty to tell people who feel stressed that they are making a fuss over nothing.

  6. The point I (and others) was trying to make is that every job has stress. “Librarian stress” is not different or unique than any other job-related stress. When I made the first #librarianstress tweet, it wasn’t to “bully” or downplay anyone’s perceived stress. It was a response to all the RAGETWEETS I saw in response to that “article.” The constant outrage against articles like this one does nothing to make libraries or libraries more relevant to the public. It just makes us seem petty and angry as a profession. How does that help the image librarians seem so obsessed with protecting?

    If I listed everything that was happening in my current job situation right now, not only would I be stressed, so would you. I work in an inner city library that has seen the death of a director, which was followed by two interim directors in the last 2.5 years (the board of trustees is not even searching for a new director). My library fought inclusion into a larger county system and won. In 2009, we closed for 3 weeks because we seriously just ran out of money. 2 of our branches were closed and half of the staff was laid off. I was lucky to come back to a job. I have been issued death threats by patrons who are angry I am kicking them out. A grown man has been tasered by police in the foyer of my building. I have cleaned jizz of a computer terminal. A woman had a miscarriage in our bathroom. The roof leaked all over one of my book displays and ruined them all.

    Could I be angry? Could I be stressed. Yes. Of course. But when I focused on this stress and let anger fuel me, all I got were migraines and more stress.

    Really, it’s all in how you handle the stress. Could you get stressed that the same person who you helped on Facebook yesterday needs help with the same thing today? Of course. Or could you just put a smile on your face, explain it again and move on? Which is going to make YOU and THE PATRON feel better? Turn the stress you face into being a better librarian. What can you do to create a better user experience so that patron doesn’t need help doing the same thing on Facebook? What afterschool programs can you offer so that you don’t just feel like a glorified babysitter?

    I’m not discounting the very real stress of funding issues and downsizing, but again, librarians are not unique in that stress either. Teachers, anyone involved in a non-profit, and actually pretty much anyone employed right now face dangers like these every day.

    The fact of the matter is, most of the complaints I saw that day were patron-related and that disgusted me. If you can’t help a patron with a smile on your face (and maybe a roll of the eyes later, if necessary), then you are in the wrong profession.

    And the next time anyone wants to call me a bully or unprofessional, please do so to my face.

    • “I’m not discounting the very real stress of funding issues and downsizing, but again, librarians are not unique in that stress either.”

      What about being replaced with unpaid, untrained volunteers? I guess loads of professions face that stress, like…um…nope, I’m stumped. Maybe you can help?

      • I should add, by the way, that I moved from the private sector to the public sector (from retail management in case you wondered) and I find my job less stressful now than I did. BUT…I would never in a million years mock those that do feel stress. And believe me, many felt they were being mocked, whether you intended it or not.

      • I just googled volunteers replacing librarians and I see that it’s gaining ground in the UK. That isn’t happening here in the US where I work. I’m sorry that the UK doesn’t value expertise and experience and is looking for an easy out when it comes to staffing.

        I do know that teachers are often replaced by less-trained teacher’s aides. My friend was a teacher’s aide for several years and she was paid far less than a teacher and was teaching a class of her own, even though that was not what her job description included.

        • I think that was part of the problem. Certainly my fellow UK librarians were shocked by some of the mocking. It is not pleasant here to have government at all levels deciding that some random bod can do the job as well as you. And this is accelerating.

          I’m sorry to say, also, that articles like that were common here before the volunteers thing started. People didn’t challenge it (especially professionally bodies) and now the slow drip, drip, drip has led to politicians thinking that, yeah, who needs these librarians after all?

          Sorry, I accept that you and others may not appreciate where UK libs were coming from as it’s not an issue there. I do, however, still disagree with you in general. But it would be a dull world if we all agreed. And I’d rather have the balls to speak up than to let it fester and stress me out. I think my fellow UK libs would have been surprised if I didn’t speak out. It’s what I do and it’s why I’ve busted a gut engaging with the national media to try and turn things back from this volunteers can be librarians crap. Anyways, rant over :)

        • And here in the U.S., we’re being replaced with part-timers for whom this is just another job. Which is appropriate, since many of them in my library are minimum wage. Seriously, if what I did (just quit librarianship because I couldn’t get paid enough) could easily be done by someone without a master’s degree, why is it required so many places? And why did I go $30K into debt in the first place?

  7. You just listed a whole lot of stressful events and then said that you choose to not let the stress get to you (or that you have a top-notch way of dealing with said stress). I’m sorry. I’m not buying it. If jizzballs and death threats truly don’t stress you out, fantastic. If miscarriages and closed libraries make you smile like a bride on her wedding day and give you a “go-get-‘em” attitude, I’m impressed. I envy you. I’d read your self-help book.
    I’m a good librarian. I go the extra mile. I provide excellent customer service. I do unique programs. I volunteer. I advocate. Librarianship is my life. But that’s *in spite* of the hard times, the violence and threats and puke and mass lay-off threats. I clamor over those hurdles because my job matters to me.
    I complain about patrons on Twitter and I know you do too.
    And I said it to your face and everything. Just like you asked.

    • I guess maybe I should have said I choose not to DWELL on the stress. I think the dwelling is the problem. But to say you don’t buy the fact that I’m not stressed? Isn’t that the same as someone telling you that they don’t buy that you ARE stressed?

      I laughed when I cleaned the jizz off the computer, to be honest. And the last time someone threatened my life, I laughed in their face. I can count the number of times I’ve felt truly threatened at work and that was once. And that guy DID stress me out.

      I’m a good librarian. I provide excellent customer service. I advocate. I do unique programs. But librarianship is not my life. And I think that’s why I cope with the stress better. I have things I enjoy outside of work. When I leave the library for the day, I leave whatever happened that day behind. There was a time in my life when all I did was bitch about work (this was pre-twitter even) and I was stressed and unhappy because of it. It is one thing to be good at your job and be invested in your career. It is entirely another thing to let that career control your life.

      And while I may post things about my patrons on Twitter, those are just things that amuse me (okay, and sometimes annoy me, like the guy who calls me “Cinderella”). There was a time when I all did was complain about my job, patrons, EVERYTHING. And for what? All it did was cultivate negativity. If I could change my twitter name without confusing all my followers, I would. I am not the same person I was when I created my twitter account 3 years ago.

      Maybe it’s because I’m just happier with my life in general. I don’t know. But I do believe that how you handle the stressors in your life is a choice. You can laugh/roll your eyes/make under the breath comments to a coworker and move on OR you could dwell on what’s stressing you out, keep talking about it until you’re angry about it, and explode.

      I’m not saying that my job doesn’t matter to me. It does. I know I am emotionally invested in my job. It’s why I cried when the first interim director we had was fired. But I don’t dwell on the things that bother me. If I did, I’d never clamber out of the stress and just wallow in it. I am still working where I am because I believe it is my calling to be an inner city library. I love my patrons and I love the atmosphere.

  8. Through this entire debacle I have remained silent, but I feel it’s time to speak up. At the true heart of this whole stress or no stress thing that was started by a ridiculous article is really the fact that by saying librarians have little stress the profession is put down. Not one of us want our profession to be devalued. We all believe that we do is for a greater good (at least I hope we do.) it is disheartening to see the job we put our hearts and souls into put down or diminished in any way.

    However, we work in a job that can oftentimes be short on “thank yous” and is not generally recognized as respectable. We all know the stereotypes that come with being a librarian. We all know that many people think we sit around and read books all day. I agree that there is always a place for advocacy because that is how we can educate the public about our true value, but we must remember that we are fighting an uphill battle at times.

    Infighting never helps solve anything and definitely does not advance our place in the eyes of the public. But there must also be a place for humor in our lives. Misinterpretation of advocacy efforts and/or humor has lead to more anger. We all do our jobs out of an intrinsic desire and love for what we do. We all have stress and frustration in our workplaces. While it is true that we rely on our community of peers to understand our stress we must also recognize that sometimes we must all lighten up.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the rage behind all of this comes from a place of feeling diminished by the article; a feeling that perhaps the article will only further secure our profession as one that does not deserve respect. At the end of the day it opened up emotions and arguments that surely had been welling up inside many people. The rage that followed fueled the success of the article, just as Andy points out. Continuing to discuss and rehash all these things furthers the anger.

    Can’t we all just get along when we’re all working tirelessly each day to serve our patrons?

  9. I completely agree with what Bobbi said: “Can’t we all just get along when we’re all working tirelessly each day to serve our patrons?” That’s the only reason I wrote my own blog post to begin with – to defend librarians, not to divide them. I’m sorry it’s gotten so out of hand.

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